It sometimes surprises us that clients leave it so late to contact us for their guided tour – sometimes we can help, other times not.
This year, there is even more reason for planning ahead. Visitor numbers at Font de Gaume are so severely restricted it is causing huge problems – tickets are becoming as ‘rare as hens teeth’!
We have been living and working in this area for over 7 years now
and have seen the permitted numbers at Font de Gaume go down and down. When we started 250 visitors a day were allowed, by last year this was 160 and a lot of monitoring was going on. This year only 96 visitors a day are allowed, 60 tickets can be booked in advance and 36 are available on the day. As you can imagine, people start getting in line early! If you book a guide, part of that service is to secure tickets in advance – so why spend your precious holiday hours queuing?
So what is the problem you might ask? Well, basically, as with the original Lascaux, the problem is people breathe. So what? As a result, CO2levels become elevated especially during the hotter months and this is what causes the problems with the wall art. The CO2 reacts with the limestone and the water trickling through it to produce a milky layer over the paintings. Font de Gaume is learning from mistakes made in Lascaux and the absolute priority is protection of this rare and fragile environment.
There are charts on display at Font de Gaume which show spikes as the day progresses and temperature, CO2 and condensation levels rise. Interior and exterior temperatures are monitored and compared.
Dating back 15000 years, it is the most beautiful cave after Lascaux- and you see the paintings in their original site. The large bison group has been listed by UNESCO as one of the 10 greatest paintings in the world. It is the last polychrome cave, from the Ice Age in the world that is open to the public. It doesn’t get much more special than that!
It has been known for ages that if the art is considered to be comprised then the cave will close to the public – how near is that day? It’s impossible to tell, but it is surely coming nearer.
So if you want to see some of the finest cave art in the world – plan ahead – and don’t just plan a ‘whistle-stop tour’ to parachute in and see it. There is so much more to see in this fascinating and unique area – a week is scarcely long enough, but a day just doesn’t do it justice at all!
Steve and Judie Burman live in the beautiful Vezere Valley in the Dordogne region of South-West France. Together they run Caves and Castles, specialising in prehistoric Cave Art and medieval Castles Tours. You can join a small group (up to 6) 4 night/5 day Tour based 2 nights each in the medieval towns of Sarlat and Montignac-sur-Vezere or book a custom Tour for a day or more.
Professional archaeologist, Steve loves to share his passion for the ‘Cradle of Humanity.’ World famous sites such as Lascaux, the ‘Sistine Chapel of Prehistory’ and Font de Gaume are close by. Coupled with gastronomic meals and superb wines, your Caves & Castles Tour is really special.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.