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Adventure 12Underground treasure

Visit to the Vallauria silver mine

Another exceptional site in the real Pays des Merveilles. Well hidden in its green setting perched at an altitude of 1,500 metres, the hamlet of La Minière is home to a little gem: the Vallauria silver mine, one of the largest in the Alps. Twenty kilometers of underground galleries, rocky cavities, glittering walls… This historical and geological heritage is remarkably well preserved. For the young and the less adventurous, the visit is completely safe. Surprising, fun and unique, this exceptional site is an unusual journey into the past!

DurationStartLevelIdeal season
1h30 for the visitHamlet of La Minière de Vallauria, TendeAccessible to allSpring summer

Why do we love it?

A pleasant underground visit accessible to all

A thousand-year-old site, a plunge into the history of the local heritage

The Neige et Merveilles association, a group of enthusiasts driven by cultural exchange and the values of solidarity.

Stage 1

The bowels of the earth

Departure is from the edge of Lac des Mesches. It’s in the heart of this larch forest punctuated by small waterfalls that your day’s adventure begins. A 30-minute walk takes you to the Neige et Merveilles gîte.

Much more than a gîte, Neige et Merveilles is a very active association in the region. These enthusiasts have been restoring, maintaining and managing the hamlet and its mine since the 60s. There’s no doubt they’ll share their love of this unique place with you.

Helmet on, and you’re ready to enter the largest mine in the Southern Alps. Gradually, a maze of underground galleries opens up, inviting you to descend 200 meters into the bowels of the Earth. Round, smooth and blackened by soot, the ceilings tell the story of those medieval miners who, to crack the rock, heated it by fire to over 600 degrees.

Your guide takes you on a guided tour of rock galleries and vast vaulted chambers. Under the light, the walls take on a thousand and one colors. The reddish ochre of iron, the black of soot, the transparency of quartz, the white of zinc… You’ll understand the daily life of these shadowy workers and feel the incomparable atmosphere of the place.

Stage 2

A walk in the forest or along the water’s edge

After the depths, you’ll be delighted to return to the surface. On either side of the gîte, the vallon de la Minière promises easy walks, ideal for children. Let’s set off for a bucolic hour-and-a-half loop with no change in altitude, through the forest and along the water’s edge. Val d’Enfer, Torrent de l’Enfer, Pas du Diable… strange names for a Garden of Eden! The gentle ascent takes you first above the gîte, then the path winds through the valley to Lac de la Minière. The smallest and one of the most charming in the Mercantour. You couldn’t ask for a better place for a picnic or a siesta.

If you feel like it and your calves want more, you can reach the Vallée des Merveilles via the vallon de la Minière. West of Mont Bego, perched at an altitude of over 2000 m, the Vallée des Merveilles reveals its austere beauty at the foot of imposing peaks. Who hasn’t heard of its emblematic rock engravings? If you’re in the mood for adventure, why not spend the night at the gîte and set off the next day? This is an accessible but challenging full-day hike.

Small gestures and good reflexes

  • Bring warm clothing. Even in summer, it’s no more than 10° Celsius in the mine.
  • A booklet on the history of the mine is available on request from the B&B reception desk.
Our good addresses

Where to sleep :

Gîte Neige et Merveilles
Hameau de La Minière de Vallauria, 06430 Tende
04 93 04 62 40


In Castérino, 4 charming inns await you:

Val Castérino:
04 93 04 64 38

Auberge Marie-Madeleine:
04 93 04 65 93

Les Mélèzes:
04 93 04 95 95

Le Chamois d’Or***:
04 93 04 66 66

In Saint-Dalmas de Tende, opt for Le Prieuré:
04 93 04 75 70


Where to eat:

At the Neige et Merveilles refuge, a restaurant “Le Four” and a bar “Le Bistrot Gourmand” offer their collective and generous cuisine based on fresh, local and seasonal produce. Gourmet plates, picnics, a variety of aperitifs… the atmosphere is simple and friendly, and reservations are essential.

All Castérino inns offer meals. A good solution before setting off on foot.


Reach Lac des Mesches by car (park alongside the lake) or by train to Saint-Dalmas-de-Tende, then by bus and on foot.