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Dordogne itinerary

Hi All, My husband and I will be spending 4 nights in Baynac the end of October and would like to see the caves. We are having trouble with the itinerary. Does anyone have a suggestion? We would like to see as many as possible, without overkill.
Thanks

Posted by
4132 posts

As you surely know, there are many caves in or near the Vezere valley in close proximity to each other. I suggest reading about these (the Michelin Green guide for the region would be a good place to start) and setting some priorities. Only you can decide what pace is best for you. For me, 2 in one day would be possible with an early start (at least for one of the days). 3 would probably be too much, but maybe not, it would depend on how they could be made to fit together. Memorable food and above-ground sightseeing will vary the pace and help avoid overdoing the cave thing. I suggest that you should have a car to get about. At this time of year many sites will be on reduced hours, and in any case there will be a lot less daylight than closer to the summer solstice. I suggest checking hours. Consider breakfasting before dawn if that will further an ambitious itinerary. You may find that there are few, or no, English-language tours at some caves that time of year. They can still be very rewarding experiences, but be prepared for that. If there are English-language tours, reserve if possible. What about the rest of your trip? If you will be heading south after, or coming from the south before, I strongly recommend the Peche Merle cave along the Lot enroute. It is remarkable and fabulous. Combine with a visit to St Cirq if you have time.

Posted by
2916 posts

As Adam says, check out Peche Merle and St. Cirq la Popie. As to the caves from Baynac, I don't remember that there were all that many of them open to the public. But then again, when I went caves weren't my focus, ducks and wine were. And still are, but I'd look into more caves now. I remember going to the fake Lascaux, which was impressive despite being a reproduction. But there are also so many amazing villages and castles in the area that if every cave was closed you'd still have plenty of things to see.

Posted by
381 posts

We were there last year and visited the towns RS recommends. We spent 5 days in Sarlot. We visited Baynac, Sarlot, a few other towns and yes the caves. Look in the guidebooks to pick out the caves. I believe there is only one orginal that is open to the public, the rest are replicas. We went to the orignal. You do need reservations and it is very limited. They do have English tours but get a reservation early, again the fill up and they are limited. They are very strict about behavior in the caves, no touching or pictures. The caves were truly amazing. Baynac is very pretty. We stayed in Sarlot which is worth a visit for sure, we loved it. Read up on the RS guide books. We drove down from Paris. Unless you are with a tour you need a car. Make sure that your car has a GPS that you are very familiar with. I brought my garmin from home and bought the Frnace chip from their websites. Some of the roads are very small and I was truly amazed they were on the GPS. The major roads are very large and fast but once you exit you really do need that GPS. I would still be driving around if I didn't have it.

Posted by
2916 posts

I guess I'm so old I remember driving all over France on 20+ trips for over 25 years w/o a GPS, only a map, and rarely if ever getting lost. Then again, I also bring books rather than a Nook. I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks. My only experience being guided by a GPS was 5 years ago when our British friends with a house in central France took us to Clermont-Ferrand and set "Gloria," their GPS, for the Clermont train station. We ended up in the vicinity of the airport on the outskirts of the city in a field. I then told them to give me the map and I'd get us to the center of Clermont. But it was probably a fluke. I'm sure I'll never get a GPS in France, and if I get lost, I'll stop at the nearest winery and ask for directions, after doing a tasting. By the way, which Dordogne cave is the real thing? I know Peche Merle is real, but that's the Lot. As I mentioned previously, I went to Lascaux, which was 25 years ago, and that was a replica (although fascinating).

Posted by
3623 posts

I don't know if it's still open, but Font-de-Gaume is in the Dordogne. Get reservations, if it's open. Also, l'Abri du Cap Blanc, a relief carving on a limestone cliff, is well worth seeing. There is the Nat'l Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies which houses many of the finds from the caves. While not a repository of prehistoric art, we found the Gouffre de Padirac cave system to be an amazing place to visit.

Posted by
6670 posts

We stayed in Beynac a couple of springs ago and visited Lascaux II (aka the fake one) and Font de Gaume, both splendid and not far from each other. Though a reproduction, Lascaux II shows you what the caves looked like when they were "new" 15,000 years ago. Font de Gaume is original and very moving, you are literally inches from the work of people whose lives were profoundly different from ours, and you can feel their presence. I've heard great things about Peche Merle, to the south, but haven't been there. I think Lascaux II is the only reproduction, the others are original and numbers of visitors are limited. We got to each cave as early in the day as we could to make sure of getting in. There was an English-speaking Lascaux II tour that was very informative, we took a French-speaking tour of Font de Gaume and understood enough with our high school French and a little help from nice fellow (French) visitors. You could probably see both of these caves in one day, especially next month when less crowded. Font de Gaume is very close to Les Ezyies with its excellent museum as Rosalyn noted, worth seeing and a charming town. I suggest checking a guidebook like RS or Lonely Planet, or googling the individual caves, to get tour times and days, then planning your visits to make the best use of time. You could probably see half a dozen caves in four days though you might get caved out after awhile, and you don't want to miss the castles, river, Sarlat market, and all the food and wine. We loved the Dordogne and Beynac. We didn't have GPS but it would have helped my wife, the navigator, enjoy tne scenery more and spend less time poring over the road atlas.

Posted by
179 posts

Thanks for all the great advice! We will purchase a GPS prior to leaving. Steve's itinerary included 3-4 caves in one day, which seemed like too much to me; however they are close together. We will be driving from Chartres after spending our first night there. We will stop at Oradour sur Glane on the way to Beynac where we will be staying. It's a 6 hour drive, so will spend what's left of the day ( a Wed.)exploring Beynac. We thought that on Thursday we'd do Lascaux 11 and Font de Gaume ( Steve suggests Grotte de Rouffignac can be included in that day, as well). Evidently the tours are quite short, and it seems a bit easier to get the reservations in one day so we don't have to be tied down to reservations the other days. We plan on going to Grotte de Cougnac on Friday. On Saturday we will go to Sarlat for the market. We will be driving back to Paris where we will drop the car (maybe Orly?) and then will spend 8 nights in Paris. Not sure if we will stop somewhere on the way; it will be a Sunday. We considered Versailles, but it interests neither of us. So, now must make reservations. Does this sound plausible, and leave enough time to see other sights?
Thank you!

Posted by
2916 posts

Nancy, one thing I'd suggest is checking closing dates for the caves. Now I remember some of the names from 25 years ago seeing them mentioned here, but I realize why we didn't see them: it was late October and some of them (but not Lascaux II) had closed for the season. But things do change over time. In any event, we loved the Dordogne despite the closed caves (and closed restaurants). The market in Sarlat alone was worth the visit.

Posted by
4132 posts

If you are going to Grotte de Cougnac consider also visiting Peche Merle which is only about 30 miles further. It is a magnificent cave.

Posted by
2916 posts

Agree about Peche Merle. Hopefully the 1,000-year-old fig tree growing from the cave is still there. If it survived 1,000 years before we saw it 14 years ago, hopefully it has survived a couple of decades of tourism.

Posted by
2744 posts

We went to Font de Gaume and Peche Merle last fall. Peche Merle is far, far better, although I liked both. Peche Merle is a lot farther from Beynac, but very much worth the long drive. We also enjoyed St. Cirque la Popie, which is nearby. I would definitely suggest getting reservations. Our guide at Font de Gaume said that they were reducing the numbers of people they let in this year. We also went to the museum in Les Ezyies, but I was not crazy about it. However, it's very close to Font de Gaume, so you might want to give it a try if you are there. I would suggest you not see too many caves unless you are a complete cave geek. The area is beautiful and there is so much to do. Try to take advantage of as much as you can.

Posted by
2916 posts

I'll second St. Cirque la Popie if you go to Peche Merle. It's one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France officially, and unofficially too. It really is spectacular.

Posted by
6670 posts

Three caves in a day would be too much for me, but chacun a son gout. I think your overall plan makes sense, 8 days is certainly not too many for Paris. Just go right up the autoroute in a long day and try to drop the car outside the center if you can.

Posted by
381 posts

Three caves is alot. Sarlot was wonderful, if you can visit I would. Also, when you get to Paris dump the car. The subways are very good and easy to get around in, you don't want to drive. I loved Versaille so to each his/her own, I thought it was spectacular.

Posted by
179 posts

Yes, we will go to Perche Merle and that pretty village. We have decided to pare down our cave visits to maybe one a day. We want to go to Grotte de Cougnac which is about 19 miles south of Sarlat,so it will be either Grotte de Rouffignac ( the one with the train) or Grotte de Gaume, or Lascaux 11. Mmmm. Now what!! We decided to stay in Sarlat rather than Beynac.
Thanks for all the great tips!

Posted by
2 posts

My family and I (kids - 10 and 12) stayed in Beynac the end of July and first part of August. We hired a a guide (Christine Desdemaines-Hugon; very highly recommended; author of an excellent book on the surrounding caves)who took us to Font de Gaume and Rouffignac. I would not miss either of these. We also went to Peche Merle which is very beautiful cave. I agree with the advice above, if you are driving get a "marriage saver" aka GPS. It will save hours of valuable time. One restaurant recommendation outside of Les Eyzies - Restaurant de Laugerie Basse. Food is served ssemi-family style - serve yourself from bowl of soup, slice your own cheese. 5 course lunch is about 15E with house wine!

Posted by
7 posts

Just returned from the Dordogne and while the roads are well marked, if you are planning to purchase a GPS, I highly recommend the Navigon (ours was for an IPad)and it worked beautifully. Though it seemed pricey, it was worth every penny when you're in unfamiliar territory and Much more accurate than my Google maps directions. Often, the roads are very indirect to the many interesting little towns.