France // The Limousin, Dordogne and the Lot //

Grotte de Lascaux and Lascaux II

The small, attractive town of Montignac is the main base for visiting the Lascaux cave.

The Grotte de Lascaux was discovered in 1940 by four boys who stumbled across a deep cavern decorated with marvellously preserved paintings of animals. Executed by Cro-Magnon people 17,000 years ago, the paintings are among the finest examples of prehistoric art in existence. There are five or six identifiable styles, and subjects include bison, mammoths and horses, plus the biggest known prehistoric drawing, of a 5.5m bull with an astonishingly expressive head and face. In 1948, the cave was opened to the public, and over the next fifteen years more than a million tourists came to see it. Sadly, because of deterioration caused by the heat and breath of visitors, the cave had to be closed in 1963; now you have to be content with the replica known as Lascaux II.

Opened in 1983, Lascaux II was the result of eleven years’ painstaking work by twenty artists and sculptors, using the same methods and materials as the original cave painters. While the visit can’t offer the excitement of a real cave, the reconstruction rarely disappoints the thousands who trek here every year.