The Niaux cave is a decorated cave from the Upper Paleolithic having revealed numerous Magdalenian parietal figurations. It is located in the Pyrenees in France, in the Occitania region, in the department of Ariège, in the commune of Niaux, and opens halfway into the Vicdessos valley. It is part of the network of decorated caves of the Pyreneo-Cantabrian chain.

Niaux cave did not cause much interest among scientists for many centuries. Few curious travelers came here from the 17th century onward as they did not even suspect that it could hide valuable examples of rock art.

The cave’s life has changed thanks to the captain Molar, who decided to make a plan for the cave in 1906, and he discovered “Salon Noir” in the process. A year later, the archaeologist, anthropologist, and primitive art specialist Henri Breuil and Émile Cartailhac, a scientist in the field of prehistoric archeology, began to study the paintings and engravings of the Black Salon.

Salon Noir (Black Saloon). The pictures are mainly images of animals: bison, horses, mountain goats, deer, and other animals. “Salon” is located about 800 m from the cave entrance.

Another gallery was discovered in 1925, which was named after Émile Cartailhac.

The third hall was discovered finally in 1970 and was named Réseau Clastres. This hall adjoins the Niaux complex, being a separate cave. There are rock-painting decorations on this cave’s walls, but the most curious thing is that the footprints of ancient men were left on the floor; the once soft and moist earth hardened over time, retaining invaluable material for researchers.

Experts were able to subsequently establish that the drawings belonged to the Madeleine culture of the late Paleolithic, which was common in France, Germany, Switzerland and several other modern European countries. It was the last of the glacial epochs. The radiocarbon analysis team concluded that the images in the Niaux cave appeared in the period 11,500-10,500 B.C.

Research into the cave continues to this day. Not all the drawings are easy to understand: there are still many mysteries for scientists.

The excursion duration is 1 hour and 30 minutes. For security reasons (in order not to violate the ecological situation and microclimate inside the cave) the number of visitors is limited (there is a maximum of 25 people in each group). Warm clothing and comfortable shoes are recommended. The temperature does not exceed 10-12 degrees even in summer. Illumination inside the grotto is by portable lamps that are given to visitors.

How to get to?

From Paris: 7 hr 45 min (784 km) via A20

From Toulouse: 1 hr 17 min (108 km) via A66 and N20

From Andorra: 1 hr 33 min (85.9 km) via N20

From Barcelona: 3 hr 12 min (229 km) via C-16 and N20

From Madrid: 8 hr 4 min (744 km) via A-2

From Monaco: 6 hr 11 min (597 km) via A8

From Moscow: 38 hr (3,523 km) via E30/M1

From Belgrade: 19 hr 50 min (1,901 km) via E70

From Istanbul: 30 hr (2,850 km) via E70

From Bern: 8 hr 24 min (856 km) via A9

See here Pyrenees travel guide

See here France travel guide

See here Spain travel guide

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