Grottes de Choranche

Grotte de Coufin


Useful Information

Location: A49 exit Thais, D531 east through Pont-en-Royans and Choranche to the Bournillon dam. A48 exit Grenoble Nord, south to Sassenage, turn right on D531 west through Lans-en-Vercors and Villard-de-Lans to the Bournillon dam east of Choranche. Turn off north onto the road to the cave.
Open: Arrive 15min before start of tour, there is a 300m walk from the ticket office to the cave entrance. The open hours are rather complicated, please check the detailed list on their website. In general:
JAN Mon-Tue closed, Wed-Fri 14-16, Sat, Sun 10:30-16:30, tours hourly.
FEB Mon-Fri 14-16, Sat, Sun 10:30-16:30, tours hourly.
MAR daily 10:30-16:30, tours hourly
APR daily 10:30-17:30, tours every 30 min.
MAY to JUN daily 10:30-17:30, tours every 30 min.
JUL to AUG daily 10-18, tours every 30 min.
SEP to OCT Mon-Fri 10:30-16:30, tour hourly, Sat, Sun 10:30-16:30, tours every 30 min.
NOV Mon-Fri 14-16, Sat, Sun 10:30-16:30, tour hourly.
DEC daily 10:30-16:30, tours every 30 min.
School Holidays: open hours like weekend.
From end-NOV to mid-DEC closed for three weeks.
[2017]
Fee: Adults EUR 10.80, Children (15-18) EUR 9.50, Children (4-14) EUR 6.80, Children (0-3) free, Students EUR 8, Family (2+2) EUR 29.
Groups (25+): Adults EUR 7.90, Children (13-18) EUR 5.80, Children (4-12) EUR 4.80, Students EUR 5.20.
[2017]
Classification: Karst cave River cave
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=15,000m, VR=450m, A=530m asl.
Guided tours: L=600m, D=60min.
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography: Jean-Jacques Delannoy (1986): Contribution à l'étude des circulations aquifères dans le géosystème Coulmes-Choranche; Présentation du site expérimental de la Grotte de Coufin, Revue de géographie alpine. 1986, Tome 74 N°1-2. pp. 83-92.
Address: Grottes de Choranche, BP 7, 38680 Choranche, Tel: +33-476-360988, Fax: +33-476-361191. E-mail: contact.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
Last update: $Date: 2015/11/20 13:18:17 $

History

 
1871 cave discovered.
07-SEP-1897 large cave parts discovered by the speleologist Oscar Descombaz.
05-DEC-1965 cave purchased by Gilbert Mantovani and two friends.
Winter 1966/1967 road to the cave built, first electric light with generator and entrance buildings. Development of 300m of passage.
1975 a power line to the cave alows the development and lighting of 300m more.
1985 an artificial tunnel allows year round access to the cave.
1987 a second artificial tunnel itergrates the Cathedral into the tour.
1989 new entrance building.

Description

The Grotte de Choranche is accessible to the public since 1965. But at this time, a walk of 45min. or a ride on a mule from the village of Choranche, was necessary to get to the cave entrance. At this time there was no electric light in the cave, the tours were made with carbide lamps. But only two years later the first electric light, powered by a generator, lit some parts of cave. A new road allowed easy access to the cave entrance.

The salle principale (first chamber) of the cave is also the largest chamber of the visit. It is 60m in diameter and up to 18m high. The Cathedral is the secon biggest chamber on the tour. The cave shows several nice formations. The most impressive is a huge pilar in the Galerie du Siphon. But the highlight is the enormous amount of soda straws

But the highlight of the cave are  cave olms (Proteus anguinus), which are originally from Slovenia. They were freed in the cave by the C.N.R.S. (Laboratory of Moulis) for breeding.

Typical for French caves is a light show, which is called son et lumiere. The show here is called La Caverne du Temps (The Cave of Time) and was created by Damien Fontaine. It is performed in the Cathedral on every tour.

The cave is located at the bottom of the falaises de Presles (Presles cliffs). This limestone cliff with its 300m vertical drop is famous among climbers and offers more than 300 routes. At the foot of the cliff is a trail which leads to the cave portal of the Grotte de Gournier and back. On the way there are waterfalls with the typical deposits of tufa or travertine, a result of limestone rich water reaching the surface. This is a nice walk with extraordinary views. Sturdy boots are recommended.

The cave was discovered in 1871 by an unknown villager from Choranche. It is also unknown how far they explored the cave, but it is most likely they were in search of water, because there were some drought years. The cave has a strange feature, after a narrow entrance passage the cave widens ad ther eis a large underground lake. This was probably the reason why the cave was named Grotte de Coufin, cou fin translates neck end. Many years later, in 1897 the cave was for the first time explored by the speleologist Oscar Descombaz. He left his diary and notes on the cave.

Today the two big cave systems of the area, the Grotte de Gournier and the Système Couffin Chevaline are both explored for more than 15km. The Grotte de Choranche is only a small part of the Grotte de Couffin. The cave system actually crosses the complete mountain range Massif des Coulmes. Some 300m of Cretaceous limestones are heavily karstified. The water flowing through the caves is stopped by the impermeable Hauterivian marls at the bottom and reappears in springs.