The Dordogne Valley: what to do, what to see…


Dordogne Valley

Gamle steinbygg og en reise i tiden i Sarlat-la-Canéda
© Thomas321 / Istockphoto - Gamle steinbygg og en reise i tiden i Sarlat-la-Canéda

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 16 February 2023, updated on 1 June 2024

As if suspended in time, life in the Dordogne Valley always seems to pass at holiday pace. You ascend the dizzy heights to the cliff-top village of Rocamadour, listen to unspoilt nature, you visit one cave after another until you reach Lascaux. And, from picturesque roads to Compostela pilgrims’ paths, every stopping point is a geological masterpiece, a UNESCO World Heritage Site or a gastronomic revelation. 

Visits you cannot miss in the Dordogne Valley

Le chateau de Beynac, perché sur les hauteurs de Beynac-et-Cazenac, surplombe la vallée de la Dordogne depuis plus de neuf siècles.
© Lagui - AdobeStock - Le chateau de Beynac, perché sur les hauteurs de Beynac-et-Cazenac, surplombe la vallée de la Dordogne depuis plus de neuf siècles.

• Beynac Castle This stone sentinel, authentic fortified castle of Périgord, is erected at the top of a vertiginous cliff, overlooking the village of Beynac-et-Cazenac and has watched over Dordogne for over nine centuries. To visit the Château de Beynac, is to cross the History of France in the footsteps of Richard Lionheart, Aliénor of Aquitaine, Simon de Montfort and the Hundred Years War. An unforgettable trip in the heart of the Middle Ages.

• The bastide town of Monpazier The canton of Montazier is between Sarlat and Bergerac, not far from Villeneuve sur Lot, Cahors and Lot. Classified as "One of the Most Beautiful Villages of France", it was raised to the rank of "Grand National Site" for its many riches, including the Bastide de Monpazier (thirteenth century), an authentic jewel of medieval architecture, model among the 300 bastides of the southwest.

• The city center of Sarlat The medieval town of Sarlat-la-Canéda is located in the region of New Aquitaine in the department of Dordogne. It is one of the most beautiful cities in France, capital of the Périgord noir. It offers history lovers no less than 66 classified monuments. Étienne de La Boétie, Maurice Rouel and Pierre Janot, Jean Nouvel, Éric Alégret, were born in Sarlat

• The chasm of Padirac The most famous gulf of Europe, is considered as one of the biggest geological curiosities of France. Like Edouard-Alfred Martel who explored it in 1889, you will embark on the underground river, after a vertiginous descent to 103 m, to admire the Great Pendeloque, giant stalactite 60 m high ... You will continue on foot to the Hall of the Grand Dome whose vault rises 94 m high ...

• The cave of Lascaux IV Discovered in 1940 by 4 teenagers, the cave of Lascaux harbors real prehistoric treasures. Degraded by overcrowding, it will be closed in 1963. Since 2016 an identical reconstruction is open for visits, in the heart of the International Center of Parietal Art, at the foot of the hill of Lascaux.

• The Cadouin cloister At almost equal distance between Bergerac and Sarlat, founded in 1115, the abbey of Cadouin there remains only the abbey church, the sacristy and the Romanesque base of the buildings. The flamboyant Gothic cloister dates from the end of the 15th century. The monastic activity of Cadouin was interrupted in 1790 during the French Revolution.

• Hautefort Castle This old medieval fortress was transformed into a pleasure residence in the 17th century. Rare testimony of classical architecture in Périgord, the castle houses a collection of furniture and works of art of the 17th and 18th centuries. It also admires its French gardens classified "Historical Monument" and its English park.

• The gardens of Marqueyssac in Vézac The hanging gardens of Marqueyssac are on the list of "classified sites". Set on a rocky outcrop, this 22-hectare park dominates the valley with its high cliffs. Romantic and picturesque it serves as a haven for an early nineteenth century castle, on more than 6 km of shady walks, lined with 150 000 hand-cut trees, and decorated with belvederes, rock gardens, waterfalls and theaters of greenery ... Splendid !

• The village of Beaumont du Périgord The Bastide de Beaumont, founded in 1272, has been considerably renovated over time. It preserves many rich heritages of the Middle Ages, such as: the fortress church and the Luzier gate, listed as a Historic Monument. On foot or horseback, many hiking trails allow you to walk the surrounding countryside on 100 km marked and easily accessible.

Essential activities in the Dordogne Valley

En canoë ou à la nage, on peut découvrir la vallée de la Dordogne depuis la rivière et admirer de pittoresques village, comme ici : La Roque-Gageac.
© Thomas Launois - AdobeStock - En canoë ou à la nage, on peut découvrir la vallée de la Dordogne depuis la rivière et admirer de pittoresques village, comme ici : La Roque-Gageac.

• Play it Neanderthal at the Préhisto-Parc de Tursac Here is a park that allows you to go back in time ... In the heart of a preserved forest, all along a soundtrack; more than 150 life-size shows will allow you to discover the extraordinary world of dinosaurs, upto the evolution of man with a fully reconstructed Neolithic village. The star of the park: a giant animated T-Rex 9 m long and 6 m high!

• Cool off in the Dordogne and Vézère rivers To cool down by 30 degrees in summer, the Dordogne Valley abounds with lakes, streams, small secret coves and waterfalls. Its beautiful sandy beaches are available for napping, picnics with the family, in all tranquility. Note that the Dordogne is the only river in France to be classified as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

• Going in the footsteps of Cyrano in Bergerac Hercules Savinien de Cyrano, who inspired Edmond Rostand, was born in Paris in 1619. At the age of 19 he joined the regiment of the "French Guards", mainly composed of Musketeers. It was then that he took his name Gascon Cyrano de Bergerac. He handles the sword as much as the pen and that is why Edmond Rostand will make the archetype of Gascon hero. The first performance of the play took place in Paris in 1897 at the Porte Saint Martin theater.

• Recover your memory at the National Museum of Prehistory at Eyzies de Tayac Located near the main sanctuaries of cave art, this museum is as much a place of memory for the history of prehistory, a conservatory of objects, a center of studies and a place of dissemination of knowledge in constant evolution. Since its creation in the early twentieth century, it has become a reference point for prehistorians and visitors alike.

• Marivauder on the heights of Domme About ten kilometers south of Sarlat, Domme is perched on a vertiginous cliff offering an exceptional view over the Dordogne valley and the most beautiful neighboring villages of La Roque-Gageac and Beynac-et-Cazenac. This bastide with golden stones marries with success architectural, natural and gastronomic heritage of the Périgord Noir.

• Shopping in Issigeac Issigeac is a medieval city whose streets wind like a snail, resurrecting the past. It is a village rich in history and architecture where artists and craftsmen have made their home. Its Sunday market is unavoidable. Small local business in the winter, it occupies almost the entire village in summer. You will certainly find your happiness.

• Immerse yourself in the secrets of the cellars of Monbazillac A true wine-growing nucleus in the heart of the Périgord Pourpre and 5 km from Bergerac, the geographical area of Monbazillac is inserted on terraces and hillsides that extend from the left bank of the Dordogne to the right bank of the Gardonnette. This area which covers the territory of 5 communes represents a quarter of the bergeraçois vineyard. During your visit you will discover Eocene and Oligocene, a molasses, and many other secrets about the wine of the region.

• Follow in the footsteps of Josephine Baker at the Château des Milandes Built in the 15th century, the Château des Milandes is still inhabited by the soul of Joséphine Baker, who lived there for almost 30 years. A Missouri-American militant of equality among peoples, star of the music hall and a decorated resistance fighter of the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor, she adopted 12 children and created the "Rainbow Tribe".


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