I will be traveling in Spain and France in June with my three children. I am trying to decide whether to visit the Altamira Caves in Northern Spain or Lascaux II in southern France (we don't have time to visit both). I would love to hear from anyone who has been to both about which one is more interesting, etc. Thanks very much!
Lascaux and Altamiria are both closed, have been for years. Lascaux II is a reproduction for tourists and stinks. So's the deal at Altamira.
I've seen both the real deal and the duplications.
The only really great original cave paintings remaining are those at Pech Merle near Cabrerets, France. They're better than the original Lasaux and darn near as good as the original Altamira.
There is an original cave still open south (?) of Altamira which I was in a couple or three years ago, Monte Castillo, I think. It was pretty good. Both the French and Spanish areas are located close to the country's prehistory museum (Santander and Les Ezyies). The French one is better.
I kinda liked the new reproduction of the Altamira caves...maybe more modern techniques. It's not the original, but fascinating none the less.
The Tito Bustillo cave near the village of Ribadesella is open to the public, although the tours are in Spanish only. It's a little over an hour's drive west down the coast from the Altamira site.
Pech Merle is not the only site of original cave paintings still open to the public. As Norm said, Ribadesella, in northern Spain, is also open. Wednesday is free admission, but yes, the tours are in Spanish only.
I can only comment on Lascaux II, and maybe this tags me as an idiot when it comes to ancient history, but I didn't find it very interesting at all. The whole idea of the reproduction was off-putting in itself. It was a lot smaller space than I imagined. I get that it is interesting to see evidence of intelligent human behavior from so long ago, but I guess I sort of assumed humans did this sort of thing from time to time, place to place, for reasons only they could know. Seeing proof of it wasn't all that much more meaningful to me than simply assuming it.
There are two more authentic caves with pre-historic paintings which no one has mentioned. One is the Grotte de Niaux, in France, near Foix, about 40 miles from the Spanish border. The other, is Font de Gaume, near Les Eyzies. Both are very interesting. I would urge you to make a choice, and then get reservations. At Niaux they take only 20 people in at a time, and the English tours happen just a couple of times a day. Near Niaux there is also an outdoor museum/park, the exact name of which I don't recall. It has reproductions of pre-historic dwellings, hands-on activities, and an indoor venue, with artifacts found in the caves. It also has a good explanation of the layout of the caves. If you google, I'm sure you can find the information about how to reserve.
Having been slapped silly by Norm and Nancy (as usual -- and Rosalyn, welcome to the club), I went on a mad seach to see where the heck Tito Bustillo was. Apparently it is one more place I've never heard of or been. The one I was thinking about is El Castillo, not "monte".
However, I found this nifty list of stuff all over Cantabria:
I've never heard of Niaux, either, but was dissapointed in Font de Gaume since it was so small and the artwork rather indistinct.
Of the ones that I've seen, I still champion Pech Merle, but it's really hard to find, coming in from the north, anyway.
And thanks to the lot of you for making me toss my next trip plans into the trash!
There are lots more similar sites around Spain where you can still see the cave paintings "in the flesh." One day soon, I'm going to start in one corner of Spain and do a large circuit of the country, visiting as many of them as possible.
Thank you all! I greatly appreciate all your comments. Enjoy, Karen
Here's an up-to-date site on the caves one can visit near Santander in Spain. All require on-line reservation and the guides are only in Spanish. http://cuevas.culturadecantabria.com/castillo.asp I also visited Pech Merle in France last summer and that also required a reservation with only French spoken. The cave itself was spectacular, not unlike El Castillo and Las Monedas near Santander. The replicas at Altamira and Lascaux 2 are disappointing because they lack the authentic cave setting but the museums are interesting if you want to learn about the stone age. The new prehistoric museum in Burgos also covers the spectacular finds currently underway at Atapuerca in northern Spain. http://www.museoevolucionhumana.com/es
We visited both font de Gaume and Pech Merle in late March. We found Pech Merle truly breathtaking; you'll see far more animal drawings than in Font de Gaume. However, with reservations made online, font de Gaume was far easier to access because it is so near to Sarlat and the excellent prehistory museum at les eyzies. As one other poster said , Pech Merle is very remote, and when we were there in late winter it was closed we talked them into letting us go in with a school tour, but only after we called several times.
The thread is two years old.