Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche

The Pyrenees

Deep beneath the village of Labouiche, 6km northwest of Foix, flows Europe’s longest navigable underground river. Discovered in 1908 by a local doctor, it’s been open to the public since 1938. Barge trips lasting 75 minutes run for about 1.5km along its underground course, with guides pulling the boats along by ropes attached to the ceiling, and walkways entering more caverns and eerie chambers.

The highlight of the visit is saved for the end: a clattering waterfall known as the Cascade Salette, which tumbles into a sparkling turquoise pool. Depending on rainfall, the waterfall’s speed can vary anywhere from 100L to 1500L litres per second. It’s all quite touristy, but the kids are bound to love it.

Best of all on a blazing summer’s day, the caves hover at a cool constant temperature of 13˚C.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Pyrenees attractions

1. Château de Foix

2.99 MILES

The Ariège’s most unmistakeable landmark is Foix’ triple-towered castle, the stronghold of the powerful Comtes de Foix. Built in the 10th century, it…

2. Les Forges de Pyrène

5.31 MILES

In Montgailhard, 4.5km south of Foix, this ‘living museum’ explores Ariège folk traditions, with live displays of ancient trades such as blacksmithing,…

3. Parc de la Préhistoire

10.19 MILES

Eighteen kilometres south of Foix, near Tarascon-sur-Ariège, this excellent museum-park provides a useful primer on the area’s prehistoric past. The…

4. Grotte du Mas d’Azil

11.99 MILES

Twenty-five kilometres northwest of Foix, near Le Mas d’Azil, this rock shelter is famous for its rich finds of prehistoric tools. Visits are by guided…

5. Musée de la Préhistoire

12.08 MILES

In the town just north of the Grotte du Mas d'Azil, this prehistory museum contains a trove of objects unearthed in the nearby caves. It's small, but well…

6. Lombrives

12.83 MILES

Twenty-two kilometres northwest of Ax-les-Thermes on the N20 near Ussat-les-Bains, Europe’s largest cave system burrows its way through the soft limestone…

7. Grotte de Niaux

12.83 MILES

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…

8. Château de Montségur

15.8 MILES

For the full Monty Python medieval vibe, tackle the steep 20-minute climb to the ruins of this hilltop fortress, 32km east of Foix (and don't forget to…