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The Dordogne in southwest France is a very famous and well-loved tourist region. Known for its prehistoric sites, fantastic food and wine, wonderful markets, and imposing castles, Les Eyzies de Tayac is probably the best place to start to find out why Dordogne is so popular.

Set in the center of the Vézère valley in Dordogne, also known as the Périgord, Les Eyzies is one of the most important towns in all of France. It’s known as the global prehistoric capital due to the many caves, underground dwellings, and drawings from that period. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, this town of less than 1,000 residents receives close to a million visitors every year. 

Les Eyzies de Tayac - what to do and visit
The entrance to prehistoric caves at Les Eyzies de Tayac – by Lost in Bordeaux

If you, like those one million tourists, are fond of history, then Les Eyzies – situated among 400,000 years of human history – is the place for you. It’s perfectly located for a day trip in Dordogne, just a 25-minute drive from Sarlat-la-Canéda and Beynac. If you’re staying in Sarlat, you can take a private day trip with Exploreo that will help you discover some of Les Eyzies’ highlights.

In the small town, you’ll find a few prehistoric caves, the Natural Museum of Prehistory, and the Cro-Magnon Museum. But there’s more to the town than museums and caves. With so many tourists visiting each year, Les Eyzies has a lively center with plenty of cafes and restaurants along the main road. Every Friday evening in the summer,  Les Eyzies hosts one of the best summer markets in Dordogne.

If you’re currently planning your trip to the Dordogne region, be sure to check my articles about where to stay in Dorodgne and the most beautiful villages in Dordogne. Let’s go! 

The best things to do in Les Eyzies 

Start your visit at the Pôle d’Interprétation de la Préhistoire, located in the center of town, where you’ll find details about the history of the Vézère Valley, travel guides, and other tourist information. You’ll also be able to visit the finely curated exhibitions about prehistoric finds in the region and get a taste of what’s to come during the rest of your visit.

Font-de-Gaume – Visit the original painting caves

While you might have heard about the amazing and impressive Lascaux caves, the original caves were closed to the public in 1963. This decision was made to protect the delicate and ancient cave paintings from harmful effects such as changes in temperature and humidity. However, the extraordinary replicas are very accurate and worth the visit.

The cave at Font-de-Gaume is arguably more impressive because you’re actually able to visit the original cave and see some of the oldest original cave paintings in the world. Seeing how our human ancestors expressed themselves in art so many years ago will leave you speechless.

The tour is very interesting and takes you on an incredible journey to see paintings from 15,000 years ago. Make sure to book tickets early because the tour fills up quickly during peak season! Remember to take something warm along as it gets cold inside the cave. While the visit is wonderful, I wouldn’t recommend it with very young kids and also not for people who are slightly claustrophobic.

Cro-Magnon – Discover the site of the “Cro-Magnon Man”

If you want to truly understand the history of this famous region and how it all started, this is the perfect place. The Cro-Magnon Museum explains how the first anatomically modern man was found, where he came from, what he used to eat, and how he used to dress and live. You can also see a display of the shelter, or abri, outside next to the cliffs.

Cro-Magnon Museum - one of the best places to visit in Les Eyzies de Tayac
Cro-Magnon Museum – by Lost in Bordeaux

I highly recommend doing it as the first activity in Les Eyzies, just to understand the significance of this place. All the signs are in English and French and written in a way that even kids will enjoy.
Opening hours: from April to September at varying times, which you can check on the website.

National Museum of Prehistory

This is a fantastic museum for the whole family where you’ll learn all about the prehistoric period and the role that the Dordogne region of France plays in human history. It’s a great place to start after you visit Cro-Magnon to give you an overall picture of the region’s history, and from there you can plan the rest of your visit.

Opening hours: every day in July and August, closed on Tuesdays from June to May, closed on December 25th and January 1st. For more details about the opening hours, ticket prices, how to plan your visit, and more, check out the website.

Other caves worth a visit if you have more time 

Grand Roc Cave – the nearby Grotte du Grand Roc has a fascinating display of stalactites and stalagmites.
Les grottes du Roc de Cazelle – smaller caves located nearby Les Eyzies that offer many wonders of nature and history
Gouffre de Proumeyssac – technically more of a chasm or gulf than a cave, this smaller site has beautiful natural lighting and acoustics.

Château de Commarque 

Situated high on a rocky hill, about 15 km from Sarlat, Château de Commarque allows you to travel back in time. This unique gem of a castle is far less renovated than other famous castles in Dordogne and therefore plunges you back into the Medieval, or even prehistoric, times.

The building itself dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries, but mankind had settled there long before. During the visit, you can see how they lived in caves carved out of the rocky cliffs nearby. You’ll also discover the troglodyte houses, pushed underground by centuries of soil deposit build-up, a testament to ancient life in the region.

Château de Commarque - one of the oldest chateaux in Dordogne
Château de Commarque – Lost in Bordeaux

There are plenty of fun activities taking place in the summer, such as evening visits with lights projected onto the castle, outdoor plays, and music concerts. The chateau offers cool activities like an escape game and adventure-seekers and kids can even abseil down the castle walls to the dungeon.

*I find it a perfect chateau for slightly older kids but I wouldn’t recommend it to families with very young kids. There are a lot of stairs there that feel a bit unsafe for very small kids. 

Château de Commarque is open from April to the beginning of November, see the opening hours here. Buy your tickets online to avoid disappointment. There are food trucks available for different snacking options. A visit to this chateau is usually included in the private tour from Sarlat

Canoeing on the Vézère river

When you read information about traveling in Dordogne, there are always recommendations about canoe and kayak trips of the Dordogne River. However, the Dordogne department has other beautiful rivers where you can enjoy amazing kayaking trips, and one of them is the magnificent Vézère River which passes right through Les Eyzies. 

There are several places where you can rent a canoe – The one I personally recommend is AVCK Animation Vézère Canoeing (the yellow canoe). They offer a range of tours all starting from Les Eyzies. Tursac – 10km and la Roque St-Christophe – 13km -for beginners, and Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère – 19km and Château de Losse – 25km, for those in shape. 
Remember, this activity is only offered during the summer season. It’s the perfect escape for people who want a more quiet experience in nature. If you’re more into looking for beautiful villages from the river, why not plan a trip kayaking on the Dordogne?

Biking along the river

There’s a new biking route that follows the Vézère river called la voie verte. You can take an easy ride along the river to Le Bugue (another city worth visiting) or continue to Limeuil, one of the most beautiful villages in Dordogne. 

biking along the la voie verte in Dordogne
la voie verte in Dordogne – by Lost in Bordeaux

Here’s a bike rental place with a snack bar I recommend located in Les Eyzies near the river.

What to do around Les Eyzies de Tayac

The town is located in the heart of the Dordogne so the options for day trips are practically endless! Here are just a few ideas:

Sarlat (22 km) – Sarlat-la-Canéda is one of France’s most stunning medieval towns with incredible sights, food, and history. It’s one of the liveliest destinations in the Dordogne region with plenty of attractions and important landmarks. The town is home to one of France’s most wonderful food markets, historical architectural gems, beautiful narrow streets, and much more. There’s so much to say about this beautiful town, you should check out my guide to what to do, eat, and see in Sarlat.

Sarlat host one of th best markets in Sarlat
The market of Sarlat – Lost in Bordeaux

Saint Léon sur Vézère (15 km) – This delightful little village sits snugly in a curve of the river and is full of quaint, meandering lanes and charismatic old houses. Strolling the streets of the charming village you’ll find a few nice art boutiques and galleries as well as a nice selection of places to eat. Don’t miss a visit to the 12th-century church and the Manoir de la Salle.

La Roque Saint-Christophe (10 km) – La Roque Saint Christophe is a massive cliffside fortress, carved into a rock. The historical site, located in the eastern part of the Dordogne, provides a fascinating glimpse into life in the region in ancient times. A visit there is highly recommended and is a fun activity to do with kids

La Roque Saint Christophe - a fun discovery with kids in the Dordogne region
La Roque Saint Christophe – by Lost in Bordeaux

Le Bournat amusement park (10 km) – Located in Bugue, Le Bournat is a truly one-of-a-kind amusement park that whisks you away to the golden age of the area. Prepare to be immersed in the rich history and traditions of the region as you step into “Le Village Artisanal”, the craftsmen village. From bread making to pottery, the park offers a range of engaging and educational workshops where your little ones can unleash their creativity and learn ancient artisanal skills. You can read more about my visit there in my article about visiting the Dordogne with kids

Château et Jardins de Losse (17 km) – The castle is perched on the river banks, overlooking the beautiful valley and boasting some of the most incredible gardens in the whole region. Château de Losse was originally built as a medieval fortress with protective walls and a ditch. Today the castle and its extraordinary gardens are listed as a French historical monument. 

Lascaux caves (23 km) – The Lascaux cave is an archaeological treasure unveiling captivating paintings and engravings dating back over 17,000 years. The oldest and most visited part is Lascaux II, which offers a partial replica of the cave. Lascaux II provides a glimpse into the past as you explore sections that closely resemble the original artwork. Only a limited number of people can enter Lascaux so I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance. 

If you’re planning to visit the caves of Les Eyzies as well as Lascaux you might want to consider taking a private tour that includes both caves as well as the castles and the villages of the region.

Restaurant de Laugerie Basse

If you want to taste local food, I have a restaurant with a perfect setting to recommend. It’s tucked away in the cliff of La Grand Roc. Many of the local workers go here for their lunch – a sign you’re in the right place. It’s like going to a French “Mamie” or grandmother for lunch! The menu includes all the local specialties of the Dordogne. The service is very pleasant and the prices are not high.

Restaurant de Laugerie Basse in Les Eyzies
Restaurant de Laugerie Basse – by Lost in Bordeaux

Hotel – Restaurant Le Cro Magnon

If you want something slightly more upscale try the restaurant at l’Hôtel Le Cro-Magnon in the center of Les Eyzies. The relatively new hotel belongs to a lovely couple with one of them being the chef. Many of their dishes are a more modern interpretation of local dishes. 

Where to stay in  Les Eyzies

Hôtel Le Cro-Magnon

A three-star hotel with the most lovely owners. The hotel is relatively simple but has a great restaurant and a pool. I really enjoyed my stay there on one of my many visits to Dordogne. Book your visit here

Ferme de Tayac

One of the most charming B&Bs in that part of the Dordogne. The place is hidden in the more quiet part of town, just next to the church of Tayac.  Book your stay here

If it’s your first time visiting Dordogne you might also want to read these articles:

The most beautiful villages in Dordogne
Where to stay in Dordogne
What to do and where to stay in Sarlat
The most beautiful villages near Bergerac
A day trip to Eymet in the Dordogne region
One day in Bordeaux – in case you decided to do a day trip to Bordeaux
Day trip to Saint Emilion

You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:

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*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂