One of the largest departments in France is the Dordogne. The department has the same name as the river that flows through it and that rises in the Auvergne from the rivers Dorde and Dogne. The Dordogne tourist region is seen as broader than the departmental borders.
The Dordogne department is almost identical to the original province of Perigord. The names of the four areas in which the Dordogne is divided also remind of this:
- Perigord Vert (green) is the northern part with Nontron as the central place. It is a rugged and wooded area, interspersed with heather and cultural landscape with little population.
- Perigord Blanc (white) forms the northwestern part. Here is also Perigueux, the capital of the Dordogne department.
- Perigord Pourpre (purple) is located in the southwest with Bergerac as center. It is known for the wine regions, the region is named after the skin of the grape. Originally white wines formed the main part, for example the famous dessert wine from Chateau Monbazillac, nowadays there are also many beautiful red wines.
- Perigord Noir (black), with Sarlat as the main town, is the eastern part of the department. The many forests with many holm oaks with dense and dark leaves have resulted in the name “noir”. This part is the tourist heart of the region with many attractions.
The Dordogne is one of the longest rivers in France at about 500 km. From the Massif Central, from the confluence of the Dorde and the Dogne, it leads through the departments of Puy-de-Domme, Corrèze, Dordogne and Gironde to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Dordogne was originally of great importance for the transport of goods by boat. Because large parts along the river are very rough, the boats, la Gabare, were taken apart at the end point (Lalinde) and brought back by horse and carriage to the starting point up the river.
At Souillac she enters the Dordogne department. Along beautiful cliffs to Le Cingle de Montfort (a large loop in the river) and Domme. Then along La Roque Gageac and the valley of the 5 castles, Lacoste, Castelnaud, Marqueussac, Fayrac and Beynac to Limeuil where the Vézère meets the Dordogne. Then towards Bergerac and on to the Atlantic coast.
For many tourists, the Dordogne is a great challenge to view by canoe or kayak. These can be rented at many locations along the river, to make a day trip or hike. To navigate the river more calmly, you can take a boat trip in a Gabarre steps. The river can also be easily followed by bicycle or car.
Canoeing in the Dordogne
Discover the Dordogne region from the water. The Perigord Noir area along the Dordogne is particularly busy. But also on the other rivers such as La Dronne, L'Isle and Vézère you can enjoy excellent canoeing and kayaking and it is considerably quieter here.
Quietly paddling along steep cliffs, pebble beaches along the banks, almost untouched nature, many canoeists have seen the kingfisher fly in person and admired castles from the water. It is discovering the area from a completely different side.
Various distances are possible from the rental location, often with the choice of being taken back from a point downstream by minibus or first taken from the location to a point upstream.
Hiking during the holidays in the Dordogne
The Dordogne is a great walking area. There are relatively flat areas and parts with more height differences, plenty of choices. There are often beautiful views from the higher parts.
In the villages, walking routes have often been set out from the center (“Le Bourg”: center of the village, village square) (Petites Randonnées, Circuits) that lead along the nicer parts in the area and back to the starting point. There are also the Grande Randonnées, these are the longer routes that also lead from village to village. From the next village, another Grand Randonnée can be followed. The routes are freely accessible.
Les plus beaux villages - authentic French villages
Together with the Aveyron department, the Dordogne has the most (ten) “plus beaux villages de France”. These are places that stand out for their beauty and have therefore been placed on a special national list. Mostly restored medieval or fortified villages that have preserved the original authenticity. In the valley of the Dordogne, these are the fortified village of Domme, from which there is a magnificent view over the valley, Beynac, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, La Roque Gageac and Limeuil. The Vézère valley has two of the 'most beautiful villages in France': St-Léon-sur-Vézère and St-Amand-de-Coly. These villages, which are typical of the Périgord, impress with their authentic appearance, beautiful architecture and pleasant tranquility. Other places in the Dordogne-Périgord are also worth a visit: Belvès on a rocky outcrop high above the Nauze valley, or the English fortified village of Monpazier, which has remained exceptionally intact and is considered a textbook example of the fortified villages of the South West. France. And more to the north the picturesque village of St-Jean-de-Côle,
Fortresses and castles in the Dordogne
The Dordogne has the greatest density of noble houses in France. There are 1500 castles, fortresses and country houses. These buildings have the special feature that they consist of a mix of various architectural styles from multiple eras. More than forty can be viewed, such as:
- Château des Milandes
- Château de Biron
- Château de Jumilhac
- Château de Bridoire
Another part is privately owned by private individuals and has often been converted into luxury hotels or attractive chambres d'hôtes, such as the Château de St-Geniès and the Château de Lalande.
The 14th-century Maison Forte De Reignac in Tursac is the most peculiar castle in the Périgord. It is the only example of a rock-cut castle in France that has remained completely intact and still retains its original furnishings.
From the 12th century on, more natural stone has been used, such as the fortress of Beynac, built on a protruding rocky outcrop above the Dordogne valley, and in the medieval castle of Castelnaud, opposite the Château de Beynac.
The Château de Hautefort belongs to the classicist architecture of the Périgord and is one of the most prestigious castles in South West France.
Bastides in the Dordogne
The characteristic French bastides are fortified towns built in the Middle Ages. Mainly to encourage the rural population to settle in market places. Especially on both banks of the river Dordogne they were built as defensive strongholds during the 100 years war between France and England. A good example is Monpazier, built in 1284 by Edward I of England. It is the best preserved bastide in the Périgord due to the preservation of its medieval character: a central square lined with arcades, straight streets and parapets.
Built by the French, the bastide Villefranche-du-Périgord is even older and was a stop on the way to the Lot-et-Garonne department in the south. The covered market is still used every fall for the sale of porcini mushrooms.
Beaumont-du-Périgord was built by the English in the shape of an 'H' in memory of Henry III (Edward I's father).
All these picturesque bastides are nice to visit, both the English, for example Fonroque and Lalinde, and the French, including Domme, Molières and Eymet.
Special gardens and parks
There are 33 parks and gardens in the region, 14 of which have been awarded as Jardin remarquable (special garden). Each park and garden has its own atmosphere: The gardens at Manoir d'Eyrignac are old gardens in a classical style, those at the castle of Hautefort are typically French, while the hanging gardens at Marqueyssac are very romantic and the Jardins de l'Imaginaire in Terrasson are very modern. In addition, there are 13 towns and villages in the Périgord, such as Périgueux and Bergerac, which have won national awards for their lavish floral display.
Cycling in the Dordogne
France is not originally a “cycling country”. There are few cycle paths. Yet more attention has been paid to it in recent years. Most trails are allowed on an off-road bicycle ('VTT' in French). Planned tours are available from the center of Montagrier, Brantôme, Cherveix-Cubas, Lalinde, Vitrac or Biron. There are 28 routes in the Périgord with a total of more than 2000 km.
There are also the so-called 'green routes' (constructed cycle routes). In the Green Périgord between Thiviers and Saint-Pardoux la Rivière, an old train track of 17 km length has been converted into a cycle path. In the Black Périgord there is a beautiful path between Sarlat and Grolejac / Cazoules, and in the White Périgord you can cycle through Trélissac / Marsac and visit Périgueux.
Special routes for walnuts, foie gras, apples and wine
Discover and experience are important keywords for connoisseurs. Lovers of authentic flavors will find what they are looking for in the Périgord, where foie gras, confit de canard, truffles, strawberries, walnuts and wine are the typical regional products. Four products from the now have their own route through the region. Enjoy your meal!
- Route de la Noix du Périgord: La Grandjean ',' La Marbot ',' La Corne ',' La Franquette '. Names of four authentic types of nuts, which you will discover while traveling the Route de la Noix du Périgord. Visit farms, restaurants, museums and local markets to learn all about the healthy delicacy and the people who have often worked with it for decades. More info: www.noixduperigord.com
- Route du foie gras du Périgord: Producers of foie gras and a selection of regional restaurateurs and innkeepers decided in 2009 to join forces to realize this route. Today, 23 farmers, artisans and canning manufacturers are affiliated, plus another 47 restaurateurs. The sixty companies have one thing in common: goose and duck liver, often processed in an artisanal way, into a specialty of the Dordogne. For example, all restaurateurs ensure that only foie gras with the protected title IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) appears on their menu. More info: www.route-foiegras-perigord.com
- Route de la pomme du Limousin: The apple of the Limousin has already won many awards. In addition to the national label l'Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, Europe has also attached the approval l'Appellation d'Origine Protégée. To do the apple route, you need to be in the northeast of the Dordogne, at the top of the Périgord Vert. The months of July and August are particularly interesting, as many producers offer free guided tours through orchards or fruit cooperatives. More info: www.pomme-limousin.org
- Route des vins de Bergerac: About 140 passionate winemakers invite enthusiasts to do the route around Bergerac. Company visits, guided tours of the vineyards, exhibitions, sometimes also concerts; they do everything they can to promote their product. The Route des vins starts at the monastery Le Cloître des Récollets in Bergerac, where you can also find the Maison des vins. A tip: try a lusciously sweet, golden yellow Monbazillac or a solid red Pécharmant! More info: https://routedesvinsdebergerac.jimdo.com
A visit to the market (Le Marche) is special. From highly commercial tourist stalls to the farmer or farmer's wife with their own products. The market is a place for residents of the area to meet family and friends, exchange the latest news and buy fresh products. From eggs to live chickens and chicks, so don't be alarmed, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, olives and herbs, walnut products, specialty bread, fresh goat's cheeses, but also clothing, household goods and exotic goods. It is a colorful collection of the population, market stall holders and tourists. And as a tourist you get a warm feeling, it is cozy and a lot is happening.
The brocante (foire) markets and vide-greniers, antiques and curiosities market and flea markets are also certainly worth a visit. There is a lot to find and there is always a pleasant bustle. Where and when is usually announced via posters or flyers behind the windshield wiper. The local tourism office will also be able to inquire. Bargaining is a habit. Even if you don't speak the language, you can go a long way with sign language or with a piece of paper. Often artists or music groups play on these markets, which only increase the atmosphere.
The Lot is a region where plums and walnuts are grown, searches for black truffles with sniffing pigs, makes goose liver pâté (foie gras), sells excellent lamb (Label rouge), traditionally made goat cheese (Rocamadour) and famous Cahors wines from the grapes for 2000 years. presses.
Cahors wines, internationally known
The Cahors wine region extends over 3,850 hectares and is mainly located in the Lot Valley and the calcareous Causse. Cahors wine is one of the oldest wines in France. It is a red wine full of character with an intense and powerful taste. Although it refines with aging, this wine can also be drunk young. Ideal with red meats, Cahors wine also pairs with regional specialties such as foie gras, confits, Quercy lamb, truffles and Causses cheeses such as Rocamadour.
Truffles are a type of fungus that grows underground, especially near oaks, the so-called truffle oaks. This unsightly black fungus is so fragrant that it has been dubbed the region's perfumed soul. The maximum weight of this black diamond, this nickname is due to the exceptionally high price to be paid for it, is approximately 100 grams. The truffle is traced with the help of pigs or dogs.
The most famous truffle market is held in Lalbenque (near Cahors) from December to March, every Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm exactly. It has something of a theater performance, because here the big boys from the best restaurants in France (matadors they are mockingly called) buy truffles from unworldly peasants and peasant women who are lined up in a row with their baskets filled to the brim.
Before the trade begins, the truffles are viewed, touched and hand weighed. Something is written down, mumbled and a satisfied smile here and there. At the supreme moment, at 2:00 PM exactly, when the church bell strikes, the agreements made just in advance are immediately converted into action and the market is over within fifteen minutes. The actual transactions take place in alleys and porches. The contents of the baskets are exchanged for thick packs of banknotes and then they all drink a stiff glass of prune (plum brandy).
This cheese is a specialty of the village of Rocamadour and of the Causses du Quercy. The Rocamadour, often in the shape of a disk, can be eaten in different ripening stages. Whether creamy with a subtle flavor or a little drier and with a more pronounced aroma, the Rocamadour tastes very good in all cases. It can also be eaten warm, for example with a salad.
In June, Rocamadour has the cheese festival, a gastronomic event.
The Bleu des Causses
The “Bleu des Causses” cheese, formerly known as Bleu van Aveyron, has been awarded an AOC and AOP status. This cheese, made from raw cow's milk, has, like the Roquefort, blue veins. It is a popular type of cheese with a long tradition.
The Bleu des Causses is aged for three to six months, has a natural rind, and a beautiful ivory color with blue-green mold spots. It is very tasty in a salad or omelette, but it is especially after a meal, with a piece of bread while enjoying a glass of Cahors or Marcillac wine, that its taste is fully appreciated.
Quercy lamb, like certain types of wine, has been given a protected status for a specific area. The breeding area is limited to the Lot and some neighboring departments.
The lamb is slaughtered in Gramat between the 60th and 150th day and must weigh between 12 and 21 kg.
Quercy lamb has been popular since 1770 for its tender meat with a subtle flavor. This pink meat with beautiful white fat even has a “Label Rouge” (agricultural quality mark that stands for quality from France). Delicious from the barbecue or prepared in the oven; is generally drunk with a glass of local wine.
Every August, the village of Cressensac organizes the “Feast of the Quercy Lamb”. Then there is again the opportunity for locals and tourists to taste this famous meat!
The pescajoune is an authentic specialty from the Quercy. It is a kind of thick pancake whose dough is made from wheat and buckwheat flour, with a dash of plum firewine. Slices of apple are added to this, and then fried in a pan with butter. Rum, orange blossom or vanilla can also be used instead of brandy. There are variants with pear or plum. Delicious as a dessert or with coffee, the pescajoune can also be fried in cubes.
The visit to caves is always led by a guide. There are also waiting times, especially in high season, to visit a cave. This has to do with the microclimate in a cave. Due to the heat, light and disruption of the air currents, the caves are threatened by algae and moss formation. Taking photographs, taking backpacks or other large bags, pets, as well as eating and leaving waste behind is therefore prohibited. Similarly, touching the walls and the drip stones. What we do recommend is to put on a sweater, given the temperature in the caves, and to see this natural spectacle.
Most of the caves can be found around Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, but also elsewhere in the Dordogne. An absolute must.
- Grotte de Rouffignac, between Rouffignac and Fleurac. Also called the cave of the hundred mammoths. You can explore the cave by train. Takes into account waiting times and the visitor limit that is adhered to per day.
- Grotte du Grand Roc, near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. A stalactite cave that is small and has a short tour but a splendor of stalactite formations that sometimes give the impression that one is looking at coral or crystal.
- Grotte de Villars, near Villars in the Perigord Vert. Dripstone formations and about thirty small wall paintings and engravings.
- La Roque-St.-Christophe, near Peyzac-le-Moustier, along the Vézère. Hundreds of caves in the rock face of 80 meters high that were inhabited by the Cro-Magnon man, people who lived in the Bronze and Iron Ages, the Gallo-Roman times and during the Middle Ages.
- La Grotte prehistorique des Merveilles in Rocamadour
- Cave of Maxange in Le Buisson
- Le Gouffre de Proumeyssac, the crystal cathedral in le Bugue
- Gouffre de Padirac
- Cave de Cougnac in Gourdon
- Cave of Tourtoirac in Tourtoirac
Swimming in the Dordogne
In the Dordogne region you can swim in the rivers almost everywhere: during your trips through the area look for a nice beach and enjoy the cool water. Of course pay close attention to the current, which can sometimes be quite strong.
In addition to the large rivers, there are also many small streams and streams: ideal for families with toddlers and preschoolers: they can play with water and stones and the parents do not have to fear drowning. If you see such a stream somewhere, follow it a bit and you will certainly come across a nice spot.