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Caves & Castles

Our Caves and Castles tour explores the depths of the early human mind and the turbulent flow of medieval life. Franco-Iberia possesses an incomparable deep history. To our incredibly good fortune, the historical sites of our tour are found in an area renowned for fabulous food and wine.

September 11 – 25, 2017 (15 Days)
$7,695 (exc. international airfare)
Single supp: $975

September 23 – October 7, 2018
15 Days


Tour Description


  • Discover 30,000 years of cave art and centuries of castle-building across beautiful, hospitable areas of Spain and France
  • View the most spectacular early sapiens imagery ever discovered within the accomplished Chauvet cave replica

  • Explore the Niaux cave and its Black Salon under the expert guidance of renowned prehistorian, Jean Clottes
  • Enjoy stays in lovely, luxurious paradors, fine cuisine and excellent local wines in these gastronomic regions

View Dr Larick’s introduction to the tour.

Meals: All breakfasts, 10 lunches & 8 dinners


September 11-12:
We arrive into Madrid on Tuesday 12th and drive to Burgos. After a rest, we visit Burgos Castle, the history of which stretches through from Roman times to the Peninsular War. This evening we meet for a welcome dinner and brief lecture.
Hotel: Hotel Abba, Burgos.

September 13: ATAPUERCA
We begin at Atapuerca, where many skeletons have been found here along with ancient DNA. We head north to Cantabria, stopping for lunch at El Convento, a former Cluniac monastery. This afternoon we visit Monte Castillo cave complex, with archaeological levels 130,000 years old. Inside we come face to face with painted bison and mammoth.
Hotel: Parador Santillana de Mar.

September 14: EL PINDAL
We visit El Pindal, where a beautiful horse is depicted as well as fish and mammoth representations — particularly notable pieces, as fish are infrequently found in Palaeolithic art of this region. We continue to Ribadesella to visit Tito Bustillo, a vast alcove-rich cave and striking new museum. Sealed away for millenia, art up to 40,000 years old survives in a remarkably preserved state.
Hotel: Parador Santillana de Mar.

September 15: EKAIN
We enjoy an excellent visit to the Altamira II replica cave and museum, which has excellent interpretive materials. We then drive east along the Cantabrian coast, known for its mountain-ringed estuaries. Entering the Basque country, we visit the replica cave of Ekain.
Hotel: Parador Hondarribia.

September 16: PYRÉNÉES
We begin our ascent into the foothills of the Pyrénées, a land of cave art and Cathar castles. Our first stop is Saint-Bertrand de-Comminges, founded on an important Gallo-Roman city of the Pyrenees. We continue to the evocative Gargas cave, famous for its stenciled handprint alcoves and fissures, drenched with red ocher.
Hotel: Hôtel Eychenne, St Girons.

September 17: NIAUX
Today renowned prehistorian, Jean Clottes, is our guide at Niaux cave. In Niaux’s cathedral-like Black Salon, we find alcoves painted with horse, bison and ibex. We move on to the incomparable site of Mas-d’Azil: Carolingian abbey and crucial Protestant stronghold. As our bus tracks along the Arize River, we explore the gigantic Mas-d’Azil cave.
Hotel: Hôtel Eychenne, St Girons.

September 18: PECH-MERLE
We head northward across the Garonne Valley to Quercy, land of spectacular caves. In Cahors, the Pont Valentré is a pilgrimage route and engineering marvel. After lunch, we explore the immense, flowstone-laden galleries and famous decorated alcoves, of Peche-Merle, including the Spotted Horses. Described by Teyssédou as “an art gallery in a palace of nature,” Pech Merle was lost until 1922.
Hotel: Château de Mercuès, Cahors.

September 19: SOUILLAC
We continue northward to the Santiago pilgrimage way-stop of Rocamadour. Here, cliff-side chapels preserve Cluniac frescoes. In Souillac, the Byzantine Romanesque Eglise St. Marie has a rare Cluniac sculpture of Isaiah. In Cougnac, we find a small gallery boasting alcoves painted with Irish elk. We end the day at Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac, our base for the next four nights. Perched on the Vézère River cliffs, this market town lies at the Périgord region’s center.
Hotel: Hôtel Centenaire, Les Eyzies.

September 20, 21 & 22:
These three days focus on Paleolithic caves, important medieval fortifications and beautiful countryside. Our program includes Abri Cro-Magnon, where famous burial finds date back some 27,000 years, the Upper Paleolithic rock shelter at Abri Pataud, and ‘La Roque-Saint Christophe,’ France’s most amazing example of a medieval stronghold. We also enjoy a miniature train ride to view mammoth, rhino and the incomparable Grand Ceiling at Rouffignac Cave. We also get close to Neanderthal skeletons and grave goods at the National Museum of Prehistory, and visit Cap Blanc, a shelter with a unique high-relief sculpted frieze of bison. Here we are accompanied by cave art expert Christine Desdemaines-Hugon. We will also get an opportunity to visit the brand new Lascaux IV replica.
Hotel: Hôtel Centenaire, Les Eyzies.

September 23: DORDOGNE
We leave the Dordogne, driving through the beautiful country to Vallon Pont d’Arc.
Hotel: Logis Mas Du Terme.

September 24: CHAUVET
Our tour concludes with a visit to the Chauvet replica cave and museum. Chauvet revealed the most spectacular Paleolithic imagery-hundreds of animals of at least 13 different species including lions and hyenas. The paintings are at least 25,000 years old. After this wonderful visit we will adjourn to one of the area’s best restaurants for a leisurely farewell lunch. Hotel: Logis Mas Du Terme.

September 25:
Transfer to Marseille airport or train station for flights to the US or onward.




Sep 2017
Dr Roy Larick

Sep 2018
Dr Roy Larick

An illustrated introduction to Archaeological Tours’ Caves & Castles

Additional Information

Calendar Year

2017, 2018

Reservation Form

2018 Tour details

Explore the depths of the early human mind and the turbulent flow of medieval life. France and Spain possess an incomparable history; and to our good fortune, the sites of our tour are found in areas renowned for fabulous food and wine.


  • View cave art which paints a 30,000-year picture of evolution
  • Explore the Niaux cave and its ‘Salon Noir’

  • Visit the recently opened Lascaux IV replica


Discover 30,000 years of cave art and centuries of castle building across the most beautiful, hospitable areas of Spain and France. Discover the remarkable paintings of horse, bison and ibex found in the Niaux complex; and view an impressive reconstruction of the sprawling cave complex at Chauvet. Discover how war ravaged the Dordogne region and surrounding areas – and how castles and fortifications became integral to survival – exploring the remains of many imposing defensive structures. Medieval defenses and prehistoric caves are just two aspects of the region that we explore on tour. Encounter pilgrim trails, cathedrals and a veritable treasure trove of artifacts displayed in museums.