5 Spots to See Prehistoric Caves in France

5 Spots to See Prehistoric Caves in France

Want to discover where our ancestors came from? France’s underground, and particularly the south-west, is dotted with immense cave systems and prehistoric findings. Here are five caves you should explore in France.

1. The Vézère valley

The valley of the River Vézère, between Limeuil and Saint-Amand-de-Coly, in the Dordogne, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world, let alone France. The rocks and massifs of the region are peppered with caves which were home to our ancestors for centuries. It was here that the remains of Cro-Magnon people – the first modern humans to settle in Europe – were initially discovered in the 1800s.

If you fancy getting all primitive, head for the village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil and join one of the official tours. The Musée National de Préhistoire will arm you with more than enough knowledge. Lascaux IV, Grotte de Font-de-Gaume and Grotte de Rouffignac are nearby.

2. Lascaux IV

It’s thanks to a dog called Robot that France now boasts some of the world’s most impressive prehistoric cave paintings. Back in 1940, Robot and his owner Marcel Ravidat stumbled upon the entrance to a network of caves near the Dordogne village of Montignac, Inside they discovered over 600 depictions of ancient animals and humans from the Upper Paleolithic era, some 19,000 years ago. Opened to the public in 1948, the paintings were soon damaged by visitors’ breath and humidity, so 15 years later they were closed off and restored. Nowadays, at Lascaux IV, you can visit the complete replica, impressively close to the original.


There are around 200 engravings and paintings in this cave, which is one of the very few open to the public. You’ll see bison, horses, mammoths and reindeer, just as they appeared 17,000 years ago.


Font de Gaume overhanging cliff © Aangelo/Wikimedia Commons


The cave system here stretches for 8km, with 1 km of it served by an electric train, from which you can observe more than 250 ancient paintings of animals and the odd caveman.


Entrance of the Rouffignac cave Dordogne, France © Sémhur/Wikimedia Commons

5. Grotte du Pech Merle

“An authentic chef d’oeuvre of prehistoric art,” is how they describe this cave near Cabrerets, in the Lot. The standout paintings include the outline of a human hand, a bear’s head, the footprints of an adolescent caveman, and a stunning image of a horse that has been carbon-dated to around 25,000 years ago.

From France Today Magazine

A hand painting in the Pech Merle cave © Grotte du Pech Merle/Wikimedia Commons

Lead photo credit : Art from 19,000 years ago at the impressive Lascaux caves ©Lascaux Facebook

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