Cathedral of Saint Bertrand de Comminges. France
Cathedral of Saint Bertrand de Comminges. France
Limited availability

Caves & Castles

15 days From $7,995

September 23 2018

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.

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.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Dr Roy Larick

Dr Roy Larick is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iowa.

Book Now $7,995
Includes deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,175

Tour highlights:

  • Experience fine cuisine, indulge in fantastic local wine and enjoy luxurious stays in beautiful paradors
  • Discover some of the earliest forms of human creativity and expression with cave art that spans over 30,000 years
  • View the most spectacular early sapiens imagery ever uncovered within the accomplished Chauvet cave replica
  • Explore the incredible Niaux cave and its Black Salon with the expertise of our expert scholar

Tour details

Dates September 23 2018 - October 07 2018
Duration 15 days
Cost $7,995
Single supplement: $1,175
Deposit: $1,250 , balance due by 01 July 2018
Activity Level
Tour code A18CAV

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

September 23 2018: Itinerary

We arrive in Madrid and drive to Burgos. After a rest, we visit the ruins of Burgos Castle, the history of which stretches from Roman times to the Peninsular War. Archaeological explorations of the area around the castle have also found evidence of ancient prehistoric settlements on the hill which the ruins of the castle now sits. This evening, we enjoy a welcome lecture, where our scholar introduces us to the multifaceted, millennia-old history and archaeology of this region. This evening we enjoy dinner at our hotel, nestled on a tree-lined avenue at the foot of the castle complex.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Abba, Burgos

We begin at Atapuerca, the caves here hold some of the earliest evidence of homo sapiens in Europe, with fossil and skeletal remains dating back almost one million years. A combination of archaeological excavation, DNA analysis and other scientific techniques have revealed incredible detail about the way of life of our most remote ancestors. We then 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. Our hotel for the next two nights is a fine Parador in the lovely town of Santillana de Mar with cobbled streets and medieval-houses aplenty.

All meals included

Hotel: Parador, Santillana del Mar

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 the Paleolithic art of this region. We continue to Ribadesella to visit the World Heritage site of Tito Bustillo, a vast alcove-rich cave and striking new museum. Sealed away for millennia, art up to 40,000 years old survives in a remarkably preserved state. Dinner is independent this evening, giving you a chance to sample one of the many fine local restaurants in Santillana de Mar, all within easy walking distance of our hotel.

All meals included

Hotel: Parador, Santillana del Mar

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. Declared a World Heritage Site in 2008, the original cave is home to engravings up to 14,000 years old. The animals depicted include horse, bison, goats and deer – often depicted in an exceptionally realistic style. We continue to our hotel, built inside a medieval fortress, which itself dates back to the 10th century complete with thick stone walls, vaulted ceilings and courtyards.

All meals included

Hotel: Parador de Hondarribia

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. The hilltop town is best known for its Gothic cathedral, which dominates the town. After lunch in Saint-Bertrand we continue to the evocative Gargas cave, famous for its stenciled handprint alcoves and fissures, drenched with red ocher. We continue to our Hotel in St Girons, who’s fine restaurant has been noted by the Michelin guide as having excellent food, displaying the best of the local region.

All meals included

Hotel: Hôtel Eychenne, St Girons

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. Visits are conducted by torch-light, the dim light gives an even greater feeling of connection with the people who first painted these walls over 13,000 years ago. We move onto 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. We return to St Girons for dinner this evening and have a little free time to explore this charming town on the Salat river.

All meals included

Hotel: Hôtel Eychenne, St Girons

We head northward across the Garonne Valley to Quercy – the land of spectacular caves. In Cahors, the Pont Valentré is a pilgrimage route and engineering marvel; the bridge was built in the 14th century and has no fewer than six gothic arches and three fortified towers. 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, when it was discovered (and explored in some detail) by two local teenage boys, aided and abetted by the local priest-come-archaeologist, Father Amedee Lemozi. We continue to our glorious Chateau hotel, which is a classic white-turreted French castle surrounded by vineyards. We enjoy dinner in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant tonight.

All meals included

Hotel: Château de Mercuès, Cahors

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. Our hotel is a very charming boutique establishment with shaded terraces, heated swimming pool and comfortable rooms.

All meals included

Hotel: Hôtel Centenaire, Les Eyzies

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.

All meals included

Hotel: Hôtel Centenaire, Les Eyzies

We leave Dordogne for a long but scenic drive east, through central France to Vallon Pont d’Arc. The Pont d’Arc is a natural stone arch or bridge, crossing the river Ardeche. We continue to our final hotel, in an 18th century former farmhouse complete with spa, surrounded by vineyards and lavender fields.

All meals included

Hotel: Le Mas Du Terme, Barjac

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. Enjoy some free time this afternoon for final souvenir shopping or reminisce about our experiences on the tour.

All meals included

Hotel: Le Mas Du Terme, Barjac

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

Meals include: Breakfast

September 23 2018: Additional Info

September 23 2018: Accommodation

Hotel Abba, Burgos

The hotel, in the heart of Burgos, is in easy walking distance of the famous Gothic cathedral of Burgos & Parque del Castillo. The hotel offers panoramic views of the city. The rooms are classic and airy and you’ll wake up to a breakfast with an array of Spanish delicacies, fresh fruit, and traditional selections too…. And if you’re feeling active after a day of exploring, why not challenge a tour partner to a friendly game of paddle tennis on the hotel’s courts? Winners buy the next round!

Parador Santillana del Mar

This is a newly built hotel has been designed in a traditional style to fit with the local area.  It’s surrounded by the medieval village of cobbled streets, which is now declared as a National monument and will set the scene and leave you eager to explore the castles on the rest of the tour… And every noble needs luxury accommodation and at Parador Santillana Del Mar, you get just that.

You’ll stay in an authentic medieval fortress, towering naked stone walls frame the patio and green vines climb and crown arches. The view from the terrace looks down on the harbour below, bordered by colourful houses, bars and restaurants. This stunning hotel is an excellent experience on all accounts, with the perfect combination of medieval decor mixed with modern amenities. This hotel is perfect for a top knight’s stay.

This country-chic hotel has the perfect setting in the Pyrenean Mountains. Through the maze of traditional French streets, you’ll find this hotel nestled in Saint Girons. Each room is unique with authentic worn furniture to give a homely and traditional French farmhouse feel. Enjoy the hotel’s garden bordered with climbing flowers. Alternatively, the bar claimed ‘the masterpiece’ of the hotel is a great way to spend an evening, with a wide selection of the finest drinks and beverages in the world.

Surrounded by vineyards, this medieval castle overlooks the stunning Lot Valley. Climb its towering turrets for expectational views & be the first to spot incoming invaders. The wide castle corridors lead to classic rooms, warm décor and marbled bathrooms. In the evening explore the Hotel’s stunning park with 4km of walking and running trails, or simply lounge by the pool.

This charming hotel is nestled into this prehistoric capital. The hotel is packed with character and you’ll be able to relax in its shady terraces and star gaze through the skylights in the hotel’s lounge. The rooms are decorated in a French-country style, well sized with a TV, mini- bar and air conditioned.

Set among vineyards, olive trees and lavender fields, and views of Mont Ventoux, this hotel is perfectly situated to help you unwind after a busy day of exploring. The restaurant here offers fresh cuisine inspired by regional and seasonal products.

September 23 2018: Enquiries

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