If there’s one region in France that you should not miss visiting, it’s Southern France. It is the part of the country blessed with breathtaking natural scenery, almost endless historical discoveries, and numerous picturesque villages or cities.
Of the plethora of places in Southern France to choose from, Rocamadour is the town you must really consider. Rocamadour has never been absent from many online publishers‘ lists of France’s most beautiful small towns. And, impressively, even centuries before Rocamadour became a “full-blown tourist attraction,” it had been attracting countless people already—monarchs included!
But, should you really visit Rocamadour? Is Rocamadour worth your time and money? This blog post will tell you ten reasons why you should! 🙂
Affiliate Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I recommend products and services that I think can help you make a successful and memorable trip. I may receive a tiny commission if you purchase them with no additional cost to you. These will support me in maintaining, creating more articles, and fulfilling the mission of this blog.
By the end of this article, you should have discovered why Rocamadour is so famous and what fascinating discoveries you can find in this place. You’ll learn about them as we discuss each reason to visit Rocamadour.
The different attractions and fun experiences in Rocamadour are also written in this post. I did not forget to include tips in practical information. So if you decide to visit Rocamadour now, this article can serve as your travel guide.
Before anything, let’s tap into some basics about Rocamadour. It should give context to our discussion to help you further to decide whether to visit Rocamadour or not.
How To Visit Rocamadour
I have no doubt—when looking for a place to visit, we always consider how accessible a destination is. So, let’s begin with the question:
Where exactly is Rocamadour?
We can find Rocamadour in Southwestern France. It lies in the Lot Department within the Northern Occitania Region. There, it is perched on one of the cliffs of the Parc Naturel Régional des Causses du Quercy, overlooking the Alzou valley.
As of this writing, getting to Rocamadour by public transit is still slightly less convenient than other attractions in France.
Direct train rides to Rocamadour from major cities aren’t available yet. The closest station to Rocamadour village is Rocamadour – Padirac. And from there, you still have to ride a bus #877 or #876 to reach the main attraction in Rocamadour.
You can check Rome2Rio to see the bus schedules.
However, if you are from abroad, your first step is probably to find which city in France to fly into. Of the all French cities with flight connections abroad Toulouse and Bordeaux are the two closest to Rocamadour.
Rocamadour is only a 2-hour drive from Toulouse and a 2.5-hour drive from Bordeaux. It can take 4 to 5 hours of travel time if you use public transit (Toulouse/Bordeaux to Rocamadour-Padirac to Rocamadour) instead.
It’s possible to see Rocamadour for a day trip, but I recommend staying in accommodation when visiting Rocamadour. That is, especially if you prefer to use public transit.
Rocamadour may not be so convenient to visit using public transportation, but I think it does not matter considering the reasons to visit Rocamadour. Stay tuned, as they’re what we’ll discuss next.
10 Best Reasons To Visit Rocamadour
Believe it or not, a million people visit Rocamadour every year. On average, that’s 2700 visitors per day—four times the local population of Rocamadour. It’s mind-blowing, isn’t it?
With the beauty as shown below, there’s no doubt why! Like, how could anyone resist this beauty?
Well, of course, it’s not only about the dreamy appearance of Rocamadour. There are more “profound and real” reasons why so many visit Rocamadour. I think they are:
- To Join The Pilgrimage
- To Visit Rocamadour Sanctuaries
- To Locate Legendary Objects
- To Explore The Medieval Village
- To Discover Historical Sites
- To Behold Breathtaking Views
- To Watch Equestrian Show At Parc Durandal
- To See Spectacular Birds Performances in Rocher des Aigles
- To Play With Monkeys In The Monkey Forest
- To Enter The Numerous Caves Around Rocamadour
I recommend you read the reasons to visit Rocamadour continuously because they’re linked together in sequence. 😀
Reason #1 — Join The Pilgrimage
In the beginning, I mentioned that Rocamadour has been a destination for countless people for a long time—even before the tourism industry boom. It’s all because it was a pilgrimage site.
Rocamadour is not only an ordinary pilgrimage site. It was once one of the four holy places of Christendom. The other three are Jerusalem in Israel, Rome in Italy, and Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The roots of the religious momentousness of Rocamadour date back to the 4th century, when Amadour, a hermit (now recognized as a saint), went to the Alzou Valley in Quercy to spread the Gospel.
Quercy is a former name of the cultural/historical region where the present-day Rocamadour is.
Centuries later, Christianity became a well-established religion in Quercy. Churches were built, and the locals have witnessed miracles performed by the Black Madonna—the sculpture of the Virgin Mary which made Rocamadour well-known everywhere.
The rumors about the miraculous Black Madonna of Rocamadour spread all over Europe and drew countless pilgrims. Then, after the year 1166, more and more Christians came to Rocamadour.
1166 was the year when the remains of Saint Amadour were discovered, buried in front of the sanctuary of the miraculous Virgin Mary (Notre Dame chapel). The extraordinary thing is that they found the remains of Saint Amadour well-preserved.
This is where Rocamadour got its name. Roc (the village built on a giant rock) + Amadour.
Though Saint Amadour’s relics are still in his 12th-century crypt, the original form of the remains that the medieval men found in 1166 no longer exists. Sadly, it was destroyed by the protestants with some parts of Rocamadour during the Wars of Religion.
Conflicts in the past may have destroyed significant relics and churches, but the spirituality in the Rocamadour remains. If you are a believer, this is one of the several you should visit Rocamadour.
Even if Rocamadour has evolved into a tourist attraction, the pilgrimage is still being made by believers, and you can join them!
It’s a notable tradition that has existed for nearly a millennium. And as a Catholic, I think it’s a privilege to join this pilgrimage. Did you know? Even kings and queens of France, England, and Castile (Spain), like Henry II, Louis IX Charles IV, and Blanche, made a pilgrimage to Rocamadour.
Come to Rocamadour and venerate the Black Virgin in her chapel. Maybe you will be granted a miracle you’ve wanted for so long!
Did you know? France was once the center of Christendom, and popes stayed in Avignon, France, during the 14th century. You should discover this beautiful historical city and its Palais des Papes – the largest gothic palace in Europe.
Reason #2 — Visit Rocamadour Sanctuaries
What’s more fascinating about Rocamadour is the relationship between Saint Amador (the founder of Christianity in Rocamadour) and the Black Madonna (the miraculous figure that makes Rocamadour famous).
It was Saint Rocamadour who carved the Black Madonna. And by the way, the Black Madonna is a sculpture carved out of walnut wood. You can find it in the Notre-Dame Chapel, located in the Sanctuaries.
The Sanctuaries is the spiritual heart of Rocamadour. It contains N0tre-Dame Chapel with a few more chapels. Here are the names of the chapels in Rocamadour Sanctuaries:
- Chapel of Notre-Dame de Rocamadour (Notre Dame Chapel)
- Chapelle Saint-Michel (Saint Michael Chapel)
- Chapelle Saint-Louis (Saint Louis Chapel)
- Chapelle Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Saint John Baptist Chapel)
- Chapelle Saint-Blaise (Saint Blaise Chapel)
- Chapelle Saint-Anne (Saint Anne Chapel)
- Basilique Saint Sauveur (Saint Sauveur Basilica)
The main attraction and the holiest, of course, is Notre Dame Chapel. It was destroyed in the past but was rebuilt to its previous appearance in 1479. Saint Sauveur Basilica is the largest chapel, however.
Aside from being a historical pilgrimage site, Rocamadour’s Sanctuaries is a reason to visit Rocamadour for the architectural beauty, little but interesting artworks, and outstanding civil engineering it manifests.
Considering the Sanctuaries built below a cliff and the primal ways of building, it’s hard to imagine how much work was exerted and calculation was done to build something that lasts.
As someone who has studied statics during my engineering college days, Rocamadour Sanctuaries and its builders made me “wow-ed.”
However, you don’t need to deeply understand statics and physics to fully appreciate the Sanctuaries. You can just stay in the middle of the parvis, look around, and be awe-filled by its sole appearance.
Here are the 360-degree images of the Sanctuaries (try to swipe the image to see more parts):
The parvis of Rocamadour Sanctuaries can make you feel like you’re in a castle courtyard. You’ll find some gothic stucco works, frescoes, beautiful iron gates, crenellations, and things that can transport visitors’ imaginations back to the distant past.
To the west of the parvis, you can find the staircase leading to Notre-Dame Chapel. And across the Notre-Dame Chapel, you’ll see the pathway to the Sanctuaries’ balcony—one of the unmissable places to go to in Rocamadour.
Why? Because a scenic view of the Alzou valley and the Sanctuaries’ witch-hat turret awaits on the balcony. Indeed, it’s the perfect spot to get a photo souvenir/selfie on Rocamadour.
Churches and chapels dating back to medieval times are marvelous works of art! One of the most beautiful churches you must behold is the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Its stained glass windows have beauty no words can describe.
Reason #3 — Locate Legendary Objects
You should not hurry to the balcony when you make it to the parvis of Rocamadour’s Sanctuaries.
I know seeing phenomenal views and the witch-hat turret sounds exciting! But, you should not miss discovering the fascinating legendary item in the parvis.
There’s nothing much spectacular about this legendary item, though. It is just the story behind it is a part of Rocamadour’s magical experience—which is why you should visit this sacred village.
The legendary item is called the Durandal Sword. And you can find it puncturing the rocky cliff wall above the portal of Notre Dame chapel at the second level of the parvis.
Legends say the Durandal Sword was a God-given weapon to defend France from invaders. And when Saracens invaded France, the swordbearer named Roland used the Durandal Sword to drive off 400,000 enemy soldiers.
When Roland knew he would be captured by the enemy, he prayed to the archangel Michael. He wished the sword to be cast somewhere the enemies couldn’t reach. This way, the sword could not be used against France.
Miraculously, the Durandal Sword flew hundreds of kilometers away from the battlefield. And there, at the cliffs of Rocamadour, it landed.
The priests and locals of Rocamadour may have just made the story up. But, still, isn’t it one good story to wonder about when exploring Rocamadour?
Reason #4 — Explore The Medieval Village
What makes Rocamadour worth visiting not only to Christians? It’s Rocamadour’s medieval village or Cité Médiévale. Rocamadour’s quaint houses, cobblestone lanes, arches, and more buildings on the hillside will set you on a taking-pictures-spree!
Actually, it’s not only the Sanctuaries and Cité Médiévale. There are more. Rocamadour has a palace, another hamlet (l’Hospitalet), and even animal parks—we will discuss each as we go along.
For now, let’s focus on Rocamadour’s medieval village, Cité Médiévale. But first, here are maps to show you an overview of the overall attractions in Rocamadour:
Note: The long line highlight indicates the route to see the main attractions in Rocamadour (Cité Médiévale portion). Here’s more information about the line highlights:
- Yellow: Cité Médiévale main street
- Orange: Grand Staircase
- Red: The Chemin de Croix (Way of the cross)
- Purple: Way back to l’Hospitalet
For wanderers, Instagrammers, architecture enthusiasts, and old souls, I’m sure Cité Médiévale is surely the primary reason they’ll visit Rocamadour. (I know because I’m one of them. It is why I love writing about places like Rocamadour! 😀 )
Well, it is all because places like Cité Médiévale let you see a kind of beauty not so usual nowadays, giving a sense of escapism… How good it is to forget our “reality, problems, and worries” for a while? It’s escapism, and I think you also love that!
You will already feel escapism before entering Cité Médiévale, right along the “Sacred Way,” thanks to a breathtaking view of Cité Médiévale from the path plus the quaint houses built along the sides.
The Sacred Way is the pedestrian path that connects l’Hospitalet to Cité Médiévale (labeled Au Fond de la côte in Google Maps.)
You’ll feel that you’re not in the 21st century when you enter Cité Médiévale. Why? Because it is car-free, and the structures are straight out of a movie set in the middle ages!
In addition, as you walk along, instead of seeing skyscrapers jutting into the sky, you’ll find the Bishop’s Castle sitting at the clifftop. That’s mostly the view when you look up while you stroll in the village’s main streets: Rue de la Couronnerie and Rue Roland le Preux.
If you have a lot of free time, you can challenge yourself to find all the 7 gates of Cité Médiévale. Here are their names and clue about where you can find them:
- Porte Hugon (The Hugon gate) – gate near Rocamadour Village intersection
- Porte Basse (The Lower gate) – along the village main street
- Porte Salmon or (The Salmon gate) – another gate along the village’s main street
- Porte Cabilliere (Cabilliere gate) – village’s southernmost gate
- Porte du Figuier (The Fig-Tree gate) – entrance from Sacred Way from l’Hospitalet Village
- Porte Saint-Martial (Saint-Martial gate) – gateway to the Sanctuaries.
- Porte Sainte (Holy door) – passage to Chemin de Ronde from the Sanctuaries
Near the southmost part of Cité Médiévale along its main street, you can find the 216-step Great Staircase of Rocamadour. It is where the pilgrims start their repentant act before they venerate the Black Madonna.
Believe it or not, the pilgrims during the middle ages used their knees to climb the stairs. However, today, it is now discouraged. Pilgrim or not, you may go up using your feet (at least with reverence).
By the way, if you want to experience escapism (escape from life and let not life flee from you), the fairytale town of Colmar is the one you must see.
Reason #5 — Discover Historical Landmarks
The Spiritual and historical attractions and beautiful experiences in Rocamadour extend up to the top of the cliff above the Sanctuaries and Cité Médiévale. If you are looking for a destination with lots of things to do, Rocamadour won’t let you down!
Overlooking the Cité Médiévale and the Sanctuaries, you can find the Castle of Rocamadour (Château de Rocamadour), built to protect the Sanctuaries below it. It was built in the 14th century but was modified several times in the past.
Château de Rocamadour’s two ramparts attest to those modifications. They were once connected to each other, and medieval guards moved freely from one end to another.
You can enter the ramparts and walk through on top you want. Pretend that you’re the medieval guards that spot enemies approaching Rocamadour.
At the top, you’ll see even more scenic scenery of the Alzou valley. Personally, I like the view of the Alzou valley from above. The white limestones making up the edges of the forested Alzou valley are just spectacular.
Of course, the view from the ramparts of Château de Rocamadour includes the Cité Médiévale and the Sanctuaries!
Château de Rocamadour is open all year round. You can enter the ramparts from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm with an admission fee of 2 EUR/adult.
If you’re currently in Cité Médiévale and wondering about getting to Château de Rocamadour, you have two options. You can use the elevators or walk.
You can check again the maps I showed you to see where the elevators in Rocamadour are. Or you may check their exact location in Google Maps using this link.
However, suppose you want to get to Château de Rocamadour from Cité Médiévale by foot. In that case, you must first get to the Sanctuaries’ parvis through the Great Staircase.
Then, you should find and enter a portal labeled “Chemin de Croix” (Way of the Cross) in the Parvis (Porte Saint-Martial). Chemin de Croix is an inclined path to the top of the cliff linking the Sanctuaries and Château de Rocamadour.
If you are unfamiliar with the story of the Passion of Jesus, Chemin de Croix has shrines that should give you insights into this and into the faith of the Christians. Sometimes pilgrims stop at each shrine to meditate and pray.
Also, in Chemin de Croix, you’ll find a quarry built like a temple that depicts the image of Christ after He died on the cross. The cave is called Grotte du Saint-Sépulcre, signaling that the Way of the Cross is almost finished.
The Cross of Jerusalem awaits you at the end of Chemin de Croix. It is a beautiful cross embellished with curvy metals said to have been brought to Rocamadour from Israel by the pilgrims.
You can go behind the Cross of Jerusalem to see breathtaking views of the Alzou valley.
Rocamadour has many religious landmarks. If these are the kinds of landmarks you want to see in France, you must see Reims. The Reims cathedral where the kings of France were crowned for many generations!
Reason #6 — Behold Breathtaking Views
Surely, the views from the Château de Rocamadour, the Cross of Jerusalem, and the balcony of the Sanctuaries are scenic. However, they’re not the only places you can find such scenery.
In fact, the views from other parts of Rocamadour are much more stunning! It is, especially that Cité Médiévale and Château de Rocamadour are seen from those vantage points. For me, these awe-inspiring views are one of the best reasons you should visit Rocamadour.
The vantage points in Rocamadour are best to visit during the Golden Hour. Just perfect timing just after you explore the Cité Médiévale, Sanctuaries, and Château de Rocamadour during the day.
I will no longer make you wonder where they are. Here are the three vantage points you must visit when visiting Rocamadour (click the links to see the exact location in Google Maps):
Of the three vantage points of Rocamadour, the vantage point in the hamlet of l’Hospitalet is the most accessible. Yet, it is also the farthest from Cité Médiévale.
The vantage point in l’Hospitalet is also one of the best spots to watch the Hot Air Balloon festival in Rocamadour. The festival takes place every last weekend of September. During that time, more or less 30 hot air balloons arise from Alzou valley, making Rocamadour look more fantastic.
The vantage point of Cité Médiévale is near the Hôtel Restaurant Le Belvédère. You should be able to see a stunning view of Cité Médiévale, a few-minute walk from the parking lot in l’Hospitalet.
Le Coin Du Photographe or the Photographer’s Corner is the next accessible vantage point of Rocamadour. It lies in between Cité Médiévale and l’Hospitalet along the Les Esclargies road.
The Photographer’s Corner is the best spot to see Chateau de Rocamadour perched obviously above the Cité Médiévale. Here, you’ll see how narrow Cité Médiévale is and how spectacular it is built on the cliffside.
You can reach the Photographer’s Corner of Rocamadour within less than 10 minutes of walking or 5 minutes of driving from l’Hospitalet or Château de Rocamadour. This vantage point has its own parking space; you don’t have to worry about parking along the road.
Croix de Cufelle, the Rocamadour viewpoint across the Alzou valley from Cité Médiévale/l’Hospitalet, will require some hiking to reach. If you have hiking experience, you can get to Croix de Cufelle within 30 minutes from P5.
Here is the map to further guide you with direction:
The view of Cité Médiévale from Croix de Cufelle is totally unique from the first two vantage points mentioned. Here, you’ll see an almost perpendicular view of Cité Médiévale.
The hiking trail to Croix de Cufelle isn’t well established, and there are no markings yet. Better to use GPS/Komoot/Google Maps to navigate. Here’s some advice from Google Maps:
Great view of the city and worth the short hike. The way is not marked on maps. Park in P5 and then walk towards the city. Cross over the bridge and follow the path up the hill on the other side. The way into the path is fairly hidden. When you see a stone wall 5 meters on your right, look left and walk down a stoney way. You will know you are on the right path when you see red marks on the rock. The rest of the way is marked with these red marks. Don’t try and shortcut up the hill. It is very slippery and loose footing. Enjoy.Tom Sheridan
If you are looking for a city with scenic views, you should check out Lyon. Its beautiful church stands on a hilltop overlooking the town. The panorama on top of the church’s tower includes the French Alps on a clear sunny day.
Reason #7 — Watch Equestrian Show At Parc Durandal
From the ramparts of Château de Rocamadour and the vantage points we discussed previously, you can only spot small villages, hills, and forests nearby. It will make you realize that despite the region’s thousand-year history, Rocamadour is still the countryside.
In a way, it’s a refreshing sight, especially when it is summer and the surrounding forests are lush and verdant. It can be the view you’re looking for if you feel tired of city life.
However, did you know that Rocamadour will let you have an extraordinary countryside experience? You can find it in Parc Durandal. It is one of Rocamadour’s theme parks which I think is another reason to visit Rocamadour.
Parc Durandal is a medieval theme park where you can find farm animals, horses, blacksmiths, huts, and so on. There are also pony rides! Come to Rocamadour for Parc Durandal to feel that you’re totally away from the city and be transported back to the middle ages.
What makes Parc Durandal special is their medieval plays featuring spectacular equestrian stunts and fights. Their performances have amusing off-beat humor that makes the experience so much fun.
The last time I checked, they portrayed the life of Roland, the bearer of the legendary Durandal Sword. But as far as I know, they change the theme with the season.
The characters are in full-medieval attire, holding real swords and wearing metal armors. If you like watching movies set in the middle ages, you’ll be happy to watch their plays!
Their presentation is in French, though. But, don’t worry! The storyline is simple to follow, even if you only speak English or your native language.
You can still enjoy the show, especially with the humor and thrilling action as the main entertaining factor.
Before you come, read the Parc Durandal schedule announcements on their official website. The page is French, so you may need a browser with a translation function to read it in English.
Parc Durandal is located only a few-minute walk from Château de Rocamadour. I recommend visiting Parc Durandal after Cité Médiévale for continuous time-transporting experience.
Reason #8 — See Spectacular Birds Performances in Rocher des Aigles
Another reason to visit Rocamadour lies several steps west of Parc Durandal. It’s called Rocher des Aigles, and more spectacular shows await here! If you like animals, specifically birds, Rocher des Aigles is the place you must see.
In a nutshell, Rocher des Aigles is an ornithological park dedicated to protecting the birds of prey. It is an institution that provides animal welfare, spreads awareness, and creates sustainability programs for these birds.
The people working in Rocher des Aigles facilitate breeding and training the birds of prey. Also, educating the people about facts and shared responsibility of preserving the birds.
When you visit Rocher des Aigles, you’ll learn about different birds, like falcons, owls, parrots, eagles, cockatoos, chimangos, and more. The learning experience is not like a boring museum but a zoo with large aviaries similar to their natural habitat.
You’ll meet the beautiful birds and learn about them through the trail information boards. Yes, there is a trail you can follow in Rocher des Aigles bringing you on a journey of the life of the birds in the park.
The trail in Rocher des Aigles starts in the breeding rooms, where you can see cute newborn chicks. It ends with the presentation of the birds—the part (the unmissable experience in Rocamadour) in which you can see the birds perform naturally.
The last part reminds me of the cartoon show I watched every day—Pokemon. Well, if you think there will be a bird fight, no, it’s not that! LOL. You’ll get what I mean when you see the trainer command the bird to fly and do tricks.
You’ll marvel at the Art of Falconry performed during the presentation. In fact, this Art of Falconry is listed in UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage. If you’re lucky, you can witness a peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest animal, do its spectacle.
Do you want to go to Rocamadour now to see the birds in Rocher des Aigles?
Rocher des Aigles is open every day from April 1 to September 30. It has irregular opening hours, however. But, surely, there will be bird performances/shows at 2:30 pm and 4:00 pm throughout the summer season. The entry fee is 11 EUR/adult.
I recommend you check the website of Rocher des Aigles before you visit. All the visiting information you need to know is indicated there.
Reason #9 — Play With Monkeys In The Monkey Forest
The location of Rocamadour in the country is another reason why Rocamadour is so worthy of visiting.
Rocamadour may be far from major cities in France, which makes it not so easy to reach, but the area within and around Rocamadour is just fantastic! Being at the heart of the Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park, Rocamadour lets you not only see breathtaking vistas but also wildlife!
Aside from the Birds of Prey and their incredible shows in Rocher des Aigles, you can also meet cute monkeys in Rocamadour. Monkeys have their own forest in Rocamadour, and it’s called La Forêt des Singes (or Monkey Forest)!
Like Rocher des Aigles, La Forêt des Singes is dedicated to preserving animals. But, instead of birds, La Forêt des Singes takes care of monkeys—Barbary macaques, to be particular.
Barbary macaque monkeys are primarily found in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria. They are also found in areas in Morocco and Gibraltar.
La Forêt des Singes conducts ethological research about the Barbary macaques, spreads public awareness, and reintroduces them to their original habitats. This institution knows much about Barbary macaque as they have been studying these monkeys since 1974.
When you visit, the guides that will accompany you will share many fascinating facts they discovered about Barbary macaques. They do the information-sharing during the feeding session of the Barbary macaque (every 45 minutes).
Of course, you’ll see Barbary macaque monkeys during your visit! More than 150 Barbary macaques in La Forêt des Singes, and they roam around the vast 20 hectares of forest. Sometimes, they even approach you and do funny tricks, like, stealing your snacks!
Typically, visitors can finish the 1.3-kilometer trail in the La Forêt des Singes within 1.5 hours.
Visiting La Forêt des Singes can be a good idea when the weather is fine. Not only will you see a unique species of monkeys. But also, you will be able to forest bath, and be touched by nature!
La Forêt des Singes is open every day from the last week of March to early November. The park’s opening/closing hours are irregular, but it is always accessible from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm. Entry is 9.5 EUR/adult.
Before you come, read the practical information from the official website of La Forêt des Singes. All that you’ll need to know is indicated on the page.
You can find La Forêt des Singes east of Rocamadour hamlet of l’Hospitalet. La Forêt des Singes is only a 7-to-10-minute walk from the viewpoint of Rocamadour in l’Hospitalet.
Reason #10 — Numerous Caves Around Rocamadour
As discussed previously, aside from historical importance, location makes Rocamadour worth visiting.
Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park has a lot of spectacular caves, and visiting Rocamadour, in the middle of this park, lets you have quick access to these caves. Believe it or not, there’s even a prehistoric cave in the hamlet of l’Hospitalet!
If you’re a nature lover and discovering underground beauty and mystery excites you, these caves within and around Rocamadour can be your reason to visit Rocamadour.
Of all the fascinating caves, in Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park the three nearest to Rocamadour are:
- Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles
- Grottes de Lacave
- Gouffre de Padirac
You may need to rent a car to visit two of them from Rocamadour. Let’s discuss each now.
The first underground wonder that awaits you in Rocamadour is Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles. It is the cave in the hamlet of l’Hospitalet, a 3-minute-walk northwest of Cité Médiévale vantage point.
Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles, as its name suggests, is a cave that bears witness to some prehistoric activities. Spectacular stalagmites and stalactites are found inside.
But what makes it fascinating are the markings and paintings of the early Homosapien in the cave’s rock formations, dating back to the Gravettian period. That’s 33,000 to 21,000 years BP (before present)!
We can consider Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles a hidden gem in l’Hospitalet because, in a sense, it’s literally hidden behind the houses in the hamlet. However, it won’t be hard to find as it now has a visible landmark (see below):
Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles is a relatively small cave that takes only 45 minutes to finish the tour. The entry fee is 8 EUR/adult.
Opening hours of Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles are irregular. Still, you should be able to access the cave from the 2nd week of April to September, from 10:30 am to 4:15 pm. Check the official website of Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles for complete information.
By visiting Rocamadour and going to these caves, you’ll realize that mother nature is really the “greatest artist.” You’ll believe me when you enter Grottes de Lacave, an awe-inspiring cave, 15-t0-17-minute drive northwest of Rocamadour.
150-million-year geologic wonder—all the incredible rock formations await you in Grottes de Lacave!
It is like a gallery of out-of-this-world natural sculptures inside Grottes de Lacave. The cave’s stalagmites and stalactites are like waves of mud and earth tentacles spectacularly frozen in time.
As the rock formations glow using the light installations, the underground lake below them reflects their image. The scenery is something that will just compel you to take pictures (no flash, please!)
The unmissable and most beautiful part of the Grottes de Lacave is the cavern lit with ultraviolet light. The whole place is phosphorescent, and seeing it is a totally jaw-dropping magical experience.
Take a glimpse at the view inside Grottes de Lacave:
Grottes de Lacave has irregular opening hours month by month. At the minimum, Grottes de Lacave is open from the second week of February to the second week of November, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The entry fee is 12 EUR/adult.
Check the official website of Grottes de Lacave for complete visiting information.
Last but not least…
Of the three caves easily accessible from Rocamadour, Gouffre de Padirac is the farthest cave from the pilgrimage village. From l’Hospitalet or Rocamadour, it takes 25 minutes of driving to reach Gouffre de Padirac.
However, do not let the distance discourage you from going to Gouffre de Padirac! It is one of the most famous caves not only in Rocamadour and Causses du Quercy but perhaps in all of France!
Did you know? 400,000 visitors come to Gouffre de Padirac yearly. And like Grottes de Lacave, Gouffre de Padirac is filled with stunning rock formations.
Cauliflower-shaped and Saracen’s Tent stalactites are the two most spectacular rock formations inside Gouffre de Padirac. And without a doubt, you’ll marvel when you see them.
The word “gouffre” is a French word, obviously. But if you know the translation in English, you already have a clue what makes Gouffre de Padirac special.
Yes, “gouffre” translates to “chasm” and Gouffre is a chasm like no other in France. It is a circular chasm that opens into its cave system 103 meters (338 feet) below its 33-meter diameter (108 feet) mouth. Some even dub Gouffre de Padirac as “one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena of the Massif Central.”
It also has a subterranean river system where you can have a boat ride passing through different below-the-surface wonders.
Gouffre de Padirac has irregular opening hours. At the minimum, the cave is accessible from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm from April to the second week of November. Anyhow, entry passes can only be acquired through booking online.
Is Rocamadour Worth Visiting
I salute you if you read all my 10 reasons to visit Rocamadour all the way from the beginning! If you did not skip a thing, I believe you don’t need to read my answer to the question “is Rocamadour Worth Visiting” anymore.
But, just to summarize everything:
Yes! Absolutely, Rocamadour is worth visiting! Rocamadour is packed with beautiful experiences, as Cité Médiévale, Rocher des Aigles, Parc Durandal and Gouffre de Padirac being the best ones to see and try. Pilgrims, history & architecture enthusiasts, and nature & animal lovers will undoubtedly enjoy Rocamadour.
However, Rocamadour isn’t the only one worth visiting you can find in France. Primarily that Rocamadour is located in Southern France, it has many rivals regarding historical importance and physical appearance.
Some that I can mention and also recommend to visit are the following:
|Gordes||A scenic hilltop village with a view of the picturesque Luberon Regional Nature Park.|
|Eze||A romantic hilltop village with an overlooking view of the coast of the French Riviera|
|Rocamadour||A breathtaking pilgrimage site and historical village in Lot Department|
|Moustiers Sainte-Marie||A village sitting by the foothills and nearest to the spectacular Verdon Gorge (Grand Canyon of France)|
|Aigues Mortes||A walled village with imposing gates located in the wildlife-rich Camargue Regional Nature Park|
|Carcassonne||The village/town with 2 preserved medieval walls and 2 UNESCO sites.|
|Chamonix||The village/town with the most panoramic views of the Alps in the South of France.|
|Domme||A quaint village in Dordogne Valley known for its honey-colored houses|
|Saint-Paul de Vence||A village in the French Riviera, home to countless artworks tucked in its preserved medieval narrow lanes.|
|Saint-Cirq Lapopie||A charming village with half-timbered houses overlooking Lot River.|
Is Rocamadour a UNESCO site?
Sometimes we also consider the UNESCO status of a place as a deciding factor to visit or not.
As somebody who loves discovering historical places, UNESCO sites are always on top of my priority places to see. Why? Because a UNESCO status often means that a site has preserved value significant for all of us humans.
With all the preserved, historical, religious, culture-filled buildings in Rocamadour, we all wonder: Is Rocamadour a UNESCO site?
The answer is both a YES and a NO. Rocamadour is not a UNESCO site by itself. However, Rocamadour has a historical structure that is a part of a much broader UNESCO site called the “Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.”
The historical Structure in Rocamadour included in Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France UNESCO site(s) is the Basilique Saint-Sauveur et crypte Saint-Amadour, located in Rocamadour’s Sanctuaries.
Lastly, if you are looking for a city with a UNESCO site, I recommend Strasbourg. It is the capital of Europe and has a UNESCO historical district, fairytale spots, and stunning modern buildings—all to feed your hungry wanderlust!
Save it on Pinterest.