The underground river of Labouiche: journey to the center of the Earth

Baulou
The underground river ...

In the heart of the Pyrenees, Ariège is a land of caves, caverns, chasms and wonders of nature. 6 km from Foix, the Labouiche underground river offers an unusual journey into the bowels of the Earth: it is the longest navigable underground river in Europe! If you love stalactites, stalagmites, wells, waterfalls, oddly shaped concretions and are not afraid of confined spaces, don't miss the chance to explore this real geological gem sculpted over millennia.


The underground river of Labouiche  The underground river of Labouiche

An exceptional geological universe to discover 60 meters underground

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Discovering an unsuspected underground world… by boat!

Access to the Labouiche underground river is from the verdant departmental road D1 which connects Vernajoul to Baulou. In the heart of the forest, the site is easily recognizable: it has a large parking lot for cars and coaches, a snack bar "la buvette de Labouiche" (open from June 15 to August 31), a shop souvenirs, a shaded picnic area and the visitor reception office, the starting point for the guided tour in small groups of 12 people.


For further Do you like caves? Discover the Grotte du Mas d'Azil, just as impressive and yet so different.


The underground river of Labouiche


Our guide welcomes us warmly and we immediately follow his steps towards the entrance of the cave a few minutes walk away. On the surface, nothing suggests the geological riches of the subsoil. In depth, however, this classified natural site - open to the public since 1938 - presents an underground network of 3.8 km with 5 levels of galleries, tributaries, sinkholes, siphons and even a waterfall!


The underground river of Labouiche
The underground river of Labouiche  The underground river of Labouiche


The entrance to the cave is through a tunnel and a staircase of nearly 200 steps that lead us to a depth of 60 meters, leading to a room decorated with concretions in the form of draperies and fistulosa (fine stalactites) in a relaxing calm. Here we are in the lair of the depths of the earth. It is around 13°C inside the cave. Emotion wins over us in front of this fantastic setting of limestone rocks adorned with evocatively shaped concretions. Without further ado, we settle comfortably aboard a small metal boat ready to sail on fresh, crystalline and sparkling water through a course of 1500 meters of galleries.


The good idea Another geological and aquatic curiosity: The petrifying waterfalls of Roquefort-les-Cascades! Only 15km away, a dazzling site at the price of a nice little hike.


The underground river of Labouiche
The underground river of Labouiche  The underground river of Labouiche

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A magical cruise

The dim light, the oozing of the rocks, the trickling of water on the walls, the depth, the absolute silence... The atmosphere conquered young and old alike! Here, there are no oars or motors: the guide uses only the strength of his arms to pull on the cable stretched along the walls and evolve gently in the chiaroscuro of the long galleries, along the river. He knows the underground environment perfectly and shares his knowledge with humour, attention and obvious passion. His voice resounds between the walls and gives the place a mysterious and sacred atmosphere.


The underground river of Labouiche
The underground river of Labouiche  The underground river of Labouiche


Throughout the walk, we take the time to contemplate concretions with evocative names such as the "Unicorn", the "Mammoth", the "Smurfs' village", the "Witch" or other extremely rare forms to observe. The relief is very pronounced in places and the walls narrow: barely enough space to cross two boats! Eyes wide open so as not to miss anything of the spectacle, we admire, amazed, the stalactites, stalagmites and other geological curiosities of this limestone universe of unspoiled natural beauty. We enter a surprising room which reveals a pretty waterfall and clear turquoise water. Amazement guaranteed.


The good idea About ten kilometers away, go for a walk at the Pont du Diable, a natural site with the remains of a breathtaking bridge!


The underground river of Labouiche
The underground river of Labouiche  The underground river of Labouiche


It's time to turn back and enjoy a few more moments of this architectural masterpiece slowly shaped by nature over millions of years... Discovered in 1908, the underground river of Labouiche was the subject of numerous explorations and continues to captivate speleologists in search of new cavities.

This fascinating underground cruise undeniably provides strong emotions and privileged moments to share with family and friends. When we return from the visit, we make a short detour to the shop specializing in minerals and precious stones before hitting the road again for new adventures in Ariège.


Learn more Les Forges de Pyrène, a site to discover to learn more about the industrial past of this region of Ariège, all in pedagogy and fun!


The underground river of Labouiche  The underground river of Labouiche

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Visits to the Labouiche underground river, practical information:

Open from April to November, see the Labouiche Underground River website for more info.


Underground river of Labouiche - 09000 Baulou

Tel: 05 61 65 04 11


Visiting time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Reservation recommended in advance (especially in summer)

Remember to bring closed shoes to go down the slippery steps as well as warm clothing (13°C inside all seasons).

The tour is open to people of all ages and is conducted by a professional guide.

Not recommended for people who are claustrophobic, have difficulty moving around as well as respiratory and/or heart problems. Animals are prohibited. It is forbidden to eat in the cave so as not to disturb the fragile ecosystem.


Did you like this report? Find more on the Toulouse Pyrenees Guide Blog. We are on social networks, find the Facebook page of the Guide Toulouse Pyrénées and the Instagram account @guidetoulousepyrenees


Report and photos by Lesley Williamson for the Guide Toulouse Pyrénées


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