Everyone it seems wants to see the prehistoric paintings in the cave of Font de Gaume. And with good reason – these paintings are some of the finest examples of European Ice Age, and are arguably the best still open to the public in France. Not only is entry to the cave greatly restricted, there is also great demand. Getting tickets for Font de Gaume then is not as simple as walking up to a ticket office and buying them. After years of visiting the cave and following a recent discussion with the manager, here I outline exactly how you get your Font de Gaume tickets.
Given my mission in putting together this website, providing accurate information about visiting archaeology sites, I use the time standing in queues chatting to others around me to learn of tips I can share with readers. While queueing for tickets for my most recent visit to Font de Gaume and Les Combarelles, I was quite surprised to hear very different accounts of what you have to do to get tickets for these two caves. Some people still think one person can stand in line to get tickets for each person in their group wishing to get into the cave. Others were told to be at the ticket office around 7 am to stand a chance of getting tickets when the ticket office opens at 8 am.
Despite being in an age where information is now literally at our fingertips, the internet is awash with misinformation. In relation to Font de Gaume, this is in part because the process has changed recently, so any commentary from 2014 is out of date. Also, people writing on popular travel review sites do not always set out the entire process, just their own experience. So, as will be clear below, what worked for them does not hold true for everyone, or account for every option.
Anyway, as I was first in the queue, I got the ticket choices I wanted and while waiting for my timed entry to Font de Gaume, I spoke at length to the manager of the ticket office for a full and detailed account of the various ways you can get yourself into Font de Gaume. Much of what applies to the cave of Font de Gaume, also applies to Les Combarelles; the only difference being the numbers of tickets available.
Can you buy tickets online for Font de Gaume or Les Combarelles?
No. It really is as simple as that. Give up searching. Now.
Can you buy tickets in advance for Font de Gaume and/or Les Combarelles?
Yes, by telephone or email.
Telephone: +33 (0)5 53 06 86 00 (Fax: +33 (0)5 53 35 26 18)
For those who do not speak French, or battle with it: if you get an answering machine after 4 rings, it is telling you that all lines are busy, please be patient. The message starts something like this “toutes nos lignes sont occupées …” ending with the word patientez. Do hang on, particularly if you are calling first thing in the morning – they do answer.
The ticket office is open everyday except on Saturdays. It is also closed on the following national holidays: 1 January, 1 May, 1 and 11 November, 25 December
The opening hours are:
Between 15 May and 15 September 9.30 am – 5:30 pm
Between 16 September and 14 May 9:30 am – 12:30 pm & 2 pm – 5:30 pm
Advance tickets can be reserved by contacting the ticket office from January onwards for the current year; i.e. advance tickets for 2016 will go on sale from 1 January 2016.
For each day, there are 26 advance tickets for Font de Gaume but only 7 for Les Combarelles. You do have to know the exact date of your intended visit. Advance tickets go on sale in January, and obviously the more popular tourist periods (June to September) fill up quickly. As of June 2015, there were still advance tickets available for entry in November or December of 2015.
Having established there is availability for your required date, you will be required to pay for the tickets (by credit card) to secure your reservation. So I would phone up the office rather than send credit card details via email. The staff who work in the ticket office speak sufficient English to conduct the transaction (I am not sure about other languages – I think they also speak German but I should investigate this further). Then you pick up your tickets at the ticket office before your visit – bearing in mind you need to be at the cave about 30 minutes before your timed entry. Font de Gaume is about a 10 minute walk from the ticket office, Les Combarelles is about two kilometres further up the road.
Can you buy tickets at Font de Gaume or Les Combarelles on the day, at the caves?
Yes. The ticket office at Font de Gaume sells tickets for that day, and for that day only, for entry to both Les Combarelles and Font de Gaume. There is no ticket office at Les Combarelles. The ticket office is closed on Saturdays – therefore, there is no entry to Les Combarelles or Font de Gaume on Saturdays.
There are only 52 tickets for Font de Gaume and 35 for Les Combarelles that are made available on the day, each day. (Except Saturdays.)Given that there are so few tickets available and everyone wants to visit the caves, demand is high. As you have to queue in person, it is essential you get to the ticket office early enough. What time is early enough? The ticket office opens at 9.30 am. But that is not the time to arrive if you desperately want a ticket on that day.
The time to get to the ticket office varies according to the tourist season. And depends on how badly you want to get into the cave on any given day. I usually conduct my cave art tours visiting Les Eyzies in May/June. At this time of the year I like to get to the ticket office around 6.30 am. Each time I have done this I have been the the second or third in the queue. This is much the same for September and October, and school holidays outside of the summer peak season. Most people then start arriving around 7 am, and then steadily thereafter. The last few weeks of July and August, the height of the tourist season, it is different – friends of mine have arrived at 6.30 am and are about 12th in the queue, but they still got the tickets they wanted.Demand can also vary by day, within the same period. On one day in mid June 2015 people who arrived just after 9 am did not get tickets for that day, and yet on another day less than two weeks later people who arrived at 9.30 am managed to get tickets to visit the cave that day. (They were under the impression you could just arrive when the ticket office opens and get a ticket.) Something similar happened towards the end of September 2015. On Tuesday 29 September a couple arrived at 8.30 am, and by the time they got to the front of the queue all tickets were sold. They returned three days later (1 October) at 7.30 am and were lucky. But then again that was a day when a couple who arrived at 9.30 am got tickets.
During the summer of 2015, a bench was installed in front of the ticket office. With each seat numbered (1 to 54). This helps greatly to know whether you stand a chance of getting a ticket or not. If you arrive and all the seat are taken, you are out of luck.
Note the following:
All people requiring a ticket need to be in the queue. This is important to note as it is a change introduced in 2015. One person can no longer stand in the queue for his/her family members. If you require 5 tickets, all five of you need to be in the queue when you purchase the tickets. When it is your turn to purchase the tickets, they want to see all of you – in person.
Good luck! Or, bon courage as they say in France.
Also on Sale at the Font de Gaume Ticket office
Each day 210 people are allowed entry to Abri du Cap Blanc. From 1 January to the end of June, and from 1 October to the end of December 105 tickets for Abri Cap Blanc can be purchased at Font de Gaume, while the other 105 tickets can be bought at the site (a few kilometres up the road – it is well signposted). NB, during July and August tickets for this decorated shelter are only available at the site itself. Tickets for Cap Blanc can not be reserved in advance. As they allow 210 people in per day, it is quite easy to get tickets – this is not a popular cave art attraction.
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