3 Prehistoric Sites to See in Dordogne
The region of Dordogne is as beautiful as it is charming, with a picturesque countryside complete with a landscape dotted with ancient castles and foreboding fortresses. Delightfully rural and refreshingly unblemished by touristy crowds, a visit to Dordogne offers a truly authentic French experience.
Perhaps what this region has become best known for is the abundance of prehistoric wonders found there. Evidence of the area’s long, rich history can be found around just about every corner, from ancient caves and caverns to the magnificent artifacts and drawings found within. Three sites in particular stand out as among the most fascinating and should be at the top of any visitor’s must-see list.
Font de Gaume
Located close to Les Eyzies, Font de Gaume is the last cave containing prehistoric polychrome paintings that remains open to the public, although the number of visitors allowed per day is strictly controlled. Those lucky enough to enter are rewarded with a variety of ancient pictures, carvings and engravings which feature mostly bison, deer and horses. While public tours only encompass a small percentage of these, there are actually over 200 colorful polychrome paintings located throughout the cave walls, including some depicting mammoths. Experts estimate that the paintings were made sometime during the Magdalenien period around 17,000 years BC. It’s an amazing journey into man’s ancient past and even though cameras are not allowed within Font de Guame, the indelible memories are sure to last a lifetime.
Gouffre de Proumeyssac
Known as the “caves of Proumeyessac”, the site is actually just one huge cavern that contains a magnificent collection of stalagmites and stalactites. Located on one edge of the cavern is a vast wall of amazing natural formations which give the appearance of a giant organ. This remarkable resemblance has led to the cavern’s nickname of the “Cathedral of Crystal”. If the mere sight of these natural wonders isn’t enough, there’s also a musical light show which magically illuminates the cavern. Visitors can enter the cave via tunnel or, for an extra expense, by being lowered down in a basket. Just remember to look but don’t touch – these incredible formations are extremely fragile and we want to keep them protected so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
The famous Lascaux Caves are located approximately 30km north of Sarlat. Although the original paintings have been replicated, the result is a meticulous and incredibly detailed work of art and just as fascinating as the real thing. Most of the paintings depict animals (several of which are now extinct) but many contain symbols that have yet to be identified, adding to the mystery and intrigue of the prehistoric cavern. Visitors can enjoy guided tours which begin with an educational “mini museum” in the rock. Then it’s on to catch a glimpse at the astounding 2,200 images, including one painting that is considered to be the largest prehistoric cave painting in the world, measuring at over 5 meters long. It’s a fascinating and absolutely unforgettable experience!
A visit to Dordogne is certain to be filled with wonder, inspiration and beauty. From flowing countryside to magnificent ancient architecture to a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere that is as inviting as the people who call the region home. Among the many sites and scenes to experience in Dordogne, perhaps the most unforgettable are these prehistoric caves and caverns, along with the age-old treasures and mysteries they hold. It’s the perfect way to experience the heart of France and get a glimpse of a little piece of history that you’re certain to talk about for years to come.