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533km (331 miles) SW of Paris; 45km (28 miles) SE of Périgueux

Les Eyzies is a bustling little town that sells itself as a sort of Prehistory Central, and indeed, it is an ideal base for visiting the prehistoric sites in the area, a dozen or so of which are minutes away. When five 30,000-year-old skeletons were unearthed on the nearby hill of Cro-Magnon in 1868, archaeologists rejoiced—these were the earliest modern humans (that is, homo sapiens) found in Europe. Explorations continued and this area proved to be a bonanza in ancient sites and deposits, and most famously, prehistoric artwork. Several nearby caves (including Lascaux) are veritable Paleolithic art galleries, with beautiful paintings and engravings of animals and symbols. So far, no one has figured out why they were painted or what they mean, but one thing is certain: those Cro-Magnons had a killer sense of aesthetics.

 

The village itself is tiny but cute—many of its buildings are partially carved into the limestone cliff that hovers above. There is an excellent museum of prehistory here (see below). Les Eyzies is also a good base for exploring the lush Vézère Valley and its many hiking, biking, and canoeing possibilities.