Travel Inspiration

Best Cave Art Around the World

Best Cave Art Around the World

Humans are drawn to art like moths to a flame. Before words come chubby hands wrapped around crayons, and wiggly lines and dashes with their own secret meanings. Cave art is no different. Our ancient ancestors saw the world as their canvas, decorating stone walls with tree sap, plant oils, charcoal and ochre. Whether simply for aesthetic purposes or as a form of communication, cave art around the world has left modern humans equal parts perplexed and impressed. There are an incredible 400 or so known sites, dating back tens of thousands of years, but we’ve picked out some of the best. Buckle up and prepare to be launched back in time.


  1. The Altamira Cave Paintings, Spain
  2. Cueva de las Manos, Argentina
  3. Kakadu National Park, Australia
  4. Caves of Lascaux, France


The Altamira Cave Paintings, Spain

The first ever discovery of prehistoric artwork is the perfect place to begin. The Cave of Altamira, in Spain’s Cantabria region, is famous for its burnt orange paintings of bison, which were discovered in 1879 by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola and his daughter Maria (they’ve earned full bragging rights). But with archaeology yet to have fully flourished into widespread study at the time, the origin of these painting was up for debate; Prehistoric humans weren’t yet considered capable of creating complex art, and so experts weren’t sure who to credit. But during the 19th century, travellers discovered more cave art around the world, and Altamira’s beautiful bison were finally attributed to the Ice Age.


Cueva de las Manos, Argentina

For those of us who skipped Spanish lessons, Cueva de las Manos translates to the ‘Cave of Hands’. While handprints are a popular feature of cave art around the world, the ones inside this Patagonian cave sit front and centre. There are over 800 hands in total, as well as scenes of humans (and the animals they ate) which are a fascinating depiction of the daily lives of our ancient ancestors. Research has found that most of the handprints are left-handed, suggesting that most painters used their right hand to hold the bone spray pipe. Even thousands of years ago the right hand remained the most dominant (sorry lefties).


Kakadu National Park, Australia

Today, art is an important expression of cultural identity, and 20,000 years ago, it was no different. In Australia’s Kakadu National Park, rocks are adorned with artwork that reflects the Aboriginal people’s connection to their land and heritage. Known as kunbim, these paintings depict hunting practices and educational stories, enriching today’s visitors with a deeper understanding of those who walked the same ground long ago. Most of these paintings are a vivid red hue due to iron oxide’s durability, but it’s thought that a whole variety of crushed pigments were used. The tools used to create the artworks were varied as well – everything from human hair to reeds and feathers – and they’re still used by Aboriginal people today.


Caves of Lascaux, France

It’s not often that four teenagers make world-famous archaeological discoveries. But in 1940, that’s precisely what happened. In France’s Dordogne region, a group of schoolboys slipped down a fox hole and stumbled upon the Lascaux Caves – imagine their surprise when they were greeted with some of the best-preserved pieces of cave art around the world. The vivid illustrations of horses, bison, bulls and deer seem ready to spring to life, a testament to the prehistoric painter’s skill. To preserve the images from human activity, the cave has been closed to visitors, but incredibly accurate replicas can be viewed nearby.


Written by Evie Buller | Header image by Herve Vincent