Vezere Valley, France; the cradle of civilisation in Europe

Photo of Vezere Valley

The River Vézère flows 190 kilometres from its source in the Massif Central to its confluence with the Dordogne River near Le Bugue.

In addition to the world renowned Lascaux caves, the Vézere Valley contains numerous other traces of prehistoric and early settlement - according to UNESCO - who have the valley listed as a UNESCO French world Heritage sites - there are 147 prehistoric sites and 25 painted caves in the valley.

The main prehistoric highlights of the Vézere Valley - often called the cradle of mankind - are found along the lower reaches of the river, between Montignac and Le Bugue, and centred around Les Eyzies de Tayac (usually called simply Les Eyzies).

Les Eyzies itself has little to offer the visitor, having long given itself over to tourism, but it does make a good base to explore the region.

It does also have two interesting museums: the Musee National de Prehistoire and the Musée de l'Abri Pataud, which between them offer a good taste of the artefacts that have emerged from the countryside along the Vézère Valley.

Personally I would base myself either south at le Bugue or north at Montignac or St Leon sur Vezere, or in one of the many villages dotted around the area, if I were visiting the region.

Some of the highlights of the region include:

Lascaux caves

Troglodyte dwellings at La Roque St Christophe

Paintings at the Grotte de Font de Gaume

St leon sur VézèreAlso well worth visiting are:

  • The engravings at the Grotte des Combarelles
  • Prehistoric sculpture at Abri du Cap Blanc
  • The cave system and cave paintings at Grotte du Grand Roc
  • The "most beautiful village" of Saint Leon sur Vézère (which I enthuse about in the section of this site devoted to most beautiful villages - see Saint-Leon-sur-Vézere).

Several of the caves along the Vézère valley are designated as National Monuments (four out of 85 national monuments in France are in this valley!):

  • Abri de Cap Blanc
  • Cave of Font-de-Gaume
  • Abri de Laugerie-Haute
  • Grotte des Combarelles, Gisement de la Ferrassie, Gisement de la Micoque, Abri du Poisson, Grotte de Teyjat and Gisement du Moustier) are listed together as the decorated caves of the Vézère valley