This cave has always been popular. Centuries old graffiti mar the walls, but people left their mark in Gargas long before that. Excavations have shown that Gargas was inhabited at various times for hundreds of thousands of years. The first hand stencils were discovered in 1906 and 231 have been found so far, along with drawings and engravings of animals. They have been dated to about 27,000 years old, making them some of the oldest cave art you can visit. Strangely, the majority of the hands are incomplete, leading to many theories among researchers. Some believe that they are the product of ritual mutilation, some that they show the results of disease or injury, but most believe that the fingers are merely bent, perhaps representing hand signals. 

This site is actually two caves, and the tour begins with a short climb to the upper cave and then you make your way down to the lower one. You must walk down 32 steps to get to the lower cave, but after that you are on flat walkways so it is not strenuous. The cave is also a geological marvel so it is worth seeing for that reason alone. 

Nestplori@ is the interpretation center next to the cave and it contains multimedia presentations on the cave and prehistoric life.

Entrance to Gargas

Guided tours only, lasting about an hour. Reservations strongly recommended, email them at gargas.nestploria@nestploria.fr or call the number on their website. Tours are in French, but sometimes you can get an English tour. Nestploria has translations of everything in English and Spanish.

Cave not accessible to people with limited mobility, but Nestploria is fully accessible.

Open daily in July and August, closed on Mondays the rest of the year.

 

Cave homepage (French)

Hours and prices (English)

Address: Route departementale 261, off of road D26, 65660 Aventignan, France

Services: Free parking, cold drinks, gift shop, toilets, picnic area