Into the Depths of the Dordogne: Spelunking in France

Along the Dordogne and Vézère valleys, subterranean secrets await. From caves to grottoes, an entire underground world is ready to be discovered, with its stalactites, stalagmites and other concretions that have carved themselves into structures resembling true stone cathedrals. Get ready to travel towards the center of the Earth through the depths of the Dordogne!

The Lascaux Cave, the most popular

This is one of the most important caves in the world, featuring prehistoric paintings from the Paleolithic. The masterpieces on its walls earned it the nickname ''The Sistine Chapel of Prehistory''. Though the original cave, part of UNESCO's World Heritage list, is closed to the public, one can still admire its reproduction at the ''Lascaux IV'' International Cave Painting Center. These wall paintings can also be viewed in the adjoining rooms thanks to imaging technology and virtual reality.
Lascaux (External link)

Padirac Cave, the Deepest

This is one of the largest caves that can be visited in Europe, and the biggest in France. Not far from the town of Rocamadour, almost 100 meters (330 feet) underground, the visit is conducted by boat, sailing on an underground river. Visitors can admire the Grande Pendeloque, a stalactite measuring almost 60 meters (200 feet). In 2019, the cave is celebrating the 130th anniversary of its discovery. A series of cultural events will light up the season, like ''Explorer'' evenings, which include a descent into the depths of the cave at candlelight.
Gouffre de Padirac (External link)

The Carbonières Cave, a tiny novelty

Open to the public since July 2018, in the heart of the Causses de Quercy Regional Natural Park, this grotto is located near Rocamadour and the Padirac cave, in the commune of Lacave. The formation features remarkable geological formations: stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, columns, fistulas, eccentrics, and other structures that come to life with a game of lights and sounds.
Grotte des Carbonnières (External link)

The Lacave Caves, the most picturesque

Unexpectedly, visitors must take an electric train to access the cave. About a quarter of a mile is covered before starting the guided tour through 12 rooms. The first one, named Salle du Chaos (Chaos Room) is used as a venue for concerts during the high season. In the last one, called Lumières Noires (Black Lights), one can see the rocks scintillate. Both of them combined make for a magical, picturesque voyage.
Grottes de Lacave (External link)

The Caves of Presque, the sharpest

In Saint-Médard-de-Presque, in the Haut-Quercy, near Saint-Céré, these unknown grottoes are home to incredible stalagmites, one of which is almost 9 meters (30 feet)! Because of them, the caves are also known as the Grottes des Colonnes (Caves of the Columns). In the valley of the Dordogne, they can be found very near the Padirac Cave.
Grottes de Presque (External link)

The Caves of Cougnac, the best duet

Discovered in 1949 and 1952, these two grottoes have been accessible to the public for about 60 years. At the site, a half-hour drive from Sarlat-la-Canéda, we can admire superb mineral vegetation on one side, and authentic cave paintings on the other. The direct dating allows us to see the creation of the first figures 30,000 years ago, and the last human presence, which dates back 18,000 and 20,000 years. On the walls, the depictions of gatherings of men from the Dordogne Valley come to life.
Les Grottes de Cougnac (External link)

The Prehistoric Grotte des Merveilles, the easiest

Hanging over a cliff, the town of Rocamadour is famous for its religious center. Its cave is less known, the Prehistoric Grotte des Merveilles (Cave of Wonders), with paintings dating back 20,000 years. You can see several original paintings here, but the cave only features one room. This short visit is ideal to breathe some fresh air after discovering Rocamadour.
Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles (External link)

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Getting to the Dordogne Valley