The Gouffre de Padirac: an unmissable place in the Lot

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The Gouffre de Padirac is a must for anyone coming to the Lot. Discovered in 1889 by Edouard-Alfred Martel, it still amazes those who descend there.

At the end of the Hundred Years War, a group of English soldiers present in the region hid a treasure in the Gouffre de Padirac, wrapped in calfskin. This loot has never been found and feeds the legend of the place.

Of treasure, the abyss is one in itself, exposed to the world since its discovery in 1889 by Edouard-Alfred Martel. Very quickly opened to the public on an idea from the explorer who wanted to share it, it is now an unmissable place in the Lot.

And if participation has decreased slightly in recent years, covid obliges, Magdaléna Mauguéret, from the communication department, reassures: “This year we will normally find a level of participation similar to 2019”.

And the public is present despite the 35 degrees outside. Most have booked and will fall into the abyss. Some will go home because there are no more places available.

As you progress, you can lean over this huge 33m diameter hole. The view is impressive. The desire to go down is strong even if we have to admit the slight concern thinking about the climb. Magdaléna reassures: “There are two choices: the stairs and the lift. We often take the stairs at the beginning and go back up in the lift”.


103 meters deep, 33 meters in diameter

After observing, you have to start, first from the stairs of course. Going down, the temperature cools down, it becomes pleasant. Among the visitors we hear: “It’s better here” said one of them. Another even suggests wearing a jacket. Because, once you reach the bottom of the abyss, the temperature is 13 degrees all year round. But you have to go 103 meters underground and go down the endless steps. “Did you count how many stairs we went down?” a father asks his son. 207 if we want to be precise.

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A multi-sensory experience at the Gouffre de Padirac

Arriving at a first level, given the statue of the White Lady which is located in the middle of the abyss, it is necessary to dive towards the continuation of a visit which becomes underground, dark.

Thus the gallery of the source extends for a few hundred meters. The water is transparent. “You feel like swimming too much,” says a little girl as she leaves summer camp. In addition to being forbidden, you have to be brave, because the water in the abyss does not exceed 12 degrees. After going through the gallery, a queue forms. People wait before boarding the famous boats. “We have room for two! There are three who have just become free” shout the boatmen.

After taking your seat, the journey takes 500 meters. Go through the rain room, where drops fall continuously. It necessarily allows you to admire this geological marvel which is the abyss. And, in particular, the Grande Pendeloque, an enormous stalagmite 60 meters long and weighing around 600 tons. Noteworthy. Disembarked from the boat, the visit is not over but the first opinions are already flying: “It’s the most beautiful cave I’ve ever seen” exults a father.

The hall of the Grand Dôme, the highest point of the abyss

Then, you have to continue in a narrow passage to reach the Lac des Gours, a sumptuous phenomenon. One could almost say that it extends over two floors, forming a natural dam. The water is reflective. Finally, you will have to make a new physical effort. Because the Grand Dome hall can only be reached by climbing 150 steps. Once at the top, a new lake, Lake Superior, where the famous “plate stack” is located. And then, you have to take the way back, the visit is coming to an end.



And the eternal debate gallops back: steps or lifts? It is possible to go back up the steps, but to tell the truth, the lift is too tempting, a matter of courage. You must be armed to climb the 207 steps. How right Magdalena was. 3 lifts to get out and, for the more motivated, there is a self-service explorers exhibition, new this year. On our return, cries resound to our right, the cries of happy children. “To reward you for climbing the stairs, I’ll offer you ice cream” announces the conductor.

The visit is over, inevitably amazed by this work of nature. On the other hand. One disappointment remains the same. No matter how much you look, no trace of the treasure.

Practical information:

Prices (high season): adult, €21.50; child over 12 and student, €20; child aged 4 to 12, €16.50; free for children under 4 years.

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