Dinopedia Experience

Grotte historique de Cova Bastera

Useful Information

Location: N116, 66820 Villefranche-de-Conflent.
Villefranche-de-Conflent, Pyrénées-Orientales Department (66). N116 Perpignan-Andorre, opposite the Medieval city of Villefranche de Conflent.
(42.586401, 2.367589)
Open: SEP to JUN Wed-Sun 10-12:30, 13:30-18.
JUL to AUG daily 10-12:30, 13:30-18.
Fee: Adults EUR 15, Children (6-15) EUR 12, Children (<1m) free, Seniors (65+) EUR 13.50, Students EUR 13.50, Unemployed EUR 13.50.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=14 °C.
Guided tours: D=1 h.
Photography: photography and videos allowed
Address: Dinopedia Experience, N116, 66820 Villefranche-de-Conflent, Tel: +33-667-09-78-46. E-mail:
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.


1095 city of Villefranche de Conflent founded by Guillaume-Raymond, comte de Cerdagne.
1674 de Vauban decides to fortify the cave.
1707 cave turned into fortifications by de Vauban.
1983 cave abandoned by the military and purchased by Elie Castillo, opened as a show cave.
1988 inherited by Bernard Castillo.
07-JUL-2008 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Grotte Cova Bastera is also named historic cave or prehistoric cave or even Cova Bastera prehisto-grotte. If you look at the cave, it resembles casemates or cellars, so probably they mean "artificial" when they call it "historic" cave? No, it's also a prehistoric cave, and during the Stone Age man used natural caves, they did not have the means to dig an artificial cave. So actually there is a natural cave with a huge entrance portal, it was used during the last Ice Age, and the remains were excavated. Later it was integrated into the fortifications of the city by Sébastien Le Prestre, Marquis de Vauban. This man, better known as Maréchal de Vauban was the best architect of fortifications of his time, a genius and the creator of hundreds of fortifications. A natural cave like Cova Bastera could be a weakness in a fortification, but he integrated it into the construction and made it an asset. The cave was part of the military structure for a long time and as such it was not possible to visit it.

The cave is entered through the escalier souterrain (subterranean staircase) which connects the city fortifications with the cave. The first part of the cave is the fortified part, which was stabilized by walls and vaults, and looks like casemates. From here a military post was able to control the road through the valley.

The cave was owned by the French army, but they sold it in 1983, and it was purchased by Elie Castillo, who opened it as a show cave. In 1988, it was inherited by Bernard Castillo who operated the cave for some time. A decade ago it was part of a group of three show caves owned and operated by Edmond Delonca, who also operated the two Canalettes show caves. It seems after his death in 2013 the new management sold this cave, and it is now operated by a new management.

The entrance section of the cave is used to explain the military use of the cave. This is the reason why the cave was inscribed into the UNESCO WHL list, together with the rest of the fortifications of Vauban. The deeper part of the cave is almost in its natural state, there are no structural modifications for military purposes. In this section of the passage remains of prehistoric man were discovered. Today it is used for the Paleolithic section of the exhibition, where dioramas show the daily life of Stone Age people and a bear hunt. The third part of the cave, deeper inside the mountain, is dedicated to the Dinosaurs, the time in which the rock was formed. There are life-size reconstructions of dinosaurs with animatronic. Since the cave is operated by the new management this part of the exhibition was extended, and it now spans the geologic history between the Carboniferous and the Cretaceous. As a result it was renamed Dinopedia Experience. The cave is more like a theme park than a museum, and despite the scientific background it is definitely intended as an amusement for kids.