More than 1,000 prehistoric paintings dot the newly inducted UNESCO site of Grotte Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc—a cave located around 45 minutes outside of Aubenas, in France’s Rhône-Alpes region—and you will never see them because the landmark closed indefinitely to protect its 30,000-year-old artworks, which are more than twice the age of the famous Lascaux cave paintings.
But visitors can still marvel at the sketches in a full-scale replica cave that opens on April 25, a little more than four miles away from the original.
Scientists relied on 3-D models and scans to create carbon copies of the subterranean structure’s exact dimensions, and also mimicked the Grotte Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc’s humidity, acoustics, and temperature—providing a familiar habitat for the hand-etched reproductions of mammoths, bison, and bears that roam the fake rock walls.
This piece, written by Hannah Sheinberg, first appeared in the April 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow her on Twitter @h_sheinberg.