Called the home of 1001 castles and a French gastronomy center, the Dordogne River Valley, in the Perigord region of France, is perfect for a family holiday or romantic escape. Easily accessible through Bordeaux from Paris, it’s a great way to experience the French countryside.
Whether you’re interested in French history, new culinary experiences, sports like biking or fishing, exploring the Dordogne Region will immerse you in the many facets of French culture.
Due to the region’s picturesque vistas and many UNESCO world heritage sites, the Dordogne has been featured in several movies, including Chocolat with Johnny Depp, Ever After, with Drew Barrymore, and most recently, Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson. There is even a yearly film festival celebrating the many contributions the region offers to movie buffs.
Here are some of my favorite things to do and see around this extraordinary part of France.
Sarlat-la-Caneda Since 1962, Sarlat has been a protected French Heritage site. An utterly intact village, showing the progress of Medieval, Renaissance, and 17-century architectural styles. Fortunately, the town was spared from an early demise due to its allegiance to the French king during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). Contributing to the preservation, no in-town train station was built, so the charming village has kept its winding cobblestone streets and authentic architecture for us to enjoy. As the region’s cultural center, there are many festival days in Sarat, with large markets drawing craftspeople and farmers from the neighboring countryside. These markets are a great place to find unique souvenirs to bring home and local Culinary delicacies.
1001 Chateaux While this may be an exaggeration, legend has it that a saint had a sack of castles and tripped climbing the hills of the Dordogne and spilled château all over the region. In truth, most of the chateaux were built as fortifications during the hundred years war between France and England. Most of these medieval fortresses are in ruin. However, several offer guided visits, and a few have been turned into beautiful hotels. Some of the most beautifully restored are; Beynac, Castelnaud, and Hautefort.
Les Milandes One of the chateaux, in particular, caught the eye of Josephine Baker. In 1947, she purchased the Château Les Milandes, the neighboring hilltop village, and the surrounding area. She created a home for her 12 adopted children and a resort for French and American tourists after World War II. Today, you can visit her Château, which has been faithfully restored by the current owners to its glory years as Josephine Baker’s playground. Within the rooms are tributes and memorabilia from Josephine Baker’s life and career (including the famous Banana Skirt worn at the Folies Bergeres)
Luxe Cuisine The Perigord’s fertile valleys provides many of the delicacies for which France is known. Truffles, chestnuts, wild mushrooms, and foie gras are shipped worldwide to food connoisseurs. While you may not be a fan of these culinary treats, there is no denying the importance of these regional specialties in French cuisine. Intimate truffle hunts and farm tours are available from local producers and are off most tourists’ radar.
Outdoor Activities If your interests lie on the sporty side of things, the area provides excellent water activities, including flyfishing. The Dordogne river is classified as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, so there is an abundance of rainbow trout, salmon, and black bass. Winding along the riverbank is a former rail line turned green route that stretches about 15 miles. The path is perfect for a run or bike ride(rentals are available in Sarlat). In summer, camping, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing are all popular recreation activities along the banks.
Explore the Prehistoric This region is also home to some of the very earliest inhabitants of Europe. The caves at Lascaux are filled with Neanderthal cave paintings. In Tursac, take the kids to discover a reconstructed Neolithic Village and romp life-sized dinosaurs that once roamed the area.
Rocamadour Last, but certainly not least, a trip to the Dordogne would not be complete without a visit to Rocamadour. A village clinging to the side of a cliff was a stop on the Santiago de Compostela’s pilgrimage route. It’s necessary to take an elevator from the parking area to the top part of the monastery and church for the best views across the valley. For views of Rocamadour itself, go to nearby L’Hospitalet.
Are you ready to journey into the “real France”? Exploring the Dordogne Region is one of the best ways to experience the sights, smells, and tastes of authentic French culture and cuisine. This is one of my favorite parts of the country and I’d love to help you plan an amazing vacation outside of Paris. To learn more about this area or any other corner of France, set up a complimentary call with me HERE or just send an email to email@example.com. I can’t wait to help you plan your next French getaway.
At Gourmet Adventures Travel Co., I craft culinary getaways for travelers who love to eat well and yearn to truly savor the authentic side of their destination. From a river cruise through Provencal wine country to a journey through the heady spice markets and medinas of Morocco, you'll taste your way through the world's most enchanting landscapes.