11 Things to love about the Dordogne
The Périgord – the ancient name for the Dordogne – is a popular place for a vacation. We reveal 11 things to love about the region of southwest France.
The Dordogne's location means that sunshine is in plentiful supply from April to October. The spring and late summer months are some for enjoying a walking or biking vacation.
There is a lot to choose from in the region thanks to four distinct Périgord areas:
- The Périgord Vert (Green Périgord) offers verdant valleys, numerous rivers and streams
- The Périgord Blanc (White Périgord) is home to the regional capital of Périgueux, limestone plateaux, wide valleys, and meadows.
- The capital of Périgord Pourpre (Purple Périgord) is Bergerac, and the area is famed for its wines
- The Périgord Noir (Black Périgord) gets its name from the dark and dramatic valleys of oak woods and pine.
The Périgord Noir tops the charts for the cliff-top villages Domme and Beynac-et-Cazenac, with a 12th-century castle and to-die-for views; La Roque-Gageac, which is built right into the cliffside; the hilltop Jardins de Marqueyssac with shaded paths and mazes and beguiling Sarlat-la Canéda's picture-perfect medieval buildings and winding streets.
The Dordogne is renowned for its love of food and drink – and boasts a long culinary heritage and a fabulous gastronomic heritage. The Dordogne is also known as France's foie gras, duck, and truffle capital. Every season also brings its outstanding natural larder, including spring's white asparagus, morel mushrooms, strawberries; summer's bounty of fresh fruit; autumn's walnuts, wild cepes girolle mushrooms; and the famed white and black truffles of winter. There is also a great variety of local cheeses, such as Cabécou, made from raw goat's milk, and the soft walnut-liqueur-washed cheese crafted by the monks at Abbaye d'Echourgnac.
There are at least a dozen wines produced in the wider region. Try red or white Bergerac, the elegant red Pécharmant and sweet Monbazillac.
There are traditional markets across the region, but one must-visit is the breath-taking, and eye-popping markets in the tiny capital of Périgueux are a must-see. You can wander between tightly packed trestle tables heavy with such foodie gems as chestnuts, mushrooms, quinces, figs, walnuts, and cheeses. A superb indoor market is found in the town of Sarlat. The celebrated architect, Jean Nouvel, who was born in Sarlat, converted the church with its massive doors into an indoor market. Take a glass lift to the roof for panoramic views over the town.
There are so many places to recommend in the Dordogne. Sarlat, in Périgord Noir, with its medieval streets, ancient buildings, and markets, should be high on your list.
There are so many caves, including the Grottes and Gouffres in the Vallée de la Vézère. For example, the Grotte de Rouffignac is well worth visiting to see the hundreds of animal paintings, and at La Madeleine, there is a troglodyte village. Don't miss the Lascaux caves at Montignac. Lascaux II, a replica of the original, is located nearby and displays art from the original site, retracing the history of the cave and explaining the artist's techniques of 17,000 years ago.
To go way, way back in time
The prehistoric site of Régourdou is found near Lascaux, located high on a hill overlooking Montignac. It was discovered as recently as the 1950s and is considered one of Europe's most important Neanderthal sites.
For so, so many castles
The region is famed for its castles. It's said there are 1001 castles, and you'll find them dotted on hills and overlooking the River Dordogne… In fact, everywhere!
As well as being a perfect place for a walking vacation or a Dordogne biking tour, you can try other activities such as canoeing and kayaking on the meandering River Dordogne. Enjoy some castle spotting ( very easy in this region) as you paddle. The River Vézere also heads past ancient caves and archaeological sites, with many more castles to admire along the way. Canoe rentals are easily found around the main towns of the region.