France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Les Combarelles, Les Eyzies, Dordogne
Prehistoric cave paintings deep inside a cave...awe inspiring!

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Along with the Grotte de Font-de-Gaume, Les Combarelles is one of the best known sites of prehistoric cave paintings in France. Located just to the east of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, in the Dordogne region, Les Combarelles is one of few caves still open to the public.

Les Combarelles is 3 km northeast of the Musée national de Préhistoire in Les Eyzies (map), overlooking the valley of the same name. It is easily reached from Sarlat (18 kilometers/11 miles to the east, about a 30-minute drive).

The long, narrow cave (about 240 meters long) contains over 800 engravings and drawings of horses, bison, aurochs (extinct large cattle), reindeer, and even a lion, perhaps a bear. It also has some simple drawings of humans and other symbols.

Like Font-de-Gaume and the other prehistoric caves, there are many unanswered questions at Les Combarelles. No one knows who the artists were or why they chose to do drawings and engravings in the caves. Perhaps most mysterious is why much of the art is located so deep inside the cave, which of course in prehistoric times would have been very dark. Excavations have found crude shallow dish-like lamps. Animal fat could be burned in these lamps to provide light, but again it would need to be transported from the cave entrance. Our ancestors were nothing if not intrepid and ingenious!

Tickets & Admission

Because of the fragile nature of the Combarelles site, admission is strictly limited, and only a small number of tickets is sold each day. Currently fewer than 80 visitors are allowed in each day, though that can change. Carbon dioxide levels are monitored regularly to ensure that the integrity of the cave is protected.

A few tickets are sold on line, starting in January for the coming year, but the majority are sold at the Font de Gaume ticket office, starting at 9:30 on the day of the visit. Plan to get to the ticket office early in the morning and wait in line; benches with numbered seats keep people in order. When we visited, we arrived at 9:10 AM and got the last tickets for a 4:00 visit, but in the height of the summer or other busy times you may need to arrive by 7:00 AM to have any chance of getting in. You can only buy tickets for people who are actually present, so no picking them up for a group.

Approach to Les Combarelles, Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France
The approach to Les Combarelles...

Guided Tours

You must take a guided tour to see the cave. Tour groups are limited to 6 people. Even with that small number, at times the cave is so narrow that the guide needs to show a set of drawings to part of the group, and then have them move on a bit so the others can see.

Inside the Cave

Things to be aware of if you visit Les Combarelles:

  • You will be inside the cave for about 45 minutes, walking on a man-made walkway or on the cave floor in low light. You'll travel about 100 meters (328 feet) into the cave and will return along the same route. If you suffer at all from claustrophobia, this is not the place for you!

  • Passages in the cave are very narrow, and in some cases low. You may need to duck your head from time to time.

  • Do not bring any large bags. At the entrance to the cave you will have the opportunity to lock up purses and backpacks for the duration of your visit.

  • No photography is allowed in the cave.

  • The temperature in the cave is cool. If you're dressed for hot summer weather, you may want to bring a sweater or light jacket. Remember: you'll be in the cave for nearly an hour.


What to See & Do in Les Eyzies

Hotels in Les Eyzies

About Les Eyzies

Grotte de Font-de-Gaume

Tourist Information

About Lascaux

About Sarlat

About Dordogne

 

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Entry to Les Combarelles cave, Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France

Entry to Les Combarelles...



 




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