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Lascaux - A step back in time

A visit to the Lascaux Caves was one of the most thought provoking experiences I had recently. Seeing the artwork on the walls (well the replicas of, more of later) that is thought to be up to 20,000 years old, is truly amazing and puts perspective into life today.

A little background

The Paleothic cave paintings at Lascaux are one of the largest and earliest examples of human artistry. The paintings cover the walls in the complex of caves with nearly 2000 figures of animals, human figures and abstract art. The most popular paintings are of horses, 364 in total. Other figures include a human, felines, cattle, stags (90), a bird, a bear and a rhinocerous – the wildlife was a little different then. The largest picture is of a bull 5.2m (17 feet) long, impressive even today. The paintings are either cut into the cave wall or painted on using colours from the natural rocks / minerals.

Only discovered in 1940, the caves were quickly recognised as an important piece of human history and given protected status. In 1948 they opened to the public and as word spread the paintings became a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately this was the start of a decaying process that is still continuing today. By the early fifties, so many people were visiting the Lascaux Caves that the humidity and carbon dioxide in their breathe was starting to damage paintings leading eventually to their closure in 1963.

The paintings are still under threat today, with damage coming from white and black moulds growing on the walls. The reason for the mould is thought to come from the air conditioning, bright working lights and the breathe of people in the caves. Today only a handful of people are allowed in each week, time limited to reduce any further damage, Studies are ongoing to save the paintings for future generations.

The Replica

For 20 years the paintings were shut off, until in 1983, Lascaux II opened. This was a an exact replica of the original Lasceux caves that took 11 years to make by 20 artists and sculptors. You get to see the paintings in the their original setting, rather than just museum pictures. I would say that if you didn’t know you were in a replica, you would think this was the real thing. A tour guide leads you around taking approximately 40 - 45 minutes.

I am always fascinated that even today with our progress and technology, how much we have in common with our ancient ancestors – are we really all that different deep down?

Lascaux is always worth a visit if you haven’t been, I would put it on any top ten of places to visit in France with the surrounding Dordogne region too.

Where is Lascaux?

The cave complex is located in near Montignac in the Vézère Valley of the Dordogne region. The Vézère Valley is has 147 prehistoric sites plus 25 caves with paintings in and was granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO in 1979. Lascaux is considered to be the best due it's size and clarity of the paintings.

How to get the best from a visit to Lascaux?

Book in Montignac at the ticket office next to tourist office – you cannot buy tickets at Lascaux II between April and October

Arrive early to buy tickets, in busy times they sell out by midday

Pick an entry time and choose the tour language you prefer for the best experience

Be prepared, although the Lasceux II caves are above ground, when you are inside, you feel as if you are in a cave

Photographs are not allowed inside the caves. They are strict.

Visit more of the Vézère Valley and explore Montignac itself

Lascaux is a busy place and designed for visitors, don't let this put you off. The whole area is worth a visit so arrive early, visit the caves and then enjoy the rest of the day exploring the beautiful area around Lascaux.


Current prices are Adult 9.70€, Child 6.20€ and under 5s are free. You do get a discount if you can get a group of 20 or more to book together. Opening times vary throughout the year

Mid February to early April & mid November to December – Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 17:30 (closed for lunch)

Mid April to early July and September to mid November – Daily 9:30 to 18:00

July and August – Daily 09:00 to 20:00

Connected Attraction

Before or after visiting Lascaux II, there is a further theme park 5km away in Le Thot, that explains more about the construction of the replica, tableau of prehistoric scenes and modern live examples of the animals in the paintings. I would visit before if you go, as anything after the cave visit is a bit of let down.

Book both together for a discount with a Billet Jumele – Adult 13.40€, Child 9.30€ and under 5s are free

Individually the prices for Le Thot are Adult 7.20€, Child 4.70€ and under 5s are free. Again, a discount if you can get a group of 20 or more to book together.

Other caves to visit

This region is full of history as humans are believed to lived there for around 400,000 years. There are plenty of places to visit including other caves and prehistoric site at Font-de-Gaume, La Rocque St-Christophe and Grotte de Cussac.

Map of Lascaux

A map of the original caves

Map of the Lascaux Cave Complex
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