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Visiting Caves in Dordogne region with kids

We will be staying in Sarlat this summer with our two kiddos (ages 7 &9) and I would like to take them on a cave tour if possible. I wanted to find out though if there were any cave tours that were a bit more "kid friendly"? Shorter walking distance, in English, more engaging for kids.My kids are used to walking a lot, but after about an hour I'm sure they will be bored. I'm having a hard time figuring out where I can buy tickets in advance. I know some places reserve small numbers of tickets for the day of, and you need to arrive super early to get them, but this isn't something I have any desire to do. I'd like to have tickets ahead of time. Any suggestions??

Posted by
1652 posts

We visited quite a few caves in the Dordogne, although not with young children. We were there in May, so it wasn't crowded. We did not purchase tickets in advance. I don't know if you can purchase tickets in advance, but I assume the website will tell you.

Here are some of the caves that might work:

Grotte de Rouffignac - there was a school field trip when we were there, so appropriate and interesting for young children. You take a train (small train) through the cave. There are original cave drawings, domes on the ceilings, and hundreds of bear nests/beds.

La Rogue-St. Christophe - a "sinuously curving cliff face 80 meters high and nearly 1km long." This was a city during the Middle Ages; very impressive with great views. Replicas of rough furniture, kitchen stuff, etc.

Gouffre de padirac - one of our favorites. First you descend into the sinkhole via a combination of elevator and stairs, or take the elevator all the way down. Then you take a small boat along the subterranean river. When boat ride ends, you walk up and down many stairs to see more formations. Tour was about 90 minutes. Saw many gigantic stalactites and stalagmites with strange formations. Only negative is that we were told that the wait could be 2 hours during the summer. In May, we walked right in.

Peche Merle - Another favorite. Original drawings and paintings and stalagmites and stalactites. A spotted horses panel, a boys handprints, and footprint of an adolescent boy. I think this was all walking. But I don't think it was more than an hour.

I hope this helps. This was in 2015, and I don't remember if we had English audio guides, or an English speaking guide.

If your children like castles, we really enjoyed Beynac Castle. It's a medieval fortress with very few furnishings and felt primitive and mysterious to us. We had a self-guided tour with a pamphlet. A renovation began in 1980 and is scheduled to end in 2030, according to my notes. We like that it is in the process of being renovated because of the primitive feel and it didn't look or feel Disneyesque, which some people don't like. We loved seeing the room that Richard the Lionhearted slept in!

Hope this helps.

Posted by
1229 posts

We did the caves with the cable car thingy (train?) that you take into the cave (with our kids). It had minimal walking (which want a plus or minus), the length of the tour was just right, and the painting s were interesting

We also rented canoes and paddled down the Dordogne river which was very fun - stopped in La Roque Gageac for lunch. And we liked both castles (Beynac and Cstelnaud) but liked the latter more. Loved the Dordogne region. Have fun

Posted by
197 posts

If you are lucky enough to get into one of the cave paintings sites, you will see some amazing painting on walls (or recent replicas of them), and learn a lot about the people that painted them (if you are even luckier and get a tour in English). But for more of an experience for the kiddos, I’d take them to La Roque St. Christophe. Not exactly a cave, but La Roque St. Christophe might be more interesting for your kids. It’s an open air museum of cliff dwellings carved into the side of the rock, with displays along the course of about a kilometre. I would also recommend a visit to Castelnaud-la-Chapelle near La Roque-Gageac as a good site for kids. We visited both of these sites easily by car from our base at Sarlat.

Posted by
8171 posts

While the drawings in Roffigniac are much less impressive than Font du Gaume or Lascaux, the train ride is fun and it tends to be easy to get tickets. They also have by far the best souvenir T shirts -- and in kids' sizes too.

I would take them to Lascaux IV to see what the best caves look like -- a recreation but a great one and to Roffigniac for the real deal and the fun of the train. The mammoth drawings are also pretty cool.

Posted by
1826 posts

Lascaux IV is well worth your time. Yes, it is a replica but France spent millions creating the replica and it is re-created in as authentic a manner as possible. After the 45 minute tour, you exit into the "workshop," which replicates sections with lots of explanations and interactive opportunities. There is also an excellent film. As a retired teacher IMHO kids would enjoy this experience as long as they had read a bit about the prehistoric caves before the visit. A quick Google search for "children's books about prehistoric painted caves" yielded several titles.

Book ahead if you want the tour in English. You can of course do a French tour using the English headphones, but you get more details with the English tour.

Lascaux 2 replicates about 25% of the original Lascaux which is not open for tourists anymore. Lascaux IV, the new replica which opened in 2015, replicates about 95% of the original Lascaux.

Posted by
473 posts

My vote is for Peche Merle. We went there last June and had an excellent tour in English. They also take reservations. It’s in the Lot River Valley. Probably about an hour from Sarlat. Maybe a little bit more. Nearby is Saint-Cirque- Lapopie. A very stunning village with great views. Could have lunch after your tour. The tour is about one hour including a background lecture about the caves. I like to go to this cave because it was only the original drawings. Plus the handprints and footprints.

Posted by
8171 posts

Peche Merle is a beautiful cave but has very little cave art. There is the stunning spotted horse but beyond that not much. For kids, the recreations are the right idea. both the recreation in the Ardecche of the recently discovered Chauvet cave and the Lascaux IV cave are vivid and fascinating. Chauvet includes replicas of the bones of cave bears found in the original cave.