I love caves, and this one is just AWESOME!
It's around an hour from the gîte and quite close to Rocamadour so you could easily incorporate both into a brilliant day out.
When you arrive, there are some lovely gardens - we took a picnic and sat at one of the many picnic tables, but there's also a good restaurant/ coffee/ ice cream shop.
You begin with a descent of 100 metres down into the earth, and as you go down the stairs you can feel the temperature drop and the humidity increase (definitely take some long sleeves as the temperature is just 13 degrees all year around). You are given an individual headset which takes you through the history of the discovery and the exploration of the site, along with some interesting facts about the geology of the place.
Once down, you meander through some caves getting deeper into the cave network, and farther from the light source. After a while you arrive at an underground river, and take a guided boat tour for about 10 minutes. The boat ride is peaceful and a bit strange at the same time!
Next, you arrive at a cathedral sized cavern which is filled with amazing stalagmites and other weird and wonderful rock and water formations. There are around 150 steps up, and then another 150 steps down for this part of the tour but there is so much to see that you don't really notice them.
After exploring this 2nd set of caverns, you take a return boat trip back to the beginning, where you can take the lift if you don't fancy walking back up the stairs. All the staff are really friendly and knowledgeable and encourage you to ask questions throughout the visit.
The tourist attraction is really good value for money, as just as you think you've seen it all, there is another wonder to discover! One tip on timing; we booked our slot online for 13:00 and we were the only people in our boat, but as we came out at 14:00 there was a huge queue as everyone else had just finished their lunch!
For more information check out the Gouffre de Padirac website.