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I fell in love with the Dordogne on my week-long visit last year to France. It’s a region that took me by surprise and enchanted me with historic villages and charming chateau. This guide to visiting The Dordogne is all of my favorites from my trip.

The Dordogne is a region often overlooked by American tourists, perhaps because many consider visiting other regions of France first like Provence or Normandy. But the Dordogne should not be skipped, it’s an incredible place of history, grand landscape, and lots to do. It makes for a wonderful destination after Bordeaux as this is the closest major city.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne

For me, this region is quintessential France. It has it all and you can easily spend a proper week or so road-tripping the region. With its rich history, natural beauty, and gastronomic treasures, the Dordogne continues to be a celebrated destination that offers a truly immersive French experience.

Why is the Dordogne Famous?

The Dordogne region in France is famous for its captivating blend of prehistoric heritage, medieval charm, and culinary excellence. I know travelers come to explore the renowned Lascaux Caves, stroll through picturesque villages like Sarlat-la-Canéda, and savor the region’s iconic cuisine.

If you’re considering your time in the Dordogne, read on for how to spend your time, where to stay, and more in the Dordogne.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in the Dordogne:

  1. Le Petit Manoir, for best historic, luxury stay in Sarlat
  2. Hotel Montaigne, for the best modern stay in Sarlat
  3. Domaine de Rochebois, for the best luxury countryside retreat

For more on how to make the most of your time, don’t miss my in-depth guide to Sarlat-la-Canéda!

A Guide to the Best Things to Do in the Dordogne

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne

Helpful Travel Tips for Visiting Dordogne France

Getting There

To reach the Dordogne Valley, you can fly into Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport, which is the closest major airport to the region. From there, you can rent a car and drive east to the picturesque Dordogne Valley. Bordeaux to the Dordogne Valley is approximately a 2 to 2.5-hour drive, depending on your specific destination within the Dordogne region. Having a car is an absolute must for visiting, I always use Discover Cars for the best rates.

Length of Time

I think 5-7 days is the right amount of time for exploring the Dordogne. You can’t do it all in a week but you would get a good sense of the area. It’s quite vast, the third largest area in France, so keep this in mind.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne

Time of Year

The best time to visit the Dordogne region in France is during the spring and early autumn. April to June and September to October offer pleasant weather with mild temperatures, making it ideal for outdoor activities. These months also tend to be less crowded with tourists compared to the peak summer season. However, if you enjoy warmer weather and don’t mind larger crowds, July and August are also popular months for visiting the Dordogne.


Where to Stay in The Dordogne to Visit

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne

One of the most challenging parts of planning a trip to The Dordogne is finding the right area to stay. When I did all of my research, I landed on the most central location of Sarlat-la-Canéda. The town of Sarlat-la-Canéda is in the heart of the valley and has everything you need. You’re minutes from the river, other picturesque towns, and sights. I’ve also included other incredible accommodations that would be worth considering.

Sarlat-la-Canéda Hotels

Other Notable Hotels to Stay At


The Best Villages To Visit in The Dordogne

There are dozens of villages to choose from in the Dordogne when it comes to exploring. I’ve pulled together my top three favorites from this list of the best villages in the Dordogne. Many of the villages in this region are designated Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (which translates to “the most beautiful villages of France”).

Domme

Domme is a picturesque village nestled atop a hill overlooking the Dordogne River, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and charming shops, Domme is a must-visit destination for some of the best views over the Dordogne Valley. There are some great restaurants in town and lots of shops on the main street.

Beynac-et-Cazennac

Nestled along the Dordogne River, the village of Beynac-et-Cazenac is just under the Château de Beynac, a medieval fortress that looms above the village. This village is one of my favorites as it’s so petite but offers wonderful views and a step back in time. Do note that there aren’t many services here in terms of restaurants, more of a historic village to stroll.

La Roque-Gageac

This may be one of the most iconic villages on the Dordogne River, as it is built into the side of the cliffs. It’s dramatic, and right near lots of things to do. On the river’s edge, you’ll find several restaurants and shops lining the street. But don’t forget to make the climb up to the quiet village area.


Incredible Things to Do in Dordogne, France

Taste the Local Cuisine

One of my favorite parts of time in the Dordogne is the chance to experience cuisine, often referred to as Périgord cuisine. Duck and goose play a central role in many traditional dishes, with specialties like duck confit, foie gras, and magret de canard (duck breast). Truffles, both black and white, are highly prized and used seasonally — keep an eye out for black truffle dishes.

The region is also known for its walnut-based products, you’ll see shops everywhere selling these seasonally. Chestnuts, wild mushrooms, and game meats such as venison and wild boar feature prominently in seasonal dishes. It’s such a foodie paradise and there are many Michelin-starred restaurants and cozy local cafes to stop into.

Visit Historic Castles

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne
Château des Milandes

Dordogne is most known for its impressive medieval castles like Château de Castelnaud, Château de Beynac, and Château de Hautefort. All of these are wonderful castles to visit while there, and one other picturesque castle to visit is Château des Milandes. This historic château is renowned for its association with Josephine Baker, the famous American-born French dancer, who once owned the property and spent part of her life here. You can explore the château’s elegant interiors and lush gardens. Be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds.

Get Outdoors in the Dordogne

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne

Paddle along the picturesque Dordogne River, taking in the scenic views and passing by charming villages and dramatic cliffs. It’s one of the best things to do and several places offer kayaks for rent along the river. There are many hikes and other places to go cycling as well if you’re looking to get active. This tour starts in Vitrac and offers guided canoe tours down the river, whereas this kayak rental tour is self-guided.

Explore the Underground Caves and Prehistoric Sites

Lascaux caves in Montignac

The Dordogne region is famous for its network of underground caves and grottoes, many of which are home to prehistoric art and stunning geological formations. The UNESCO Heritage Site of Lascaux caves in Montignac is renowned for its Paleolithic cave paintings, often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistory.” Located in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, Font-de-Gaume is one of the last caves in France with original prehistoric paintings that are still open to the public. The cave features intricate drawings dating back over 17,000 years. There are many UNESCO World Heritage Sites across Périgord Noir, so be sure to carve out some time for this.

See the Candlelight Tour of Les Jardins de Marqueyssac

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne

This might be the best thing to do in the Dordogne. While Les Jardins de Marqueyssac is worth a visit any time of the year to see the exquisite gardens, they do have a special experience. In the summer months, the gardens are open late through night and are filled with two thousand little candles to light the paths. It’s so special and well worth booking tickets in advance.

Visit the Famous Sarlat-la-Caneda Farmer’s Market

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Dordogne

There is not a better market in France than Sarlat’s farmers market. It draws in so many visitors that the town shuts down for market days — do arrive early! The big market is on Saturday morning though there is a seasonal one on Wednesday as well. You’ll find all of the fresh produce and seasonal cuisine here, a great spot to stock up on souvenirs.

See a Few Museums

Visit museums like the Musée National de Préhistoire in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil and the Château de Losse to appreciate the region’s cultural heritage. The Musée National de Préhistoire in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in prehistoric history. Located in the “Capital of Prehistory,” this museum showcases a remarkable collection of artifacts, tools, and artworks from the region’s prehistoric periods.

Take a Day Trip to Rocamadour

If you’re looking for another iconic village in France to visit and doable within a day’s trip, consider Rocamadour in the Lot. It’s one of my favorite villages, somewhere I grew up going. It’s built into the side of the mountain, and so picturesque.

There are so many day trips that can be done for this region. I know people who even go as far as the volcanic mountains of Puy de Sancy and Puy de Dôme, icons of Massif Central.


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PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

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Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

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Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

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Xx,
Jessica

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