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Bucket list experience:

A troglodyte building entrance made from tuffeau stone with three open holes in the wall, used as windows

Last updated: 10 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Anna Brooke

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.

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 10+
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.

A day in Saumur

Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

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

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Close up of some giraffe necks in the Bioparc Zoo

Bioparc Zoo

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

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

Best for ages: 4+ | £20

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Close up of a rack of wine bottles in a cellar

Bouvet-Ladubay cellars

Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

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’.

Best for ages: 18+ | £5 | 2 hours

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

Chateau Breze

Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

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.

Best for ages: 18+ | £10

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