Dordogne – Périgord

The Dordogne is known throughout the world for its prehistoric sites, medieval villages, lush vineyards and exceptional, renowned and refined gastronomy.
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Dordogne is a department in the French region of New Aquitaine.

The department of Dordogne is also called by its old name: Périgord. This name dates back to Roman times and represented the ancient province, designating a territory larger than today’s Dordogne. During the creation of the departments at the time of the French Revolution, Dordogne was named after the main river that flows through it.

Today, Périgord and Dordogne are synonymous and designate the same territory, linked to the values of authenticity to which the inhabitants are attached. In general, today Périgord evokes more wines and gastronomy while Dordogne is more associated with nature, greenery and outdoor activities.

The Dordogne boasts an exceptional prehistoric heritage and, after Paris, is the French department with the highest number of monuments and historical sites, 15 of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also home to a multitude of medieval villages and at least 1,000 castles, water mills and lush valleys famous for their picturesque landscapes.

Best places to visit in Dordogne

Rich in history, the Dordogne region is a popular French destination for holidays or a long weekend getaway in search of mighty castles, lush green spaces, vineyards and natural curiosities.

Beynac Castle

1Rte du Château, 24220 Beynac-et-Cazenac, France (Website)

The fortified castle of Beynaz is the most authentic in the Périgord: an emblematic feudal fortress, erected from 1115 on its rocky peak overlooking the Dordogne.

From the defensive rigour of its 12th-century donjon to the Renaissance staircase, via the 15th-century State Palace, the 13th-century kitchen and the barbican, its exceptional state of preservation offers you an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Middle Ages.

Between heaven and earth, from an underground prison, 152 metres above the village of Beynac, you will experience an unforgettable view of the magnificent valley of the 5 castles.

La Roque Gageac

224250 La Roque-Gageac, France

Just 12 km from Sarlat, a unique visit to one of the most beautiful villages in France awaits you. With its brown tiles, picturesque roofs, old-world charm and breathtaking landscapes, a walk through the village of La Roque-Gageac is an unforgettable moment.

The view of the village overlooking the placid course of the Dordogne river, with its golden houses, is absolutely unmissable.

The gardens of the Manor of Eyrignac

3Eyrignac, 24590 Salignac-Eyvigues, France (Website)

With its flower gardens, Eyrignac is a jewel of the Périgord Noir, near Sarlat. Surrounding the 17th-century manor house is the French-style garden, where the play of perspectives and the mastery of nature showcase boxwood arabesques, gushing fountains, water mirrors, lawns and the collection of sculptural plants hand-pruned by Eyrignac’s gardeners.

A completely different, rural, intimate and colourful atmosphere reigns in the Jardin des Sources. The walk ends in the White Rose Garden, with its garlands of flowers and flower beds, which offers a unique view of the Dordogne landscapes.

Périgueux

The capital of the Dordogne, Périgueux is about an hour from Sarlat and the main sites and monuments of the Périgord. Its location offers visitors pleasant walks on the greenway traced along its banks.

Best known for its extraordinary Saint-Front cathedral, this city, labelled as a City of Art and History, has an exceptional historical and architectural heritage and will even take you back to Gallo-Roman times, with the remains of ancient Vesunna.

Sarlat-la-Canéda

Sarlat is by far one of the best-preserved medieval towns in France . With 66 historical monuments, Sarlat has a very high density of historical and medieval buildings, which wind their way along its cobbled streets with blond stone walls.

As you stroll through the medieval alleyways, observe the architectural richness of its monuments, all worth photographing. This city of art and history is also the first protected area in France to be restored thanks to the 1962 Malraux law.

Because of its ancient and authentic beauty, since 1928 famous film-makers have decided to use the medieval settings of Sarlat as the filming location for many cult films such as Joan of Arc in 1998 directed by Luc Besson or The Covenant of Wolves by Christophe Grams, to name but a few.

Bergerac

The city of Bergerac is located halfway between Sarlat and Bordeaux, on the banks of the Dordogne. It owes its strength to the trade of its wines, known throughout the world, as in the case of Monbazillac, a sweet wine that goes perfectly with Périgord foie gras.

The city’s remarkable historical and architectural heritage has earned it the title of Capital of the Purple Périgord with the label of City of Art and History, a must during a stay in the Dordogne.

In the heart of the city, strolling through the alleyways and squares, you are sure to arrive at Place Pélissière, where you will find the famous statue of Cyrano de Bergerac, the protagonist of the famous 1897 play/tragedy by French dramatic poet Edmond Rostand.

Castelnaud Castle

724250 Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, France (Website)

The fortified castle of Castelnaud, classified a Historical Monument in 1966, is built on a rocky spur and offers a magnificent panorama over the Dordogne valley.

It has housed the Museum of Warfare in the Middle Ages since 1985. A collection of weapons and armour, life-size reproductions of war machines (mangoneau, trebuchet, couillard, pierrière, breastplate) will introduce you to the art of warfare in the Middle Ages and to some aspects of the life of the lords of Castelnaud, with its medieval-inspired garden and furnished basement.

Caves of Lascaux

8Avenue de Lascaux, 24290 Montignac-Lascaux, France (Website)

Classified as a historical monument, Lascaux is one of the most remarkable prehistoric sites in Europe thanks to the exceptionally well-preserved condition of its wall representations dating back to 15,000 BC: they depict horses, bulls, deer and many ancient symbols.

Following irreversible damage caused by mass tourism in the original cave, a reconstruction called Lascaux 2 opened its doors to the general public in 1983. An international touring exhibition (Lascaux 3) complements this with the parts of the cave not reproduced from Lascaux 2.

Today, the very faithful Lascaux 4 allows visitors to admire all the works in the original cave. It is a true journey through time through traditions and prehistoric art, a facsimile that reproduces 90% of the paintings, created ad hoc to preserve the original cave and restore conditions favourable to its preservation.

Don’t miss a walk in Montignac, a charming town on the edge of the Vézère, with the ruins of an imposing feudal castle, dominating a maze of medieval streets where you can discover beautiful residences.

Cave of Proumeyssac

© Dordogne Tourism

The largest cave in the Périgord bears the sweet nickname of the Crystal Cathedral. This huge underground cave is populated by extraordinary crystallisations that will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Great lighting makes this cavity and its walls one of the most breathtaking things to do in the Dordogne. You can choose to take a 45-minute guided tour or discover the chasm by descending inside a basket like a real speleologist.

Biron Castle

10Château de, 24540 Biron, France (Website)

On the edge of the Périgord Viola, the Château de Biron watches over the large surrounding forests from its promontory, 7 km south of the fortified town of Monpazier.

Seat of one of the four baronies of the Périgord, this vast fortress belonged to the Gontaut-Biron family for eight centuries and underwent multiple modifications from the 12th to the 17th century.

During the visit, you will admire the keep, which in the Middle Ages guarded the border with the Agenais then under English rule, the buildings built during the Renaissance, with their mullioned windows and slender turrets, and the two-storey chapel. The highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the 18th-century vaulted kitchen, imposing at 22 metres in length.

Perfectly preserved, the château de Biron has been the location for the shooting of numerous films.

Cadouin Abbey

11Pl. de l'Abbaye, 24480 Le Buisson-de-Cadouin, France (Website)

Located in the south of the Périgord, Cadouin Abbey is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a stop on the Compostela Way.

The buildings accessible to visitors today present two different architectures: Romanesque in the church and flamboyant Gothic in the cloister rebuilt at the end of the 15th century.

The Cadouin cloister is a masterpiece: chiselled doors, pillars, keystones and sculpted capitals, a stone abbey building with flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance-style galleries opening onto an inner garden through openwork bays.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

The colours of the Dordogne

The Périgord is divided into four parts, four tourist areas, each characterised by a colour linked to the specificities of its local natural heritage.

The Black Perigord is located in the south-east of the département and is so called due to the presence of a large concentration of very dark holm oaks, which give the landscape a beautiful shady colour. Cradle of prehistory, rich in sites from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it is known for Sarlat-la-Canédat, but also Les Eyzies, Montignac and much-visited villages. This Périgord is full of a thousand vestiges to be discovered, preferably in the low season because the summer season is particularly crowded.

The White Perigord is a strip that stretches from east to west, includes Periguex and owes its name to the white of the local limestone, much used in sculpture. Known for its gastronomy (duck and fat goose), the area is distinguished by Périgueux, the main town of the Dordogne, as well as Savignac-les-Eglises, Montpon, Sorges, Saint-Astier, Neuvic and Mussidan. Less wooded than the others, this area is relatively agricultural and is irrigated by the Auvézère, Isle, Double and Dronne rivers.

The Green Perigord is the northern area and is so called because of its lush vegetation, the presence of watercourses and forests that are also part of the Périgord-Limosin Natural Regional Park.

Périgord Viola, located in the south-west, in the department of Bergerac, is named after the colour of the leaves of the vines in autumn.

The vineyards of the Dordogne

The Wine Route is a network of domains and châteaux united to let you discover the vine, the wines of Bergerac and Duras, the winegrowing profession but also the culture, heritage and art of living in the Périgord.

The winegrowers of the Route des Vins are committed to giving you the best possible welcome on their properties. To this end, they have signed a welcome quality charter that guarantees you the opportunity to taste wines directly on their estates, with no fewer than 13 appellations.

The Wine Route also includes numerous events throughout the year at local winegrowers’ estates. Through the discovery of 130 domains and châteaux that open their doors to you, you can experience a journey through nature, gourmet landscapes, tastings and festivals.

How to get to Dordogne

Due to its location nestled between various French regions, Dordogne can be reached by plane from the nearest airports, after renting a car: Bordeaux Airport is about 120 km away, Lyon Airport 400 km, Toulouse Airport 280 km and Paris Airports about 500 km.

Alternatively, once you have landed, you can take the trains, using the TGV and regional network: Paris 4 hours 15 minutes, Bordeaux 1 hour 15 minutes, Toulouse 3 hours and Lyon 5 hours.

Where is located Dordogne – Périgord

Dordogne is located in New-Aquitaine, only 120 km from Bordeaux.

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