The Perigord has more cave paintings and other remains of prehistoric Man than anywhere else on Earth. Apart from the major attractions, in many villages you will find signs to their own painted caves, too recent or minor to have reached the guidebooks.
There are far too many "grottes", "gouffres", "abimés", and "abris" to describe and show below, so here are just a sample:
caves of Lascaux were discovered in 1940, and closed again the the public
in 1963 when the marvelous 17,000 year old paintings started to
deteriorate as a result of the change in the environment caused by the
thousands of tourists.
A replica of the caves - Lascaux II - was built alongside them and opened in the 1970s. Our next-door neighbour at the time, Jim Lovelock, was a writer and TV producer specialising in caving and climbing and was invited by the authorities to compare Lascaux II with the original caves. He told us that the only way to distinguish between the two was the slightly different atmosphere - temperature and humidity, so you know that you will not be disappointed.
40-minute tours guided in French or English run throughout the day. The ticket office in Montignac, 2Km away, is open from 9 a.m. until tickets run out - which is quite quickly! Either book a week or two in advance (05 53 51 96 23), or arrive before the ticket office opens for a tour later in the day.
The Grotte de Font-de-Gaume, 7 Km east of Les Eyzies has the most important cave paintings still open to the public. the highlight is a stampede of bison across the roof of a chamber. The 45-minute tours (in French or English) must be booked in advance - two weeks in high summer, and one week at other times.
The Abri du Cap-Blanc, 7Km NE of Les Eyzies, has a sculptured frieze of horses, bison and reindeer. Tours (in French only) are best booked in advance, or turn up early.
The Gorge d'Enfer, 2Km from Les Eyzies and just upstream of Grande Roc has a 25,000 year-old drawing of a fish. The tickets are available from La Font-de-Gaume at least a week in advance.
The Grotte de
Rouffignac (otherwise called the Grotte aux Cent Mammouths) is 15 Km NW of
Les Eyzies n the road to Perigueux. It has 250 engravings and
paintings. The tours (by train) last 60 minutes.
are many other caves without prehistoric paintings. The Grotte du
Grand Roc has a fantastic view of the valley from halfway up a cliff.
The Roque St-Christophe was also carved into a cliff 40,000 years ago. Its 5 floors of terraces extend over 400 metres.
Above ground there are also many "neolithic theme parks", with animated inhabitants!
are also huge cathedral-like caverns, such as the Grotte de Proumeysac,
Grotte de Villars, and Grotte de Domme. You descend into the first of
these in a cable car.
Perhaps the strangest is the Gouffre-de-Padirac, close to the cliff-face town of Rocamadour. Above ground all you see is a hole in a scrubby plain, perhaps a couple of hundred of yards across (and, fortunately, fenced since you can't actially see it until you are right up to it). Visiting the gouffre, you then plunge down hole - a shaft of 900 feet - by elevator. At the foot you embark in a small boat, for a guided tour of underground rivers and lakes.
if you align the pointer on any of the pictures on the left, you should see the name of the cave.