8 Best Sights in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, The Dordogne

Grotte de Combarelles

Fodor's choice

Want an up-close look at Cro-Magnon cave drawings? Those at les Combarelles are considered among the best in the world. Although traces of pigments have been found, the colors have long since vanished, leaving the sinuous graven outlines of woolly mammoths, cave bears, lions, and astonishingly lifelike reindeer. There are well over 600 drawings all told, and seeing them is an almost mystical experience, especially since only 40 people are admitted per day. Hour-long tours are available in English at 11:15 am; guides on other tours may speak English, but it’s the luck of the draw. Just note that this is not a spot for the claustrophobic—the winding 1,000-foot-long cavern is 6½ feet tall and, at most, 3 feet wide.

Grotte-Font-de-Gaume

Fodor's choice

Font-de-Gaume is the last French cave with polychrome paintings that remains open to the public. Though discovered in the late 1800s, it wasn't until the early 20th century that the importance of the artwork (dating back to around 17,000 BC) was recognized by archaeologists. Astonishingly graceful animal figures, many at eye level, include woolly mammoths, horses, reindeer, rhinos, and more. The cave's masterpiece is a grouping of five large superimposed bison in vivid color that was uncovered in 1966 during a routine cleaning. Like similar representations in Lascaux, the sophisticated shading techniques used for their bellies and thighs create a stunning impression of dimensionality and movement. Guided tours run every 40 minutes, but only 80 visitors are admitted each day.

Grotte du Grand-Roc

Amid the dimness of the Grotte du Grand-Roc you can view weirdly shaped crystalline stalactites and stalagmites. At the nearby Abri Préhistorique de Laugerie, you can visit caves that were once home to prehistoric humans.

Av. de Laugerie, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, 24620, France
05–53–06–92–70
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €8.60, Closed Jan.

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La Madeleine

As you head north from Les Eyzies-de-Tayac toward Lascaux, stop off near the village of Tursac to discover the mysterious "lost village" of La Madeleine, found hidden in the Valley of Vézère at the foot of a ruined castle. The site was abandoned in the 1920s, but it has a picturesque, eye-catching cliff-face chapel that was constructed during the Middle Ages as well as an interesting history. Geologists and anthropologists will especially enjoy learning about the village's backstory, including the prehistoric settlement that was here. Download a guide about the site or take a guided tour—call ahead for English tours. There also are weekly summer workshops for children.

Maison Forte de Reynac

Behind the stately facade of this 15th-century medieval-Renaissance dwelling carved into a sheer rock face lies a massive prehistoric structure now complete with a kitchen, ceremonial hall, chapel, arms rooms, a dungeon, bedrooms (with stunning panoramas from 120 feet high), and more, all decked out in authentic period furnishings as though the inhabitants had just stepped out for a stroll. This historic monument is one of the most intriguing and surprising sights in the area (and that's saying a lot).

Musée National de Préhistoire

To truly enhance your understanding of the paintings at Lascaux and other caves in the Dordogne, visit the Musée National de Préhistoire. Its renowned collection of prehistoric artifacts—including primitive sculpture, furniture, and tools—attracts large crowds. You can also get ideas at the museum about which excavation sites to visit in the region.

Pole International de la Prehistoire

This well-equipped welcome center provides a solid introduction to the region's important prehistoric sites. Its exhibits, slide shows, and time lines (all free of charge) help you wrap your brain around the immensity of the archaeological riches in the Dordogne.

Village de la Madeleine

Unique in the Dordogne, visitors to this perched prehistoric village, museum, and farm enjoy total immersion in the life of a cave dweller through the ages—the best way to learn about this integral part of the Dordogne. The visit, done by guided tour or audio guide, begins with stellar views of the valley and Vézere River and progresses through various living areas carved into the rock face. At the farm, you can wander through pretty botanic gardens, see how bread was made, pet farm animals, and take part in workshops, nature walks, and artisan demonstrations in all seasons for an altogether charming experience that's perfect for families. Located in Tursac, between Les Eyzies and Lascaux, it's a great place to explore on your way to other sights.

Le Petit Marzac, Rte. de la Madeleine, Tursac, 24620, France
05–53–46–36–88
Sight Details
Rate Includes: €9.50 in Mar.–May and Oct.–Nov.; €9.90 in June–Sept.