Les Grandes Canalettes

Les Canalettes


Useful Information

Location: Villefranche-de-Conflent, Pyrénées-Orientales Department (66).
N116 Perpignan-Andorre. In Villefranche-de-Conflent turn south, towards Vernet-les-Bains. Parking after 200 m at right.
(42.583167, 2.371089)
Open: APR to JUN daily 10-17.
JUL to AUG daily 10-17:30.
SEP daily 10-17.
OCT daily 11-16.
[2023]
Fee: Adults EUR 12, Children (5-12) EUR 6, Children (0-4) free.
[2023]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=26,500 m, T=14 °C, A=443 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided, D=60 min. Audioguide for smartphone by wifi. Français - French Català - Catalan
V=40,000/a [2000]
Photography: photography and videos allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Grotte des Grandes Canalettes, 2 rue St. Jacques, 66500 Villefranche de Conflent, Tel: +33-468-052020, Fax: +33-468-807684.
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

1951 Grotte des Canalettes discovered by M. Motte.
1952 explored by the Prades speleology group.
1954 opened to the public by the Castillo family.
1982 Grotte des Grandes Canalettes discovered by Edmund Demoniac.
1984 Grotte des Grandes Canalettes opened to the public by the Delonca family.
2003 both show caves merged.

Description

The Grotte des Grandes Canalettes are part of a large underground river which has been explored for several kilometers. Situated on a spur of the Pyrenees, the Grotte des Grandes Canalettes, has intercepted several powerful rivers. The underground rivers have hewn passages out of the solid rock, sculptured the walls and created vast chambers.

Visitors to the Grotte des Grandes Canalettes are taken back to the distant history of the earth. Pathways have been built in the cave to allow the visitors to fully appreciate the wonderful formations which are to be found there. Chambers rich in speleothems, interspersed with helictites, which defy gravity, and huge rooms filled with immense pillars and wonderfully coloured columns are a feature of this cave. Potholes and lakes recall the presence of the underground river system which is ever near.

Finally, the beauty of the minerals can be further appreciated by a son et lumiere in the Auditorium. The works of various composers and artistes are included in this concert: Strauss, Bach, Casals, Pavarotti, etc.


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


The Grottes des Canalettes are several caves located at the foot of the Canigou Massif, near the Medieval City Villefranche de Conflent. This city was fortified by Vauban and as a result it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is actually riddled with caves, but the relief is very steep, and most of the entrances are difficult to access. Numerous caves were known since centuries. But there are also some caves which are open to the public with the name Grottes des Canalettes, the plural is intended. The caves are called Grotte de Fuilla, Grotte des Canalettes, Grotte des Grandes Canalettes, Cova Bastera, and Grotte de Villefranche. The caves form the Réseau Fuilla-Canalettes (Fuilla-Canalettes network).

The Grotte des Canalettes was a new discovery in 1951, and after technical difficulties which required climbing and abseiling, the local caving club was able to explore it during the next years. After only three years from the discovery, the cave was opened to the public by the owner in 1954. The Castillo family owned the ground and the cave, and it was run as a family business. Jean Castillo was the owner and his son Elie and his daughter-in-law Georgette worked as guides. The cave was open only during July and August, so it was just an additional income. This was the first show cave in Villefranche-de-Conflent.

After three decades, a second cave was discovered nearby, bigger and more beautiful. It was owned by the Delonca family and was developed and opened to the public by Edmond Delonca. It was named Grotte des Grandes Canalettes, just to make a point. In 2003, the two businesses merged, and it was possible to visit all three show caves in town under the same management. The Grandes Canalettes was open all year, the Canalettes only in July and August as before, and the Cova Bastera Cave was also part of Edmond Delonca's show cave empire. As far as we understand Edmond Delonca died in 2013 and the show caves got a new management. Now only Grandes Canalettes is still open, with audioguides and self-guided visits, Canalettes is closed. Cova Bastera Cave was renamed Dinopedia Experience and has a new management.