Aquitaine is a region in soutwest France, bordering Spain to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is divided into five departements which are of quite different character. Pyrénées-Atlantiques is a part of the mountain range Pyrénées and belongs to the Basque region. Gironde and Landes are mostly coastals plains at the Gulf of Biscaye, where Gironde is named after the dominating Gironde Estuary. Dordogne is named after the river Dordogne, and Lot-et-Garonne after the two rivers Lot and Garonne. Both are mostly hill country with beautiful rivers, karst and many caves.
The three mountainous départements have numerous caves, many of them famous for their archaeological remains. The département Dordogne is named after the Dordogne River. Another common name is Périgord, which was the name of the same geographic area before the French Revolution. The name Périgord is still common, often used by the locals, who are called Périgordiens or Périgourdins.
The Dordogne is famous for its multiple prehistoric remains, and those remains are often connected with caves or abris. The French word abri means shelter, it is commonly used for very short caves and overhanging rocks, which were ideal shelters for prehistoric man. Despite the term cave man, our ancestors did not live in caves but outside. They just used natural shelters - where available - and mostly lived and worked in the entrance region where they had enough light.
In the Dordogne, between the rivers of Vézère and Dordogne more than a dozen important prehistoric caves with paintings, engravings and sculptures are open to the public. Most of the caves are located around the village Les Eyzies. The most famous cave in this area is Lascaux near Montignac.
The painted caves are open to the public, but in a rather restricted way! Most of them allow only a very limited number of visitors every day, to protect the paintings. This includes the necessity to pre-book in some caves. It is a good idea to call the caves for booking or try to get a ticket very early in the morning.