Grotte de la Cocalière

Ivy Hole

Useful Information

Location: North of St Ambroix.
From Alès follow D904 north to St Ambroix, D104 north, about 5 km from the village.
From the Rhone valley Autoroute du Soleil A7/E15 exit 19 Bollène. D994 west to Pont St Esprit, N86 north, turn left onto D901 south of Ardeche valley. About 60 km on this road through Brajac, turn left (south) onto D104.
Open: MAR to JUN daily 10-12 14-17.
JUL to AUG daily 10-18.
SEP to NOV daily 10-12, 14-17.
Last visit 15 min before closing. [2006]
Fee: Adults EUR 7, Children (6-12) EUR 5, Children (0-5) free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave TopicSentier Karstique
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=14 °C, L=14,500 m.
Guided tours: L=1,400 m, VR=60 m, D=60 min. V=100,000/a [2000]
Address: Grotte de la Cocalière, Courry, F-30500 Saint Ambroix. Tel: +33-466-243474, Fax: +33-466242013. 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.


1950 start of research by Mr Marty.
1967 opened to the public.


The Grotte de la Cocalière (Ivy Cave) is said to be the longest cave of France, one of the longest cave systems in Europe, one of the most beautiful caves in France, and one of the most visited caves in Europe. It seems all those superlatives are made up. The longest cave of France is Reseau Felix Trombe, which is 105 km long [2004], Cocalière is said to be 48 km long, but the official length is only 14.5 km, which makes it the 36th longest cave of France. As a result it is definitely not one of the longest caves in Europe. It is one amongst many beautiful caves in France and it is a big show cave with many visitors. They do not give any numbers but as far as we see there are many caves with more visitors even in France.

We do not know why the cave management makes up all those faked superlatives. This cave is definitely worth a visit, even without swaggering. The tour is 1,400 m long, which is rather long, and every metre brings more fantastic speleothems and impressive views. On the other hand the owners are a little weird, and as a result the tours are not very funny. The guide talks extremely fast and is not very polite, it is not allowed to take pictures, in contrary to the Ardeche caves nearby, and the electric light is gloomy.

The modern entrance to the cave is an 80 m long artificial tunnel, which goes straight down to the level of the main passage. It is not funny to carry a push chair down the many steps, but the rest of the developed passage 60 m below the surface is level and almost without steps. The walkway through the cave is wide and comfortable, it is sometimes even used for bicycle races, which is unique for a cave worldwide. This upper lever is a fossil or dry one, which means the groundwater is now below forming the next cave level. The nice river cave below, with scallops and stream passages is not developed, it is accessible only to speleologists. At the end of the tourist route the cave is left by an ascent to the surface through the mouth of the natural entrance. This place is of special interest as it was used by Stone Age man. Some of the discoveries of the archaeological excavations on site are on display in the nice museum at the cave exit. The way back on the surface is done by a small train.

Le Disque is one of the exceptional speleothems of this cave. It is a disc-like formation, which is rather rare. La Perle is a cave pearl, but this one is exceptional as it lies in the small hollow on top of a wide stalagmite. La salle des Congrès (Congress Hall) is a wider chamber with a cave lake, the silent water reflects the stalactites from the ceiling. Even more lakes and reflections can be found at the next chamber, the salle des Reflets (Chamber of Reflections). Almost at the end of the cave tour one of the highlights, the Bassins de Cristal (Crystal Basins) can be seen. This are typical rimstone pools, thin, arched walls, each filled with water and lit from underwater. At the Dome a narrow shaft allows sunlight to enter the cave at a certain day and time.

Another nice sight is the karst trail Sentier découverte which starts at the cave entrance. The stops are partly geologic and partly artificial. There is a small cave called Grotte Cutanée, Karren, labyriths, dolines, and other karst features. La Capitelle is a small house built of limestone without mortar, which is common in many karst areas of the Mediteranean. Le Dolmen seems to be a reproduction of a typical megalithic dolmen, which may be found all over Europe.

This is a through trip. From the entrance a mined tunnel leads to the Gallery of Sanctuary. This is followed by a series of chambers with rimestone pools which are constantly refreshed with running water which pours down the walls of the cave. There are Cave Pearls and Discs or Shields everywhere. Near the exit an excavation has uncovered a prehistoric layer where skeletons and pottery lie, just as they were excavated. Back on the surface a miniature train takes visitors back to the cave entrance.

Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.