|Location:||2 km from Arles sur Tech, on the road to Prats de Mollo (D115)|
04-JAN to JUN daily 10-18.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-18:30.
SEP daily 10-18.
OCT to NOV daily 10-17.
Adults EUR 9.50, Children () EUR 5.
Groups (+): Adults EUR 6.50.
|Dimension:||L=1,739 m, H=200 m, VR=157 m.|
|Guided tours:||self guided, D=2 h.|
|Address:||Les Gorges de la Fou, 66150 Arles-sur-Tech, Tel: +33-468-391621, Tel: +33-468-391199.|
|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.
|1928||trails built and opened to the public.|
The Gorges de la Fou is probably the best known gorge or slot canyon in the French Pyrenees. It is advertised as the narrowest gorge in the world, which is actually a rather weird statement. There is no such thing as "narrowest", as it is either wide enough for humans or not, and as they charge a fee, we guess it should be wide enough for their customers. Nevertheless, it is easy enough to understand what they want to express with this slogan. This is a slot canyon which is extremely narrow, there are several passages where the sky is not visible and the canyon has more or less the character of a cave, including speleothems.
The other canyons we listed in the eastern Pyrenees are free. This one is rather expensive, but if you enter you will understand why. The canyon is well developed for almost two kilometers and the trail is very comfortable. It is wide and with stable rails, all constructed from zinc coated steel. All the time there is a net overhead, so falling rocks can never reach the trail. All in all a really impressive piece of work.
Gorges we know from Austria or Germany have the main problem caused by snow melt: floods running down the gorge destroy all installations. Water levels rise tens of meters, in narrow parts even 50 m and beams and rocks destroy anything which would survive a simple flood. The operators of those gorges reacted to the problem by using removable installations, or by using cheaper building materials. The high quality trails here - which are obviously permanent - tell us that this gorge is extremely seldom flooded. Nevertheless, we think there might be more water during winter or spring, and less in summer and autumn. So probably at time with higher water levels the gorge is more interesting.
This is a well developed tourist site, so actually no precautions are necessary. Nevertheless, we recommend good walking shoes and probably a rucksack with some water. Helmets are provided at the entrance, which is actually a bit overdone.
We found two explanations for the name Gorges de la Fou. The French word fou means fool or lunatic, so this is actually the gorge of fools. But there is a second explanation, which tells that fou is actually a Catalan word meaning hell. We could not verify this theory, as we do not speak Catalan and online dictionaries did not know the word fou in Catalan.
The gorge was cut into marble, the metamorphic variety of limestone. Its formation was caused by fast working erosional forces, so there was almost no solution of limestone. The brook of today seems far too small to accomplish this, and actually the main work was done some 8,000 years ago, at the end of the last cold period. At this time the glaciers on the Pyrenees were melting and the melting water created huge streams and landslides.