Visit Grotte de Villars
The Grotte de Villars is an impressive cave in the north of the Dordogne department near to Brantome. It is mostly a natural cave full of stalactites and stalagmites but also has a few small prehistoric drawings.
Exploring the Grotte de Villars
The Grotte de Villars was discovered in 1953 by the Perigueux Potholing club. During a visit you will explore about 500m of this incredible underground network but in fact it extends over more than 13km and is the largest in the Perigord region.
As you meander through the channel carved out by the river you can admire literally thousands of stalactites and stalagmites. Various chambers have also been hollowed out and at one of these you can admire a sound and light show where groups of stalactites and stalagmites are illuminated rendering them even more impressive.
Note that the sound and light show begins in complete darkness and then the sounds replicate the storms and rains that helped to form the caves. It is best to warn small children so they are not scared.
Aswell as the natural displays in the caves there are also prehistoric paintings dating back 17000 years. Some of these are covered in the same calcite deposit that forms the stalactites and results in a kind of natural glaze. It also changes the colour of the drawings from black to blue.
As well as the horse in the main picture above there is a bison and, very rarely, a human figure. In all the prehistoric cave paintings found throughout the world it is extremely rare to see a person painted.
There is also a section of roof in the cave where you can clearly see the claw marks made by bears at the end of their hibernation to re-sharpen their claws before leaving the caves.
A recent addition to the site is a 'Prehistoric Garden'. A two hectare park has been turned into a garden growing the kind of plants Cro Magnon men and women would have been used to. Information boards describe which of these would have been eaten, which animals would have been around and how they hunted.
In the summer children and adults can try their hand at a bit of wall painting. Or try your hand at 'propeller shooting' which is the way prehistoric man 'threw' their spears. Workshops take place during weekday afternoons in July and August and are free.
Visiting the Grotte de Villars caves
As well as the caves there is a small cafe, a picnic area, a shop and a play area on the site. There is also a video explaining the formation of the caves.
The visit to the caves is by guided visit only, the guides do speak English and each tour takes about 45minutes.
The caves are open every day from April to the 11th September.
April, May, June and September: 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-17.00
July and August: 10.00-19.30
October and November: 14.00-18.00. The last visit is half an hour before closing time.
Prices are 8.50 euros for adults and 5.50 euros for 5-12 year olds.
Address: Grotte de Villars, Le Cluzeau, 24530 Villars; tel: 05 53 54 82 36
Places to visit nearby
Also to visit near to Villars is the Chateau de Puyguilhem and the beautiful town of Brantome.
St Jean de Cole is one of the most beautiful villages of France and is also near to the caves.