Continue south on the D740 from Hautefort, cross the main RN89, taking the D65 to Montignac. Situated on the Vézère, Montignac has long been a thriving agricultural centre and has also developed a buoyant tourist industry, playing host to the hordes of tourists who come to visit the caves at Lascaux. It's a particularly pretty place with some of the medieval houses along the north bank having charming wooden balconies.
The discovery of these most celebrated caves is a well-known story and is usually told by your tourist guide. In September 1940 some local boys were out rabbitting on the hillside with their dog, Robot, when the animal suddenly disappeared down a hole in the ground. When the boys followed, they found Robot, and themselves in a cave which their torch revealed was lavishly painted with a diversity of animals. In 1948 the site was opened to the public and the boys who had discovered Lascaux, now young men, acted as guides. About 2000 visitors a day used to pass through Lascaux. Moreover, the construction of a large staircase into the cave destroyed the stability of the atmosphere that had preserved the paintings for over 17,000 years in a state of freshness. They became affected by the green sickness caused by fluctuating temperatures, the breathing of visitors, excessive carbon dioxide in the air, and by a second ailment caused by damp. In 1963 the cave was closed and the sicknesses cured. To prevent any reoccurrence of the problems the original cave remains closed and a new site was opened known as Lascaux 2, being a total replica of the original and brilliantly done.
In December 2016 President Holland opened Lascaux 4. A brand new state-of-the art- replica of the original caves. For reservations view www.reserver.lascaux.fr For details of the location and tour scroll down to Lascaux International Center. Details are in English. It is recommended that you book online for your day and time and that is advisable during the summer season when visitor numbers are at their highest. But you can also buy your tickets at the ticket office on the day. The visit time is approximately two and a half hours and it is recommended to take a sweater, even in summer, as the cave temperature is around 13C. There is a restaurant on site and car parking is free.
Lascaux 3 is also a replica of the original caves, designed as a mobile exhibit travelling the globe since 2012 promoting the Lascaux Caves and the area which is rich in the history of Cro-Magnon man, who co-existed at the time with woolly rhinos, lions, beers and deer. There’s a wealth of interesting caves and pre--historic sites to visit in the area.
From Montignac there are two roads which go south to Les Eyzies. The D706 takes you through St Leon-sur Vézère, which is very pretty and the D65 affords the most spectacular view of Château Losse, perched right on the river. This Château has the most outstanding 16th and 17th Century décor and furniture with stunning views from the terrace and garden over the Vézère valley. Open from Easter until 30th September.
Canoes can be hired at Montignac, a picturesque journey undertaken to Les Eyzies, where you will be driven back to Montignac.
The reputation of Les Eyzies as the capital of prehistory is fully justified, for nowhere else in the world is there such a diversity of sites. Not all the sites contain cave paintings, but all are of archaeological interest. What distinguishes the region is the fact that even after tens of thousands of years, the images that the people of the Palaeolithic were moved to paint and engrave on cavern walls remain fresh and evocative. The atmospheric peculiarities of these caves, often set hundreds of metres into the cliff face and accessible only by long tunnels, have helped to preserve these earliest of all works of art, though sadly many were allowed to deteriorate through thoughtless exposure to changes of temperature and other intrusive factors that resulted in mould and bacterial damage. Here in Les Eyzies is the Musée National de Préhistoire, France's richest prehistory museum. The setting is quite spectacular as the museum is housed in the remaining portion of the 15th Century chateau built into the cliffs of Les Eyzies by the barons of Beynac and heralded by a figure of Cro-Magnon man standing over 2 metres tall at its entrance.
LA ROQUE ST. CHRISTOPHE (between Montignac and Les Eyzies)
One of the most enjoyable valley sites is La Roque Saint Christophe for about 800 metres terraces have been gouged into the overhanging cliff. Originally inhabited by Palacolithic peoples, they were last occupied by Huguenots in the 16th Century when Henri III ordered their expulsion and the destruction of the fortress. Shorn of vegetation and almost inaccessible, La Roque was just about impregnable, though it was vulnerable to siege. The view of the overhanging terraces from the road is quite breathtaking.
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