AIA Tours: land

Decorated Caves of the Pyrenees & the Rhone Valley

Tour Dates: April 21-May 1, 2022 in the planning stages (11 days)

Tour Leader(s): Ian Tattersall ,

This tour is currently in the planning stages for an April 2022 departure. To be notified first when it is complete before others, please call 800-748-6262 or email

Discover with acclaimed paleoanthropologist and popular trip leader Ian Tattersall a collection of magnificent but largely unheralded examples of Ice Age art. Admire unusual, elegant bas-relief animal images in Basque caves, a profusion of hand prints at Gargas, and the famous panels of line-drawn and subtly shaded bison, horse, and ibex at Niaux. The trip concludes with a visit to the newly-opened Chauvet cave replica at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, which expertly re-creates the earliest, and perhaps most impressive, of the many masterpieces of Ice Age art dated to some 35,000 years ago. Enjoy fine food and delightful accommodations while an expert trip manager handles all the logistics.

Tour Pricing per person:
Double Occupancy (15-20 participants) $TBA
Double Occupancy (10-14 participants) $TBA
Single Supplement $TBA

Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability). With fewer than 10 participants, a small group surcharge may be added.

Paintings of bison from the Salon Noir of Niaux cave. ©HTO

AIA lecturer/host Ian Tattersall (left) stands with Professor Henry de Lumley, excavator of the Arago cave and founder of the Tautavel museum, who is displaying the Arago 21 skull to AIA travelers during an unscheduled visit to the museum’s strong room in 2018. © Karen Raab

The entrance to Isturitz cave. © Krijun.

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain. © Nicolas Vigier.

The Ekainberri panel of horses, Spain. © Zaidiak.

Tautavel Man is a proposed subspecies of the hominid Homo erectus. Image © Rémih.

Painting of a Rhinoceros in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave, France. © Inocybe

A charcoal drawing from Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave, France. © Claude Valette


Thursday, April 21, 2022: Home | Bilbao, Spain
Friday, April 22: Bilbao | Welcome dinner
Saturday, April 23: Covalanas | Ramales | El Pendo | Bilbao
Sunday, April 24: Ekainberri | San Sebastian | Ainhoa, France
Monday, April 25: Isturitz and Oxocelhaya | Bayonne | Ainhoa
Tuesday, April 26: Gargas | Tarascon-sur-Ariège
Wednesday, April 27: Niaux | La Vache | Tarascon-sur-Ariège
Thursday, April 28: Parc de la Prehistoire | Mas d’Azil | Tarascon-sur-Ariège
Friday, April 29: Tarascon-sur-Ariège | Arago | Tautavel | Montpellier
Saturday, April 30: Montpellier | Vallon-Pont-d’Arc Cavern | Lyon | Farewell dinner
Sunday, May 1: Lyon | Home


View Detailed Itinerary

(B)= Breakfast, (L)= Lunch, (D)= Dinner 

Thursday, April 21, 2021: Home | Bilbao, Spain
Depart home on independent flights to Bilbao, Spain.

Friday, April 22: Bilbao | Welcome dinner
Transfer from the Bilbao airport (BIO) to the Gran Hotel Domine, situated in the heart of this thriving city. This afternoon, admire both the architecture and the permanent collection of the spectacular Guggenheim Museum during a guided tour. Gather later at the hotel for a welcome drink and dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Gran Hotel Domine for two nights. (D)

Saturday, April 23: Covalanas | Ramales | El Pendo | Bilbao
After breakfast, drive to Covalanas cave with its extraordinary collection of animal images. After an independent lunch in nearby Ramales, continue to El Pendo cave with its nearly thirty-foot-long panel of painted figures. Dinner is at leisure in Bilbao. (B)

Sunday, April 24: Ekainberri | San Sebastian | Ainhoa, France
Check out of our hotel and head northeast towards France, stopping first at the Ekainberri replica and its famous panels of horses, the originals dating from the Magdalenian period. Continue to the elegant Basque city of San Sebastian, situated on the Bay of Biscay. Enjoy a guided tour of the town and savor an independent lunch before moving on to Ainhoa. Gather in the evening for dinner. Overnight at the 3-star Hotel Ithurria for two nights. (B,D)

Monday, April 25: Isturitz and Oxocelhaya | Bayonne | Ainhoa
This morning, visit the caves of Isturitz and Oxocelhaya with their bas-relief sculptures and concretions. Stop for an independent lunch followed by a guided tour of Bayonne (famous for its cathedral, as well as the ham and chocolate that it produces). Return to our hotel in Ainhoa for dinner. (B,D)

Tuesday, April 26: Gargas | Tarascon-sur-Ariège
Check out of our hotel and drive to Gargas cave, one of the finest in the Pyrenees and known for its collection of more than 200 stenciled hand prints, many of which are mysteriously incomplete. After a group lunch in Gargas, drive to Le Manoir d’Agnes, a 200-year-old French chateau in Tarascon-sur-Ariège. Gather for dinner in the restaurant next to our hotel. Overnight at the 3-star Le Manoir d’Agnes for three nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, April 27: Niaux | La Vache | Tarascon-sur-Ariège
This morning, drive a short distance to the cave of Niaux, regarded as one of the most impressive in Europe for its spectacular and well-preserved wall paintings from 14,000 years ago, most of which are found in its “Salon Noir,” situated some 800 meters from the cave entrance. After a group lunch in the village of Niaux, visit the small cave of La Vache, plausibly where the Niaux artists lived, and known as one of the Pyrenees’ richest Magdalenian sites in terms of artifacts and engravings on bone and stone plaques, including representations of bear, lion, salmon, and more. Return to Tarascon-sur-Ariège for an evening at leisure. (B,L)

Thursday, April 28: Parc de la Prehistoire | Mas d’Azil | Tarascon-sur-Ariège
After breakfast, visit the Parc de la Préhistoire for an overview of the area’s prehistory through its museum and numerous reconstructions and demonstrations. Later, continue on to the cave of Mas d’Azil, an ancient refuge for humans and animals, including mammoth and rhinoceros. Return to Tarascon-sur-Ariège for an evening at leisure. (B)

Friday, April 29: Arago | Tautavel | Montpellier
Check out of our hotel and drive to Arago cave, situated just outside the village of Tautavel and famous for the discovery of “Tautavel Man,” some of the most significant hominid remains ever found in Europe. After an independent lunch and, time permitting, a quick tasting of the local wine, visit the small but impressive museum in Tautavel before driving on to Montpellier. Dinner this evening is at leisure. Overnight at the 4-star Pullman Montpellier Centre Hotel for one night. (B)

Saturday, April 30: Chauvet cave replica | Lyon | Farewell dinner
After checking out of our hotel, drive north to what may be the highlight of the journey: the recently opened and spectacular replica of Chauvet cave, Pont-d’Arc Cavern, including a reproduction of its delicately shaded horses. Chauvet is one of the most famous decorated caves in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. After an independent lunch on site, drive to Lyon. Gather together for a farewell dinner this evening. Overnight at the 5-star Le Royal Hotel Lyon for one night. (B,D)

Sunday, May 1: Lyon | Home
Transfer this morning to the Lyon airport (LYS) for flights home. (B)


For reservations or questions, please email us at (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884). To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

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