Throughout human history vast empires have risen and fallen into ruin, their culture and customs lost to the sands of time. Thankfully, some outstanding examples remain. Here’s our round-up of the best.
Travel bucket list idea:
Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave
Ardeche, Auberge-Rhone-Alpes, France|en.grottechauvet2ardeche.com|
Discovered in December 1994, Chauvet is arguably the most spectacular paleolithic cave of them all, decorated with extraordinary vivid scenes of lions, horses, aurochs, bison, and woolly rhinoceroses that seem to race across the contoured walls.
Painted 36,000 years ago – 19,000 years before Lascaux–the art was preserved when the entrance collapsed 20 millennia ago. Because of its fragile state, it was known from the get-go that it would be impossible to open the cave for tours, and the world’s largest replica opened nearby in 2015. The visit includes the Aurignacian Gallery, with a film on how these very early artists worked.
While you’re there
Getting there & doing it
It’s best to drive: the cave is a 90-minute drive from Avignon or Nimes; alternatively by train, get off at Valence or Montelimar stations, then take the 76 bus to Vallon Pont d’Arc and a taxi (the cave is 6km from town). Bring a sweater or jacket; the cave is a constant 16C.
Book tickets online (children with free admission also need a ticket), print them out and arrive 45 minutes before your time slot. There’s an app for the self-guided tour of the Aurignacian Gallery, so bring your own headphones.
Before you go, whet your appetite by watching Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010).
When to do it
Chauvet-2 is open all year round, but closes Monday and Tuesday in winter. In July and August it’s often open until midnight.
Round-ups that include this experience