Just south of Montignac, the famous Grotte de Lascaux contain hundreds of prehistoric wall paintings between 15,000 and 20,000 years old. The horses, cow, black bulls, and unicorn on their walls were discovered by chance by four schoolkids looking for their dog in 1940. Over time, the original Lascaux cave paintings began to deteriorate due to the carbon dioxide exhaled by thousands of visitors. To make the colorful mosaic of animals accessible to the general public, the French authorities built Lascaux II, a formidable feat in itself. They spent 12 years perfecting the facsimile, duplicating every aspect of two of the main caves to such a degree that the result is equally awesome. Painted in black, purple, red, and yellow, the powerful images of stags, bison, and oxen are brought to life by the curve of the stone walls; many of them appear pregnant, and historians think these caves were shrines to fertility rather than living quarters—no tools or implements were ever found. Unlike
caves marked with authentic prehistoric art, Lascaux II is completely geared toward visitors, and you can watch a fancy presentation about cave art or take a 40-minute tour in the language of your choice. This is one of the most visited sites in the Dordogne and, in summer, tickets can be at a premium. To be sure of admittance, arrive early, as tickets can sell out by midday. During the winter season, you are permitted to purchase tickets at the site, but from April to October tickets are available only at a booth beside the tourist office in Montignac (Pl. Bertran-de-Born). Even better, make reservations via email as soon as you know you're heading to the Dordogne.