Vézère Valley in France
Located in the Dordogne heartlands of France, just a half-hour train trip from the region’s capital Périgueux, is the Vézère Valley. The area is renowned for its many fascinating caves, subterranean stream systems and ancient, skillfully created rock paintings. Many people begin their journey to this region traveling by train to the village of Les Eyzies.
From Les Eyzies, visitors can head along the road to Sarlat, just off of which they will discover the Grotte de Font de Gaume. The tunnel-like structure houses a number of intriguing rock paintings, including a brilliantly preserved fresco of five bison. Be sure to arrive at the Grotte de Font de Gaume as early as possible, as the number of people permitted to enter the caves is limited.
Also accessible from Les Eyzies is Abri du Cap Blanc. This rock shelter is reached along a 7 kilometer road that can be traversed by bike. The highlight of the Abri du Cap Blanc is the striking carved mural of bison and horses that dates back some fifteen thousand years. This is considered to be the greatest of the country's remaining prehistoric sculptures.
Further on from this is the Grotte des Combarelles, which features engravings of mammoths, reindeer and humans, said to be from the Magdalanian era.
The village of Montignac lies further up the Vézère Valley, acting as a base for those who wish to explore the wonders of Lascaux. The original site of Lascaux has been closed to visitors since 1963 in order to protect the seventeen thousand year old prehistoric paintings. This exquisite site features art works of five or six different styles. Subject matter includes bison, mammoths, horses and a massive image of a bull. Visitors can view the Lascaux II, which is a replica of the original. Tickets to the Lascaux II can be purchased from the tourist office.
Interestingly, Cro-Magnon skeletons were discovered in the Vézère Valley region in 1868, along with many other archeological finds that shed light on the life of Stone Age people. Visitors can find out more at the Musée National de la Préhistoire in Les Eyzies. The museum houses a collection of prehistoric artifacts, along with copies of Stone Age art works.