We'll be visiting Dordogne in mid-September and wish to see the best caves there. I think We're going to be fortunate enough to get a reservation for Font de Gaume but since we'll be using the services of Philippe the taxi driver (half day, about $200, full day, about 430), I'm wonderingn what we should concentrate on. I've heard that Pech-Merle is the best, but RS says that Grottes de Cougnac is more intimate and Rouffignac has that little train. We'll be based in Sarlat and I don't want to rent a car. Anyone have any strong ideas on which caves are the best? Thank you!
If you will need the services of Philippe, I would look very closely at grouping the caves you visit to be fairly close to each other.
There are several caves in the Véreze valley, besides the Font de Gaume cave (which was a favorite). Nearby is the very good Musée de la Préhistoire (10 minutes away, village of Les Eyzies). Not far up the road is the fascinating site of LaRoque Saint-Christophe. Further yet up the road is Lascaux II - still impressive.
This is a good loop from Sarlat.
Pech-Merle is very good, but quite a distance away from Font de Gaume - too far in the opposite direction, in my opinion. Pech-Merle would be easily combineable with stops in St-Cirq-Lapopie, Rocamadour & Rouffignac (big - no art) nearby -- for another full day's tour.
Why don't you ask Philippe for his advice?
We spent several days driving the small roads in the area, visiting all the sites mentioned above (and more). We arranged our visits largely in the way that I explained above.
Philippe would really be the best person to counsel you and negotiate a day's itinerary that you would like.
I think that Diane has some good advice. From our experience last fall, you need to get to Font de Gaume early to get a space on the tour but I'd check their website to confirm. We liked Pech-Merle a lot and also Lascaux II but toured them on different days. For our day to Pech-Merle, left from La Roque-Gageac, drove to St. Cirq Lapopie for lunch, toured the caves (Pech-Merle) in the afternoon, and then back to La Roque. You could probably add in Racamadour but for us, it would have made it a long day. Depending on your route, you could stop in Domme along the way.
Diane is spot on with how to organize the visits and the fact that Pech Merle is in a different area. Listen to this wise woman!