Aven Armand


Useful Information

photography
Aven Armand, France. Public Domain.
photography
Aven Armand, France. Public Domain.
Location: Near Meyrueis (Lozère). Near the Gorge de la Jonte. From Meyrueis follow D986 to Hures-la-Parade.
Open: Jules Verne Visit:
APR to JUN daily 10-12, 13:30-17.
JUL to AUG daily 10-18.
SEP to OCT daily 10-12, 13:30-17.
Last tour at closing time.
Special Visit: by reservation.
Vip Visit: APR to OCT Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 8, by reservation.
Exploration Visit: APR to OCT Thu 8, by reservation.
[2020]
Fee: Jules Verne Visit:
Adults EUR 14.50, Children (15-18) EUR 11.50, Children (5-14) EUR 9.50, Children (0-4) free, Student EUR 7.30.
Groups (25+): Adults EUR 6.50, Children (5-15) EUR 4.50, Young adults (15-20) EUR 5.80.
Special Visit: Per Group EUR 60 plus individual price per person.
Vip Visit: Groups (1-9): EUR 700.
Exploration Visit: Per Person EUR 39.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave vertical cave.
Light: LED
Dimension:
Guided tours: Jules Verne Visit: D=1h, VR=110m, funicular, son et lumiere.
Special Visit: D=1h.
Vip Visit: D=90min.
Exploration Visit: D=2h.
V=100,000/a [2000]
Photography: mot allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Aven Armand, Causse Méjean, 48150 Hures La Parade, Tel: +33-466-456131, Fax: +33-466-456738. 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.

History

photography
Aven Armand, France. Public Domain.
17-SEP-1897 discovered by Louis Armand.
19-SEP-1897 first exploration by Louis Armand, Edouard Alfred Martel, and Armand Viré on a three day expedition.
21-MAY-1925 land and rights were acquired and an agreement was signed to instruct Maitre Layral, notary in Millau, to set up an SA.
27-MAY-1925 a delegation from the Touring Club of France accompanied by the directors of the National Tourist Office and the three National Railways Companies come to visit Aven Armand.
25-AUG-1925 Société Anonyme de l'Aven Armand incorporated in Millau.
01-JUN-1926 begin of development.
11-JUN-1927 inauguration of the show cave.
1952 creation of a footbridge over the 90m deep chasm at the far end of the chamber.
1963 installation of the funicular.
1972 construction of the Spéléo Gare to improve reception and increase the capacity of the funicular.
1992 redesign of the lighting system with several programs that can be activated by the guides using remote controls.
2014 LED lighting installed.
JUN-2017 setting for the music video of Gemme by French singer Nolwenn Leroy.
2020 creation of the Spéléo Café.

Description

photography
Aven Armand, France. Public Domain.
photography
Aven Armand, France. Public Domain.

Aven Armand is located on a karst plateau called Causse Méjean or Les Causses at an altitude of 1,000m asl. It was discovered by Louis Armand in 1897 as an unspectacular hole in the ground. He was a blacksmith from the nearby town Le Rozier and one day a few years earlier he had met ExplainEdouard Alfred Martel who was lawyer and spent his summer holidays in this area. Martel was looking for someone who could build the equipment he needed for exploring caves, and in Armand he found a skilled craftsman and companion on his cave tours. In this year Armand discovered the new cave entrance and they both explored it by descending into the dark abyss.

The descent through the vertical shaft was 75m long with a diameter of 3m, and the shaft finally ended in the ceiling of a huge cave chamber. The central cavern of the cave named Grand Salle is 110m long, 60m wide, and 45m high. The floor of this cavern is covered by speleothems, especially more than 400 of the typical plate-stack shaped Speleothempalmtrunc stalagmites, the biggest one being 30 meters high. Until today the cave claims that this is largest known stalagmite in the world. Obviously untrue, but nevertheless extremely impressive.

The term Aven is of Celtic origin, and in the local Caussenard dialect it means shaft or pothole. And as the cave was discovered by Armand, Edouard Alfred Martel named it after him Aven Armand. Sometimes it is nicknamed La Merveille des Cévennes and it is definitely one of the most beautiful caves in France.

The development of this cave was quite difficult, as it was impossible to build a trail through the natural entrance shaft. It was necessary to construct an artificial tunnel and to build a road to the remote spot. And of course the First World War did not make things easier. But finally amd as a result of the stubbornness of Edouard Alfred Martel, the necessary money was raised and a company for the development was founded. Once the work was started, it took only two years to build the entrance tunnel. The vice president of the development company was Edouard Eiffel and the cave was illuminated with four colours by Fernand Jacopozzi, brilliant illuminator of the Eiffel Tower in 1925 and pioneer in the lighting of Paris. And finally, almost 30 years after its discovery the cave was open to the public, the crowning of Martel's exceptional career.

A technical highlight of the cave tours is today the funicular. The tour starts in the cave entrance building on the surface of the plateau at 1,000m asl. The funicular leads to the lower station at 940m asl at a gradient of 30%. This ride takes just one and a half minutes and is very comfortable, as it was the first funicular in Europe to be mounted on tires to avoid noise and vibrations to preserve the cave. The number of visitors strongly depends on how demanding the tour is, and the descent and later ascent of 110m was too much for many people. The funicular avoided a lot of staircase climbing by the visitors and was a sight in itself. People even came to visit the funicular.

During the decades the cave was continually upgraded, with an underground train station, twice a new light system, a bridge over the shaft at the far end and a modern reception area and Spéléo Café. Unfortunately this also includes a Son et lumières (Sound and Lights) which is a multimedia presentation with coloured light, laser show, slides, a narrator and music. It is called «La visite Jules Verne: voyage au centre de la Terre» (Jules Verne visit: journey to the center of the Earth). Those "shows" are quite popular in France and unfortunately they are spreading worldwide at the moment, like a disease.

The cave offers various tours with fancy names, the best way is to book online, especially during August. The regular tour includes the funicular ride, a walk through the Grand Salle to a depth of 110m, and the Son et lumières as final highlight. As reading the works of Jules Verne was the origin of Martel's passion for the underworld, the tour and the show are centered on citations from Verne's books. If you are a group you can pre-book your own guide and it is even possible to book a VIP visit where you are the only one in the cave. You descent on foot along the tunnel, return with the funicular and at the end a Caussenard breakfast will be served at the Spéléo Café. Those tours are made before the cave is officially opened, except on Thursdays, and obviously only for one person or group per day. And - quite common nowadays - there is also a cave trekking or adventure tours. This one fortunately does not include crawling through mud, it is the quite exceptional possibility to abseil through the natural entrance, almost the same way Martel entered the cave. A little physical fitness and no fear of heights are required, and this tour is offered only before the cave is officially opened on Thursdays. We guess the management tries to avoid youTube videos and tweets of clumsy "explorers" falling to death.