⛏️⚔️🕸️ The 13 Visitable Cavities in French-Sepaking Switzerland (Mines, Caves et Forts)

The visitable cavities in French-speaking Switzerland


French-speaking Switzerland has many natural or man-made underground cavities. The Torpille team proposes to make you discover those that can be visited. It can be a good plan in hot weather to cool off or in rainy weather. Visitable cavities belong to three categories:

⛏️ Mines (3)


Many mines have existed since antiquity and until the beginning of the 20th century in French-speaking Switzerland. From that date on, they quickly disappeared due to economic exchanges that made the import of ore cheaper than its local production. Only one mine remains in operation, the Bex Salt Mines in the canton of Vaud.

Three mines can be visited with a guide in French-speaking Switzerland:

  • The Asphalt Mines of Travers
  • The Salt Mines of Bévieux in Bex
  • The Copper Mine of La Lée in Zinal

Asphalt Mines of Travers (NE)


  • 📍 Location: Travers
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Guided
  • 🔗 All the details about the Asphalt Mines

The Travers mines produced asphalt that was exported all over the world to Australia, Rio de Janeiro or New York to build roads. Mines closed at the end of the 20th century because the mines’ natural asphalt had been replaced by cheaper artificial asphalt. The latter comes from the residues produced during the refining of oil to produce fuel.

The visit takes place at fixed times with a guide, the route allows to discover how the asphalt was extracted from the mine. A good sweater will not be forgotten due to the cool temperature inside the mine.

The former miners’ buildings converted into a restaurant and museum.
The former miners' buildings converted into a restaurant and museum.

A video on the Asphalt Mines.

Bex Salt Mines (VD)


logo mines de sel de bex

  • 📍 Location: Bex
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Guided
  • 🔗 All the details about the Bex Salt Mines

The Bex salt mines are the only ones still in operation in French-speaking Switzerland. The extracted salt is used both for food and for roads in winter. It is a mine to be seen first and will necessarily impress the visitor both by its spectacular galleries and by the surprising presence of salt in the rock that you can touch yourself with your fingers. Miners’ miniature trains are used to get in and out of the mine on the guided tour.

The little train bringing visitors inside the mine.
The little train bringing visitors inside the slat mine of bex
A video about the Bex Salt Mines.

Copper Mine of la Lée in Zinal (VS)


  • 📍 Location: Zinal
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Guided

The Zinal copper mine at the end of the Val d’Anniviers has the disadvantage of requiring about 1h30 of walking to get there. That’s why it was not visited by the Torpille team.

Museum of Earth Sciences


The Museum of Earth Sciences offers in the basement of the Martigny Tourist Office a remarkable replica of a mine casing and a lot of information about the mines in the Valais.

The reconstruction of a mine casing at the Martigny Earth Sciences Museum.

The reconstruction of a mine casing at the Martigny Earth Sciences Museum.

Old mines


Mr Demierre’s site provides a detailed inventory of all the former mines in French-speaking Switzerland in which very different materials could be extracted, such as:

  • Gold
  • Iron
  • Coal
  • Limestone
  • Gypsum
  • Salt
  • Sulphur
  • Marble
  • Lead
  • Fluorite
  • Arsenic
  • Asphal

🕸️ Caves (5)


French-speaking Switzerland has many caves known to speleologists. The Torpille team lists below the five of them that can be visited:

  1. Underground Lake of Saint-Léonard
  2. Underground Mills of Col-des-roches
  3. Saint-Maurice Fairy’s Cave
  4. Caves of Vallorbe
  5. Mont-Vully Caves

Underground Lake of Saint-Léonard VS


logo lac souterrain de St Leonard

The lake is the largest navigable underground lake in Europe. It was created following an earthquake in the middle of the 20th century that caused the water that filled the cave to drop down. The visitor rides the lake in a boat of about twenty people led by a guide who gives information on the history of the lake and the geological features of the cave.

A boat on the underground lake used for concerts.
A boat on the underground lake used for concerts. saint-léonard

A video on the Underground Lake of Saint-Léonard.

Underground Mills of Col-des-Roches NE


Unique in Europe, the cavities of the underground mills of Col-des-Roches are created by the river that turns the mills dating from the 16th century and which have been rebuilt after being abandoned at the beginning of the 20th century. The caves were enlarged during the operation of the mills to facilitate access to them. The visitor follows an underground route that allows him to see the mills and obtain information about their history.

The footbridges above a mill on the Col-des-Roches site.
Moulins Souterrains du Col-des-Roches NE

A video about the Underdround Mills of Col-des-Roches.

Saint-Maurice Fairy’s Cave VS


The Fairy’s Cave (Grotte aux Fées in french) is accessible by an artificially enlarged gutter in Saint-Maurice in Valais. It consists of a lake and a waterfall that will surely surprise the visitor.

La Fairy’s Cave is located next to two military forts that were in use in the middle of the 20th century. Cindey and Scex Fort.

The lake of the Fairy’s Cave surrounded by a small path.
The lake of the Fairy's Cave surrounded by a small path.

A video about the Fairy’s Cave in Saint-Maurice.

Caves of Vallorbe VD


logo grottes de vallorbe

  • 📍 Location: Vallorbe
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Without a guide
  • 🔗 All the details about the Caves of Vallorbe

The caves of Vallorbe are dug in the limestone of the Jura by the Orbe river. The visitor walks through several rooms and does not miss to observe the work of water on the limestone with the famous stalagmites or stalactites. The largest room called the cathedral is nearly 30 metres high.

A room in the cave of Vallorbe with a metal footbridge for the visitors’ path.
A room in the cave of Vallorbe with a metal footbridge for the visitors' path.

A video about the Caves of Vallorbe.

Mont-Vully Caves FR


  • 📍 Location: Mont-Vully
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Without a guide
  • 🔗 All the details about the Mont-Vully Caves

The Mont-Vully Caves (Grottes des Roches Grises la Lamberta in french) have been dug by the military in the soft molasse of the Vully moutain between the lakes of Morat and Neuchâtel. It is a former military fort from the First World War that has been completely abandoned and now looks more like caves. These caves are not very interesting to visit but offer a nice site next door for a barbecue in the forest. A little higher up, a magnificent view is available of Lake Neuchâtel.

The interior of the former military fort.
The interior of the former military fort. mont-vully caves

A video about the Mont-Vully Caves.

The very detailed website of Mr Demierre provides information on the cavities of French-speaking Switzerland…

⚔️ Military Forts (5)


Cinq forts militaires sont visitables en Suisse Romande. Ils se visitent avec un guide sauf celui d’Evionnaz. Ils sont listés en partant du plus intéressant à la visite.

  1. Fort of Pré-Giroud
  2. Fort of Cindey
  3. Fort of Scex
  4. Fort of Champex-Lac
  5. Fort of Evionnaz

Pré-Giroud Fort VD


  • 📍 Location: Vallorbe
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Guided
  • 🔗 All the details about the Pré-Giroud Fort

The Pré-Giroud Fort is the most interesting fort to visit in French-speaking Switzerland because of its very good state of conservation and the excellence of its guides. It is an artillery fort whose purpose was to prevent the entry into Switzerland of military troops through the Col de la Jougne in France.

A bunker “disguised” as a chalet through which one enters the fort.
A bunker "disguised" as a chalet through which one enters the pre-giroud fort.

A corridor of the fort.
A corridor of the pre-giroud fort.

A video on the Pré-Giroud Fort.

Cindey Fort VS


  • 📍 Location: Saint-Maurice
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Guided
  • 🔗 Tous les détails sur le fort de Cindey

Cindey Fort is an artillery fort that is part of the counter-structure of the famous Dailly Fort, the masterpiece of the Saint-Maurice Fortress. Its entrance is through the entrance of the fairy cave. The guided tour allows you to discover a structure in excellent condition.

The entrance to the Fairy’s Cave used to access Fort Cindey.
The entrance to the Fairy's Cave used to enter Fort Cindey.

The dormitories of Cindey Fort.
The dormitories of Cindey Fort.

Scex Fort VS


  • 📍 Location: Saint-Maurice
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Guided

Next to Fort Cindey, the Scex Artillery Fort is accessible from the same place as Fort Cindey by using the gut leading to the Fairy’s Cave.

The entrance to the fairy cave used to access the fort of Scex.
The entrance to the fairy cave used to access the fort of Scex.

Some artillery guns from the Fort du Scex are located near the Notre-Dame du Scex Chapel embedded in the mountain in the middle of the image.
Some artillery guns from the Fort du Scex are located near the Notre-Dame du Scex Chapel

Champex-Lac Fort VS


logo fort militaire d'artillerie de Champex-Lac

  • 📍 Location: Champex-Lac
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Guided
  • 🔗 All the details about the Champex-Lac Fort

The Champex-Lac fort near Martigny is an artillery fort, its mission was to monitor the strategic road to Grand-Saint-Bernard and prevent an intrusion from Italy. A guided tour in summer allows you to explore it.

An old gun positioned in front of the entrance to the fort of Champex-Lac.
An old gun positioned in front of the entrance to the fort of Champex-Lac.

An artillery gun in the fort.
An artillery gun in the champex-lac fort.

Evionnaz Fort VS


logo militaire du fort d'evionnaz

  • 📍 Location: Evionnaz
  • 🏃 Type of visit: Without a guide
  • 🔗 All the details about the Evionnaz Fort

Fort Evionnaz is the only fort in French-speaking Switzerland that can be visited without a guide. It has a military history museum in the main gallery in the form of signs displayed against the walls. It’s an infantry fort.

A former military truck that acts as a ticket office in front of the entrance to the fort of Evionnaz.
A former military truck that acts as a ticket office in front of the entrance to the fort of Evionnaz.

The main corridor of the fort on the ground floor. Information panels on the military history museum.
The main corridor of the evionnaz fort on the ground floor. Information panels on the military history museum.

For more information, we recommend that you visit the Torpille page dedicated to the military forts of French-speaking Switzerland.

Questions


What are the three most beautiful cavities to visit in French-speaking Switzerland?

  • Mine: Bex Salt Mines
  • Caves: Vallorbe Caves
  • Forts: Pre-Giroud Fort

Are some cavities free?

  • Not all activities related to activities are subject to a charge.

What should we not forget when visiting a cavity?

  • A good sweater is recommended when visiting a cavity because of the cool temperature of about one hour.

Are there caves in the canton of Jura?

  • Yes, the canton of Jura has the magnificent caves of Réclère. These were not visited by the Torpille team because of their geographical position but they are worth a visit.

Is there an original activity to do in a cavity?

  • It is possible, for a group of people, to book the restaurant from the Bex Salt Mines inside the mines themselves.
  • The Asphalt Mines of Travers offer the possibility to eat, in the restaurant of the mines outside, the ham cooked in the asphalt and surrounded by layers of newspapers.

What are the particularities of the city of Vallorbe and Saint-Maurice?

  • The city of Vallorbe has two visitable cavities, a military fort and caves dug into the rock
  • The city of Saint-Maurice has three cavities, two military forts and a cave.

Do I need to make a reservation to see a cavity?

  • No, it is not necessary to book. However, it is strongly recommended to do so for Bex Salt Mines. Booking is also recommended for a guided tour with a group of people.

What is the largest military fort in Europe?

  • The largest military fort in Europe is the Dailly Fort in the heart of the fortress of Saint-Maurice with more than 20 kilometres of galleries. Unfortunately, it is only possible to visit by reservation.

Which visitable cavities have a particularity at the European level?

  • Asphalt Mines were the largest mines of this type during production.
  • Underground Mills at Col-des-Roches in the canton of Neuchâtel are the only underground mills in Europe.
  • Saint-Léonard Underground Lake is the largest natural and navigable underground lake in Europe.