In Dordogne, there is no lack of caves! There are dozens of them, which can be visited or not, with concretions (stalactites / stalagmites), or decorated (paintings and/or engravings). But in this field, the Lascaux Caves occupy a special place: they are among the most famous caves in the world, indeed, who has never heard of the Lascaux Caves? Rightly called the "Sistine Chapel" of prehistory, they contain an exceptional collection of cave paintings dating from the Magdalenian period (about 18,000 years ago).
They are located in the commune of Montignac, in the Dordogne, where we are lucky enough to have gîtes that are just waiting for you to enjoy a nature and heritage vacation! (L’escapade a Lascaux).
The vast majority of our travelers visit Lascaux during their stay, and we are often asked practical questions about this site. So here are our best tips for discovering Lascaux, especially Lascaux IV, our favorite!
WHY LASCAUX IV ??
We are regularly asked what Lascaux IV means and what the hell are the other three! Don't panic, the explanation is very simple.
Lascaux I is the original cave, which was discovered by chance one day in 1940. It served as an example not to be reproduced in terms of exploitation. It was open to the public for about fifteen years, but the excessive number of visitors and the release of large quantities of CO2 very quickly damaged the paintings which had nevertheless lasted 18,000 years... Then, the passage of machinery to develop the cave compromised future excavations and brought micro-organisms which developed. In 1963, the closing of the cave to the public was decided by André Malraux, Minister of Cultural Affairs. Since then, no one has entered the cave except a few scientists who have been recording the state of health of the paintings. Lessons have been learned for the caves discovered afterwards, which are either closed to the public or very closely monitored.
Lascaux II is the first replica of the cave, opened in 1983. It is located right next to the original, and reproduces about 40% of the paintings. A real feat for its time, it may seem a little outdated today, and the paintings were also beginning to deteriorate. However, it is still open to the public.
Lascaux III is a traveling exhibition, which reproduces a part of the cave and travels around the world, allowing to discover this jewel of Prehistory to the greatest number. It was created in 2012 and has been exhibited in Brussels, Paris, Chicago, Japan and South Africa.
Lascaux IV is by far our favorite, and we'll tell you why! Opened in 2016 at the foot of the hill where Lascaux 1 rests, it is an almost complete reproduction of the cave, with a precision never reached and truer than life. In addition, a modern scenography, based on new technologies, offers us another way to discover and see the rich figurations of the cave. But it is more globally a Centre International de l'Art Pariétal, and after the visit of the cave itself, the guide stays with you in "L'Atelier" where you can better see some representations. The guides are all very competent and passionate and will know how to transmit to you their love of the place. There is also a gallery of visual art and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, all in a huge building very modern but which knows how to blend into the environment.
landscape. Lascaux IV has already welcomed more than 2 million visitors since its opening.
LASCAUX : AN UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY
But how was this jewel discovered? Well, totally by chance! We are in September 1940, France lives dark hours since the beginning of the Second World War, but the Dordogne is partly in the free zone.
Marcel Ravidat, a teenager from the village of Montignac, is walking in the woods with his dog Robot, when the dog falls into a hole. Marcel manages to extract the dog and thinks he has discovered the underground passageway to the safe of the Counts of Perigord!
So he decides to come back and explore this cave, which he does four days later, with his companions Georges Agniel, Simon Coencas and Jacques Marsal. These four teenagers were far from suspecting the importance of their expedition! They managed to widen the hole to be able to slip into it, and, equipped with hastily made lamps, went down and explored the gallery. Disappointment : no trace of treasure... But when they go back up, their makeshift lamps reveal huge paintings on the walls, they have indeed found a treasure ! They understand very quickly that they are facing a very important discovery. Marcel then asked his former teacher Léon Laval, who was also very impressed and decided to call on Abbé Breuilh, renowned for his work on prehistory, to appraise and authenticate the cave. Very quickly, no doubt, it is indeed a major discovery! The news spread very quickly over Montignac and the surrounding area, people flocked to see the cave. The teenagers who had discovered it (they were called "Inventors") set up a camp in front of the entrance to "their" cave to protect it. Abbot Breuilh then launched into a real work of ant to list and reproduce the
works on tracings. He will spend several years to accomplish this difficult task.
Major works are undertaken to open the cave to the public, the opening will take place in 1948, after the end of the War. The rest of the story, we know, Lascaux is a victim of its success and must close permanently a few years later because the works are damaged.
WHAT CAN WE EXACTLY SEE AT LASCAUX ?
It is said to be the most beautiful prehistoric painted cave in the world and here is why. 18,000 years ago, the Solutrean artists decorated the walls of this temple with an incredible sense of beauty and movement. In the great hall of bulls, the eye seems to follow a flight of animals, a round of aurochs and deer that surrounds you. The use of the slightest relief of the rock serves to give life to a look, volume to a chest or a belly.
In the axial diverticulum, horses start to run, manes blowing in the wind, while a bunch of red cows stand out on the ceiling. Cows rushing, hooves in the air, horses falling, deer swimming, while two furious bison run away from your intrusion. At the far end, well hidden, we discover a cabinet of felines. In the well, a human representation, the only one in the cave, but with a bird's head.
Why these drawings? For what purpose did our ancestors risk their lives to make them? To this day we have no definitive answer, only hypotheses. Maybe we will not know
You will realize during your visit that there are more questions than answers today, but perhaps that is the magic of the place?
YOU WANT TO VISIT LASCAUX / ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW,OUR TIPS AND ADVICES
Lascaux II : open from the end of January to the beginning of November, the schedules vary according to the periods, to see on the site https://www.lascaux-ii.fr
Prices : Adults / + 13 years old : 15.40 €
5 - 12 years old : 10 €
Less than 5 years old : free
Preferential rate if you book online.
It is possible to combine your visit with that of the Parc du Thot and/or Lascaux 4, all these sites are managed by the same organization, the Sémitour.
Lascaux IV : open all year long except January, the schedules vary according to the dates, to consult on the site https://www.lascaux.fr
Prices : Adults / + 13 years old : 22 €
5 - 12 years old : 14.50 €
Less than 5 years old : free
Preferential rate if you book online.
It is possible to combine your visit with that of the Parc du Thot, the site of Laugerie Basse or the Grotte du Grand Roc.
To know: the guides who work in Lascaux are hand-picked, very competent, passionate and exciting!
Prestige visits: every evening in summer, then punctually during the year, visit of the cave at
By the light of a flashlight, as when it was discovered! A very nice experience.
Looking for an unforgettable experience? You can extend the Prestige Tour with a gastronomic dinner prepared by a Michelin-starred chef!
Our little tips :
- We strongly advise to book your tickets online, easy, fast and cheaper!
- If you can, book the last tour slot, so there won't be a group behind you and you can take the time to ask the guide all your questions.
- No problem to park, several large free parking lots are available.
Now you know everything about Lascaux, and normally you only want to come and discover it with your own eyes! We highly recommend this visit, as well as many other wonders in Périgord (link to other articles). And we will be delighted to welcome you in one of our luxury apartments located in Montignac Lascaux, 1 km from the caves.