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In the steps of the Cro-Magnon – a prehistoric journey in France

TheChnuschti

In the steps of the Cro-Magnon – a prehistoric journey in France

Bike Touring Collection by Vincent Reboul

12-27

days

3-6 h

/ day

789 mi

48,450 ft

48,950 ft

Southwest France offers splendid natural landscapes, wild places, a rich architectural, gastronomic and human heritage, as well as numerous prehistoric sites. In this 16-stage Collection, you visit ornate caves with parietal cave art.

Your journey starts in the Rhone Valley, passes through the Ardèche Gorges, crosses the Cevennes Mountains, explores the regions of Lot and Dordogne and heads south to the peaks of the Pyrenees. From there, you travel east along the massif through the regions of Ariege and Aude before ending your journey in Perpignan, the Catalan capital of France.

This Collection is for both cycle tourers and bikepackers. The stages vary from 26 to 136 kilometres (16 to 84.5 mi) in length. Per day, you average 78 kilometres (48 mi). The route is challenging when it crosses the Cevennes mountains from stages 2 to 4. There’s a lot of climbing. However, thanks to the diverse landscapes, the rides are still wonderful. There are numerous gastronomic specialties and local produce to try on the way too.

These circular routes take you to different places each day. For example, you discover cave art in Chauvet and Lascaux, and explore impressive but unknown places such as Pech Merle, Cougnac, Gargas and Tautavel.

Although some sections are more remote than others, you’ll always find something to eat and drink along the routes so you don’t need to carry much food.

The arrival and departure cities of Pont-Saint-Esprit and Perpignan are well served by public transport, especially rail. Regional trains carry bicycles free of charge and have a dedicated carriage for them.

I recommend picking up a copy of the Pocket Guide to Prehistoric France by Philippe Boitel. The book will help you to deepen your understanding. At the end of your adventure, you finish close to the Mediterranean Sea – don’t forget to take full advantage of this!

Please note that the sites and museums along the way mostly charge entry fees. They’re usually open from mid-April to mid-November and are all easily accessible by bicycle.

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Un Voyage Préhistorique

770 mi

46,375 ft

46,450 ft

Last updated: November 2, 2021

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Étape 1 : de Pont-Saint-Esprit à Vallon-Pont-d'Arc — un voyage préhistorique

    Difficult
    02:58
    27.8 mi
    9.4 mph
    2,025 ft
    1,850 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Chauvet cave, whose parietal paintings date back to 38,000 years ago, is one of the four most important prehistoric sites in the world. This discovery, which dates from 1994, called into question everything we knew about art. You will visit an exceptional replica of cave paintings.

    

    The itinerary for

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  • Difficult
    07:35
    66.3 mi
    8.7 mph
    5,775 ft
    4,325 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    For this second stage, your day will be punctuated by remarkable sites.

    

    The departure takes place from the unmissable Pont-d'Arc. The real Chauvet cave is very close (few people know it).

    

    Today's destination is in the heart of the Cévennes National Park in the town of Florac. Shortly before arrival you

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  • Difficult
    07:14
    69.8 mi
    9.7 mph
    4,425 ft
    5,050 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A very beautiful day awaits you. You will first follow the magnificent Gorges du Tarn to meet two emblematic villages: Castelbouc and Sainte-Énimie.

    

    I advise you to stop there for a break and why not for a swim in the invigorating waters of the river.

    

    A magnificent but difficult climb will take you to

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  • Difficult
    07:44
    74.4 mi
    9.6 mph
    5,000 ft
    5,600 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Millau and its highest viaduct in the world - a feat of modern technology - to Sainte-Cécile d'Albi cathedral, splendor of Gothic architecture, the imposing buildings are impressive.

    

    Between the two towns you continue to follow the Tarn valley between typical villages and natural curiosities such

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  • Difficult
    03:46
    34.8 mi
    9.2 mph
    2,375 ft
    2,425 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The prehistoric site that you will visit today is very old since it is the Bruniquel cave occupied by Neanderthals over 100,000 years ago. A unique structure was found inside the cavity made of stalactites cut and arranged in an arc.

    This relatively short stage will allow you to take a well-deserved break

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  • Difficult
    05:21
    50.0 mi
    9.3 mph
    3,775 ft
    3,325 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You will spend a full day in the Lot department, starting with a stop at Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, followed by a surprising waterfall around thirty kilometers.

    

    I encourage you to stop at the village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, which is on the list of the most beautiful villages in France.

    This place is simply

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  • Difficult
    04:42
    44.2 mi
    9.4 mph
    3,200 ft
    3,200 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You leave the Lot today to arrive in the department of France which has the greatest concentration of prehistoric works: the Dordogne.

    

    Sarlat is one of the most beautiful towns in the region and it is also your base for this evening. Medieval city par excellence which deserves to be known and explored

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  • Difficult
    03:33
    32.2 mi
    9.0 mph
    2,500 ft
    2,750 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Step eight is short. Many discoveries will be in your path today; starting with the meticulously well-made replica of the Lascaux cave located in the village of Montignac at the start of the Vézère valley and also known by its nickname "Valley of Man".

    

    The new "Lascaux 4" building is well integrated into

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  • Intermediate
    03:31
    36.5 mi
    10.4 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,625 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A fairly short and easy stage to get to your next destination: the city of Bergerac.

    

    The departure is given at the entrance of the cave of Font-de-Gaume at the exit of the village. To visit this decorated cave and its parietal paintings, you must book by phone, if possible a week before if you come to

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  • Difficult
    08:35
    84.7 mi
    9.9 mph
    4,075 ft
    3,675 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today we are leaving the Dordogne to join Eauze in the Gers, passing through the Lot-et-Garonne department.

    

    The magnificent Château Bridoire in the heart of the Monbazillac vineyards stands in your way. This beautiful fifteenth century building is worth the trip.

    

    I recommend a lunch stop halfway along

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  • Difficult
    07:52
    76.7 mi
    9.8 mph
    4,275 ft
    3,175 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Pyrenean relief becomes clearer as you descend to the south. Tonight you will be at the foot of the mountains. In the village of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.

    

    Exceptional site, a prehistoric visit is required at the end of the route. This is the Grotte de Gargas located in the town of Aventignan and

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  • Intermediate
    04:04
    40.9 mi
    10.0 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,600 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today's stage is relatively short with very little difference in height and will allow you to recover from your efforts. The route follows the Gers at first and goes around the hills of the Pyrenean foothills that you can see in the distance.

    

    The route uses cycle paths on numerous occasions. You will

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  • Difficult
    04:35
    44.6 mi
    9.7 mph
    2,400 ft
    2,075 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This is one of my favorite stops! We go from surprise to surprise around every bend.

    First good surprise: after leaving Tarascon you will drive almost immediately on an old railway line transformed into a cycle path.

    

    You will then embark on a departmental road without traffic which arrives in an enchanting

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  • Difficult
    05:01
    47.6 mi
    9.5 mph
    2,550 ft
    4,150 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Your departure instead of the cave of Niaux which I strongly encourage you to visit.

    This prehistoric landmark has a gigantic porch and a breathtaking view of the valley.

    

    During the visit, the guide will lend you lamps to move through the cave because "the Salon Noir", the part of the cave which contains

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  • Difficult
    04:16
    42.1 mi
    9.9 mph
    2,700 ft
    3,150 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A day rich in discoveries. You leave from Espéraza in the direction of Rennes-le-château and Bugarach. These two towns bear the mark of a rich history with a few secrets: the Cathar treasure for one and an enigmatic mountain for the other.

    

    To get to Tautavel, I chose to take you through the narrow, deep

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  • Intermediate
    01:37
    16.5 mi
    10.2 mph
    775 ft
    1,025 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You only have twenty-six kilometers left to reach the city center of Perpignan and conclude this journey. The route ends at the train station in the capital of French Catalonia. From Perpignan - a large and well-connected city - you can easily get to your next destination. There are also Bus lines nearby

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    16
  • Distance
    789 mi
  • Duration
    82:23 h
  • Elevation
    48,450 ft48,950 ft

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