Grotte de Niaux

Top choice cave in Vallée de l’Ariège

Most people know about the prehistoric artworks of the Dordogne, but far fewer realise that ancient painters left their mark in caves all across the Pyrenees. Halfway up a mountainside about 12km south of Foix, the Grotte de Niaux is the most impressive, with a fabulous gallery of bison, horses and ibex adorning a vast subterranean chamber called the Salon Noir. There’s also one tiny depiction of a weasel – the only cave painting of the animal yet found.

The Salon Noir is reached via an 800m underground trek through pitch darkness. To preserve the paintings, there’s no lighting inside the cave, so you’ll be given a torch as you enter. On the way, look out for graffiti left by previous visitors, some of which dates back to the 17th century.

The cave can only be visited with a guide. From April to June and in September and October there’s usually one English-language tour a day at 1.30pm. In July and August, English-language tours typically happen at 9.45am and 12.15pm. Visitor numbers are limited, so call or go online to reserve a place.

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