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Troglodyte Loire

Last updated: 13 March, 2024

The mysterious but fascinating troglodyte world of the Loire is the fascinating underside of all those lovely white stone chateaux.

Thousands of kilometres of tunnels – originally dug out of the soft, underlying, tufa strata as part of Middle Age stone quarries – became chapels, houses and farms to create the largest troglodyte region in Europe. Some are still lived in, while others have been converted into hotels and restaurants, dramatic wine cellars (providing ideal conditions for storing wine), mushroom farms and even a zoo.

Who to go with: tour operators

8

Bioparc Zoo

  • Doue-la-Fontaine, Pays de la Loire, France

Close up of some giraffe necks in the Bioparc Zoo

Experience

The troglodyte houses more than 70 species in enclosures dug out of the surrounding rock, creating dramatic enclosures. Open daily February-October.

Adult price: 20

Good for age: 4+

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Bouvet-Ladubay cellars

  • Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

Close up of a rack of wine bottles in a cellar

Experience

These sculpted troglodyte caves offer an interesting blend of wine tasting, culture and history. The cellars here, open daily for tastings, are part of a historic 5-mile-long complex of underground galleries, which include an unusual ‘underground cathedral’.

Adult price: 5

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 2 hours

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Chateau du Breze

  • Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

Landscape view of Chateau de Breze on a blue summer's day with the vineyard at the front field of the chateau

Experience

Beneath this attractive Renaissance and neo-Gothic chateau is a remarkable 9th-century fortress, a troglodyte labyrinth complete with drawbridge, stables, and guardrooms. The chateau is also known for excellent wines, which you can taste in Les Caves de la Comtesse de Colbert in the chateau grounds.

Adult price: 10

Good for age: 18+

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Le Saut aux Loups mushroom farm

  • Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

External view of the troglodyte mushroom farm, built into a hillside

Experience

This series of cool, dank caverns in Montsoreau is said to have once been inhabited by loups (wolves), then exploited as quarries, before being turned into a champignonnière (mushroom farm). Button, oyster and shitake mushrooms are cultivated here today.

Good for age: 13+

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Les Caves de La Genevraie

  • Louresse-Rochemenier, Pays de la Loire, France

Interior of a lighted cave housing a tables and chairs of a restaurant

Experience

This troglodyte restaurant serves delicious traditional fouaces, circular flatbreads, filled with mushrooms and cheese, and served in caves used as refuges during the 16th-century Wars of Religion.

Good for age: 18+

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Les Goupillieres

  • Azay-le-Rideau, Centre-Val de Loire, France

A view of the entrance to a troglodyte site. There is old wood being used as the framing for the doors and windows.

Experience

Not many tourists know about this long-forgotten troglodyte village, hidden away in a wooded valley. You can tour the three abandoned farms, and children can pet the farm animals. Forty-minute guided tours are available by advanced request.

Adult price: 6

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 3-4 hours

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  • Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

  • Bucket List Experience

Saumur castle and Saint Peter's church being reflected on the Loire river during a blue summer's day

Experience

A day in Saumur

A postcard-perfect, medieval town famed for its troglodyte wine cellars (filled with excellent wines) and majestic hilltop chateau.

Good for age: 18+

Troglodyte village of Rochemenier

  • Louresse-Rochemenier, Pays de la Loire, France

Entrance to troglodyte homes cut into rock faces

Experience

The most complete and extensive troglodyte site in the Loire Valley, a museum of two former farms with stables and cowsheds, twenty furnished rooms and a soaring 13th-century chapel, all dug down into the tufa rock.

Adult price: 4

Good for age: 18+

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Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Most of the sites are located in and around the towns of Saumur and Doue-la-Fontaine or around Azay-le-Rideau. No booking is required – you can just show up – but if you want a guided tour in English, sometimes you need to email ahead. 

The temperature in the caves remains a constant 12C all year round – pleasantly refreshing on hot summer days – but you’ll need a sweater.  

When to do it

Most sites close in January and February and sometimes November and February, so check timings before you plan or go.