La Grotte de Villars : concretions and prehistoric paintings!

Villars
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La Grotte de Villars  ...

In Périgord Vert, at the gates of the Périgord-Limousin Regional Natural Park, the Grotte de Villars is the only natural cave with concretions in Périgord, which also offers the discovery of original prehistoric cave paintings ! It is a large-scale underground network, which is made up of more than 13km of galleries. Join a guided tour of the cave to admire all its beauties and continue with a walk in the educational prehistoric garden:In the footsteps of Cro-Magnon ”. Activities, thematic visits and workshops for children, it's a very beautiful site, ideal for a nature and culture outing with the family. Shall we go?


Photos of the article © Guide du Périgord and special mentions under each photo if necessary


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A cave discovered by speleologists in 1953

Each cave is captivating by the story of its discovery, this one is no exception! It was during the winter of 1953 that members of the Périgueux caving club noticed condensation escaping from a fox den, a sign that there was much more to it than the shelter of a small mammal... They clear the entrance and rush into a long rocky corridor, which they will take several years to explore. The cave is more than 13km long, it is a wide underground network that crisscrosses the entire area, up to 70m deep. This cave with concretions is naturally filled with a multitude of stalactites, stalagmites, translucent drapes, flows of beige, pink, dazzling white calcites, fistulas as light as soap bubbles… It is a real treasure!


Cave of Villars © Agence Les Conteurs
Grotte de Villars © Agence Les Conteurs and Departmental Tourism Committee 24
Cave of Villars © Agence Les Conteurs
Grotte de Villars © Agence Les Conteurs and Departmental Tourism Committee 24

In 1958, a new team of speleologists made a fascinating discovery: Villars is not only a cave with concretions, it is also an ornate cave! More than 19,000 years ago, our ancestors entered it and made cave paintings on the walls, which are now preserved because they are trapped in a calcite case. It is Abbé Breuil, a Catholic priest and French prehistorian specializing in cave art, having discovered and identified numerous caves in Périgord, who attests to the authenticity of the paintings of Villars. In 1959, the Grotte de Villars is open to the public!


Cave paintings © Grotte de Villars  Cave paintings © Grotte de Villars
Cave paintings © Grotte de Villars


The cave of Villars has been the property of the Versaveaud family for several generations, and it is with passion and pedagogy that Catherine Birckel-Versaveaud is today its Director, highlighting this family heritage dear to her heart. Read his portrait on the Departmental Tourism Committee website (in French)


Cave paintings © Grotte de Villars
The stalactites © Grotte de Villars
Villars ceiling
The ceilings of the cave © Grotte de Villars

Visit the Grotte de Villars

The site of the Grotte de Villars is located in the village of the same name, on the edge of the Périgord Limousin Regional Natural Park, you are only a few kilometers from Brantôme. Park in the large (free) car park which has picnic tables. You must then take your tickets at the counter, which is adjacent to a restaurant/snack bar. It is strongly recommended to book your visit in advance on the website (fr), during peak periods. The visits are done only with a guide, in guided tours. A departure time is assigned and while waiting, you can walk on the tree-lined site, the children can play on the playground for their attention. A few minutes before departure, follow the path that leads to the entrance of the cave, allow 3 minutes to walk.


Parking and Snack at the Grotte de Villars
Parking and Snack at the Grotte de Villars
Playground for children
Playground for children

No audio guide or leaflet, it is a real guide who will accompany you in a small group and tell you the history of the cave. He will bring you to appreciate the quality of the concretions present and lead you for about 1 hour in the tunnels, explored by the Périgueux Spéléo-Club and now fitted out for the comfort and safety of the visits. Note: Photographs are prohibited in the cave.


Go down to the cave of Villars
A short walk down to the cave
Entrance to the Villars cave  Entrance to the Villars cave
Entrance to the Grotte de Villars

Concretions are formed by water. It is she who formed these long cavities, formerly there was an underground river in Villars. Now it is the rainwater which, as it trickles down the rocks, loads up with limestone in a slightly different form, calcite. We come across all kinds of different concretions in the Grotte de Villars. The flows, which can have spectacular colors, very white or on the contrary more gray, beige, sometimes pink. They are scintillating, or translucent, opaque for some and the highlighting accentuates their very very slow progression. It is estimated that stalactites, stalagmites and the like take up about 3 millimeters per year. Imagine the time it took to arrive at such geological shapes! Some columns are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of years old...


Concretions © Grotte de Villars  Daperie Villars
Concretions © Grotte de Villars
Grotte de Villars © Agence Les Conteurs and Departmental Tourism Committee 24
Grotte de Villars © Agence Les Conteurs and Departmental Tourism Committee 24

We walk and the guide illuminates certain parts, the visit is in a way dramatized by light effects which are simple and beautiful, they give thanks to the shapes that nature has created. On the ceilings, we see “fistuleuses”, concretions that are also called macaroni, they are extremely thin and have holes! When they become blocked for various reasons, they become classic stalactites. The underground walk takes us to about 40m deep, on a platform in a cavity wider than the others, where a magnificent spectacle of sound and light has been imagined. This one traces the evolution of the water, illustrates the presence of cave bears (we can see impressive scratches a little further, traces of bear hair have been found) which sometimes hibernated in the Grotte de Villars. Today in the cave, the temperature is at 13 degrees and almost constant all year round (as in all caves), but in the past it was 7 degrees, in the days of the cave bears. Note: Take a jacket for the visit.


Sound and Lights © Grotte de Villars Sound and Light Show © Grotte de Villars
Fistula Villars
Fistulas © Grotte de Villars

Before rising to the surface, the guide draws our attention to what only initiates can see at first glance, from cave paintings to calcite! They are over 19,000 years old and were probably made by our nomadic ancestors. They did not live in the caves, because it was too cold and humid there, it was a place of passage and probably of expression. We see a horse, a bison standing in front of a man (a representation very little observed in cave art around the world). It is with crushed manganese mixed with fat and applied with a finger or a brush of bristles, that they were carried out. Why these paintings? This is again the question similar to all decorated caves. It is a form of communication, because the writings do not exist, perhaps these drawings were testimonies? And you what do you think?


Painting of bison and man
Bison and man painting © Grotte de Villars

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The educational park: in the footsteps of cro-magnon

After visiting the cave, head towards the entrance to the site and turn left to walk in the garden and on the 700m landscaped path "In the footsteps of Cro-Magnon". It is a pretty park with trees, learning areas and workshops, educational and fun panels and scenes from the life of our prehistoric ancestors. The children appreciate stretching their legs in the garden, after having been well behaved during the 1 hour visit. The garden is accessible at no extra cost and a game booklet is given to children, in addition to the Quiz questions that punctuate the course.

In the footsteps of cro-magnon
Stroll in the garden "In the footsteps of Cro-Magnon"
In the footsteps of cro-magnon
We meet all kinds of contemporaries in Cro-Magnon, here the Megaceros!

During the summer season and school holidays, there are interesting workshops and activities for young and old: thruster shooting, cave paintings... There are also specially adapted days of visits to the cave and the garden. for 5-12 year olds, in the dark with a flashlight, it's fun!

Villars Cave Games  Villars Cave Games
Games along the nature trail of the Grotte de Villars

At the end of your visit (or at the beginning!), You can watch a film retracing the history of the Grotte de Villars, the projection room is located next to the exit, near a display of objects found in Cave. Don't forget to stop by the boutique, which is richly stocked with magnificent stones and other books and objects for children! Do you now want to go to the Grotte de Villars? Consult their website and the information sheet on the Guide du Périgord !


Grotte de Villars projection room  Showcase of remains Grotte de villars
Villars cave shop

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