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“Utterly fantastic”

Grotte du Pech-Merle
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Pech Merle Cave and Saint Cirq Lapopie Village Visit from Sarlat
Ranked #1 of 2 things to do in Cabrerets
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: One of the world's finest painted prehistoric caves.
Reviewed August 16, 2013

I recently came back from two weeks in the Dordogne, which is now my favorite area of France. By far the highlight of my time there was the cave of Peche Merle which, happily, is also one of the only prehistoric caves tickets for which can be reserved on the internet. The cave is not as lavishly decorated as Lascaux (now visible only as a replica). However, it is every bit as moving, with its 25,000 year old child's footprints and tracings of hands. I'm still thinking about it a month later. WELL worth the extra effort to get there!! One caveat: if you're headed back to Sarlat and planning a quick stop at Rocamadour on the way back, you should know that what looks like a short distance on the map is a long, long drive. Moreover, you'll find a number of confusing direction signs (unusual for France), including signs that indicate that the distance from Rocamadour is actually increasing as you drive!!

1  Thank Neire
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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225 - 229 of 1,002 reviews

Reviewed August 8, 2013

Frankly, I booked this cave because it was possible to reserve an English tour in advance on the internet. I was impressed when they contacted me a couple of weeks before our visit to let me know that the tour I had booked was not available and worked with me to shift our reservation. This involved juggling our itinerary, but it was completely worth it!

Pech Merle is not located near where we were staying - google said it was an hour and a half drive, which seemed reasonable, and I assumed we would be picking up the superhighway that runs between where we were staying and where the cave is located. Hah! Our GPS seemed to think that we wanted to take the most terrifying roads in France - single lane roads up the side of steep hills with switchbacks and dropoffs - for two hours of exciting driving. We had several episodes where we were completely isolated for quite a long time - no farmhouses, no people, no hope of rescue if we got a flat tire.

Despite the GPS we finally arrived at a site that seemed to take us back in time - to the late 1960s. There is a big parking lot, a picnic area with a small snack bar, a gift shop etc. We ended up having lunch there and it was ok if basic. There is also a museum and an informative film that could have used some image stabilization for the aerial scenes.

I was feeling pretty bad about inflicting this on my family as we began the tour in a room that holds a few artifacts and listened to a basic introduction about cave painting. We put on our sweaters and headed down the stairs...into an amaziing environment.

What this cave has is the unique combination of incredible cave structure and 25,000 year old decoration. The cave itself would be worth a visit even without the paintings - stalactites, stalagmites, natural formations such as "pearls" etc. The tour begins with a view of tree roots that have pushed their way into the cave - and the tree is marked so you can find it when you return to the surface.

The paintings are fantastic. You stand inches away from them, although they are protected. The spotted horses are the most famous, of course, and they are amazing. But my daughter was really taken with the hands, especially the red hand prints at one location, and I was transported by the view of the prehistoric footprints preserved for thousands of years. (They think it was an adolescent boy. Good to see some things remain the same for 25,000 years!)

At one point, our guide turned off the light to give us the feel of what the cave is like naturally - not for nearly long enough, but it was most impressive. I didn't want to leave, and not just because it was nice and cool during the heat wave!

If you do only one cave in France, choose Pech Merle.

1  Thank therese l
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 8, 2013

An important opportunity to see a cave close up, with very varied art work. Excellent guides, although only French-speaking with some written material available in other languages. We signed up for a particular date and hour online, and this worked out perfectly. Good museum. One can walk up to the site from the town of Cabrerets, about a 25-minute walk, uphill.

Thank GreenJ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 4, 2013

I have seen the pictures of the cave paintings with hands and spotted horses - this is the Grottes de Peche Merle. A fantastic place and worth the visit

Thank Ella B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 1, 2013

We enjoyed our visit to the grottos with our two young kids. We pre-booked an English guided tour several days in advance online (you don't actually pay online, but simply reserve your spot and have to arrive in time to pay on the day or they'll give your spot away). Being 35C summer day, it was a pleasant relief from the heat - a light jumper is sufficient and it wasn't wet underfoot at all. In fact, the pathways are mostly smooth concrete and quite wide. There are several short flights of stairs (pretty spaced out and easy relative to Gouffre de Padirac) so prams have to be left behind - bring your baby carrier. The schedule was on time and the tour lasted an hour. In addition to the pre-historic artwork, there are plenty of stalactites et al and other rare formations. If its holiday season, then definitely pre-book because numbers are limited each day. The family in the queue in front of me turned up without a booking and the next available tour was at the end of the day meaning hours of waiting. When we were departing, they had put up a sign saying all tours were full for the day. Guided tours in english are limited and snapped up - there were none available for the following week after ours for example. Kids under 5 are free as is parking. There were nappy changing facilities and shady spots for a picnic.

4  Thank Fionainparis
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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