Valle De La Buges To Ganges

Dramatically bare of human life is the Vallée de la Buèges, a sun-blazed valley of rock and scrub that runs parallel with the Hérault Valley to its north. Four hamlets with unsurpassable views break up the 45km drive from Montpeyroux (south) to Brissac (north). Along the way, the Auberge des Lavagnes ( % 04 67 73 12 79; www.leslavagnes.com; dm €15), an isolated gîte d'étape in Les Lavagnes, provides meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner €6.50/9/15) and beds to the walkers (2& hours along the GR74 from St-Guilhem-le-Désert) and horse riders who make their way here.

In Brissac follow the D108 east and turn left where it meets the larger D986 to reach Grotte des Demoiselles ( % 04 67 73 70 02; www.demoiselles.fr; adult/12-17yr/5-11yr/3-5yr €8.70/6.50/5/1; S 10am-6pm Jul & Aug, to 5.30pm Apr-May & Sep, 10am-noon & 2-4.30/5.30pm Feb, Mar, Oct & Nov), a cave of gargantuan proportions accessed via an open-carriage funicular. Once in, one-hour guided tours take you through several galleries and past dozens of fantastic rock formations (a marmot, a swan, a bobsled piste, Pisa's Leaning Tower etc) via several wet and slippy passageways (leave the flip-flops at home) and 561 steps (be warned). Towering 60m high and 120m long, the subterranean cathedral dwarfs you as you stand in front of it.

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