Unforgettable Travel Company

Known for its medieval villages, majestic châteaux, and culinary delights, the Dordogne region in southwestern France is a place where history, culture, and beauty meet to create an enriching experience for travelers.

From tracing the footsteps of prehistoric ancestors in age-old caves to savoring the exquisite flavors of truffles and foie gras, the variety of things to do in Dordogne is as diverse as the landscapes that define it. This guide will unravel the threads of Dordogne’s charm, offering insights into the historical and cultural significance of its attractions. 

Whether navigating the meandering Dordogne River, exploring medieval towns like Sarlat and Domme, or embarking on outdoor adventures along scenic trails, the best things to do in Dordogne promise a quintessentially French journey through time and taste.

Things to Do in Dordogne: Natural Wonders 

Dordogne boasts an array of natural wonders that beckon visitors seeking outdoor experiences. From ancient cave systems to meandering rivers and meticulously manicured gardens, the region promises a harmonious blend of history and natural beauty. 

The Caves of Lascaux

One of the most fascinating Dordogne attractions is the Caves of Lascaux. Discovered by a group of teenage boys in 1940, they are a true testament to prehistoric artistry. Nestled within the limestone hills near the town of Montignac, these caves house Paleolithic paintings dating back over 17,000 years. 

The walls of these chambers are adorned with vivid depictions of animals, including horses, aurochs, deer, and the iconic Lascaux bulls. The precision and sophistication of the artistry suggest a profound understanding of animal anatomy and movement, offering a captivating glimpse into the early human experience.

Unfortunately, the influx of visitors and exposure to artificial lighting led to the growth of algae and fungi, threatening the delicate engravings. In 1963, the caves were closed to the public to preserve the fragile environment. To allow continued access whilst also preserving the original caves, a meticulous replica known as Lascaux II was created. Opened in 1983, this reproduction mirrors the contours and details of the original caves, providing visitors with an authentic experience without jeopardizing the delicate originals.

Visitors to the Caves of Lascaux can explore Lascaux II to witness the breathtaking reproductions of the original cave art. When you’re planning things to do in Dordogne, it’s essential to check for any restrictions or special exhibitions taking place.

The Dordogne River

For those seeking both tranquility and adventure, the Dordogne River winds gracefully through the heart of the region and is a hub for outdoor activities. Canoeing enthusiasts will find themselves immersed in breathtaking landscapes as they navigate the gentle currents. Those who love to fish can cast their lines into the pristine waters. Whilst they’re waiting for the catch, they can admire the picturesque valleys and vineyard-laden hills that the Dordogne River meanders through.

Scenic views along the riverbanks create a picturesque backdrop for exploration, making it a must-visit attraction. Nearby, the charming villages of La Roque-Gageac and Beynac-et-Cazenac beckon with their quaint streets and riverside charm. The imposing Château de Beynac, perched on a cliff overlooking the river, adds a medieval touch to the landscape, providing plenty of things to do in the Dordogne Valley. 

The Gardens of Marqueyssac

Nestled atop a cliff overlooking the Dordogne Valley, the Gardens of Marqueyssac present a stunning panorama of carefully designed greenery. What sets these gardens apart is their unique blend of history and horticulture. Visitors can stroll along winding paths, framed by meticulously trimmed boxwood hedges, and take in breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. 

The story of the Gardens of Marqueyssac began in the 17th century when a counselor to Louis XIV acquired the property. If you skip forward to the 19th century, when Julien de Cervel took ownership, the gardens transformed through the introduction of the dramatic topiary designs that have become the hallmark of Marqueyssac today.

The best time to visit one of the best Dordogne attractions is during spring and summer when the flora is in full bloom. For a magical spectacle, the annual Candlelight Evenings illuminate the gardens with thousands of candles, adding to the historical and enchanting atmosphere. 

For those considering what to see in Dordogne, the Gardens of Marqueyssac offer a tranquil retreat infused with natural beauty and historical charm.

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Things to Do in Dordogne: Historical & Cultural Sites

Dordogne, a region steeped in history and culture, offers a captivating array of historical and cultural sites that beckon travelers to explore its rich heritage.

Châteaux

Among the myriad things to do in Dordogne, exploring its impressive castles and châteaux is a journey through medieval splendor. Château de Beynac, a formidable fortress perched atop a limestone cliff, stands as a testament to the region’s turbulent past. 

Dating back to the 12th century, the castle witnessed the ebb and flow of power, changing hands between the French and the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Its strategic position offered panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the Dordogne River, serving as a deterrent to potential invaders. 

Visitors to the Château de Beynac can explore the inner courtyard, surrounded by high curtain walls, and climb the winding stone staircase within the cylindrical towers. The Great Hall, with its majestic fireplace and medieval furnishings, offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the castle’s former inhabitants. 

Other notable Châteaux include Château de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, another impressive fortress housing a museum of medieval warfare and offering stunning views of the Dordogne Valley. Château de Hautefort is known for its opulent architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens, while Château des Milandes is a Renaissance-style castle, once owned by the famous dancer and singer, Josephine Baker. The castle now serves as a museum celebrating her life and career.  

When considering what to see in Dordogne, history enthusiasts will revel in these architectural gems. Visitor tips include checking for guided tours and special events, ensuring a comprehensive exploration of this historical treasure.

Medieval Towns 

Sarlat-la-Canéda and Domme are some of the most beautiful towns in Dordogne, transporting visitors to a bygone era. 

Sarlat-la-Canéda

Sarlat’s well-preserved medieval architecture makes it a delight to explore on foot. Wander through its narrow cobblestone streets, lined with honey-colored stone buildings, and discover hidden squares like Place de la Liberté.

The Sarlat Cathedral, a stunning example of Gothic architecture and located in the heart of Sarlat, should top your list if you’re wondering what to see in Dordogne. Its impressive facade and intricate details showcase the craftsmanship of the medieval builders.

Sarlat Market is one of the most renowned in the region. Held twice a week, the market offers a sensory feast of local produce, truffles, foie gras, cheeses, and handmade crafts. You could also explore the Maison de la Boétie, the birthplace of the Renaissance poet and friend of Montaigne, Etienne de La Boétie. The museum provides insights into the life and works of this influential figure.

Domme

Domme is a bastide town, characterized by its central market square surrounded by arcades. Visitors can discover the Place de la Halle and soak in the ambiance of this historical market square. This pretty village is also perched on a clifftop meaning it offers breathtaking views of the Dordogne River. The Belvédère de la Barre offers a particularly stunning vantage point.

Beneath Domme lies a fascinating cave system known as the Grotte de Domme. Guided tours take visitors through underground chambers with stalactites and stalagmites, offering a unique perspective on the town’s history. 

Travelers could also visit the Porte des Tours, a gateway with twin towers that once served as the entrance to the town. For history enthusiasts, it’s one of the best things to do in Dordogne as it’s a tangible reminder of Domme’s strategic importance during the Hundred Years’ War.

For those seeking the most beautiful towns in Dordogne, these medieval gems stand as living testaments to the region’s architectural and cultural legacy.

Museums 

Dordogne’s cultural richness extends to its museums, each offering a unique perspective on the region’s history. The National Museum of Prehistory, located in the charming town of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, stands as a beacon of the ancient past. Here, visitors can marvel at artifacts meticulously curated from the Paleolithic era, gaining insights into the lives and cultures of our prehistoric ancestors. 

As an integral part of what to see in Dordogne, this museum offers a journey through time, complemented by interactive exhibits and informative displays, offering a dynamic and engaging educational experience.

Beyond the prehistoric realm, the Musée du Chocolat Bovetti is a delightful attraction in the charming town of Terrasson-Lavilledieu, perfect for those with a sweet tooth looking for things to do in Dordogne. 

The museum is dedicated to the art and craft of chocolate making. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the world of chocolate, from its origins to the intricate process of transforming cocoa beans into delectable treats. One of the highlights is the indulgent chocolate-tasting sessions and the on-site chocolate shop where guests can purchase a variety of artisanal chocolates crafted by Bovetti, a renowned chocolatier.

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Things to Do in Dordogne: Culinary Delights

Among the top things to do in Dordogne, exploring its distinctive cuisine is a journey through flavors deeply rooted in tradition. Renowned for its rustic yet refined offerings, Dordogne’s culinary landscape showcases an array of locally sourced ingredients and time-honored cooking techniques.

Indulge in the region’s famous dishes, where truffles reign supreme. Dordogne is celebrated for its black truffles, often incorporated into dishes like Truffle Omelette, adding a luxurious earthiness to this simple dish. Foie gras, another culinary gem, is meticulously prepared, contributing to iconic dishes such as Périgordine Salad.

For a true culinary adventure, venture into areas brimming with restaurants, markets, and food tours. Sarlat-la-Canéda boasts a vibrant market where local producers offer an array of delicacies. Bergerac, known for its wine, complements its vineyard tours with restaurants serving dishes that pair perfectly with the region’s wines. Visitors should also consider joining a food tour in Périgueux to navigate the city’s culinary gems, sampling delights from traditional markets to hidden eateries.

From market stalls laden with local produce to Michelin-starred establishments, the culinary journey in the region is an integral part of things to do in Dordogne.

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Things to Do in Dordogne: Outdoor & Recreational Activities

For those seeking invigorating outdoor pursuits, Dordogne offers a diverse array of activities that seamlessly blend natural beauty with adventure. Embarking on the numerous hiking and biking trails is among the top things to do in Dordogne, catering to various difficulty levels.

‘Gabarrier’s Loop’ is a relatively easy, scenic walking trail that meanders along the Dordogne River, offering stunning views of the water and surrounding cliffs. The Carbonnières trail takes you through the oak forests near Domme, providing a peaceful and shaded hiking experience.

Located between Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and Daglan, the ‘Greenway of the Céou Valley’ cycling route is a converted railway track that offers a flat and family-friendly biking route through the picturesque Céou Valley. The mountain biking circuit of Le Bugue is a more challenging experience that travels through a mix of forestry and open landscapes, showcasing the diverse scenery of Dordogne.

Boat tours along the Dordogne River offer a leisurely way to absorb the scenic beauty and discover hidden gems along the banks. Canoeing enthusiasts can navigate the river’s gentle currents, passing beneath the formidable Château de Castelnaud to witness a unique perspective of this medieval marvel. Fishing spots dotting the riverbanks beckon angling aficionados to savor moments of peace amidst Dordogne’s stunning scenery.

Adventure sports enthusiasts will find ample opportunities to satisfy their thrill-seeking spirit. Dordogne’s rugged terrain serves as a canvas for rock climbing, with locations like the cliffs near Domme offering challenging ascents and rewarding vistas. Caving enthusiasts can delve into the subterranean wonders of the region, exploring fascinating caves like the Grotte de Domme.

Summary 

In Dordogne, the past and present intertwine seamlessly, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in an authentic and enriching experience. From the wonders of prehistoric caves to the majestic allure of medieval châteaux, Dordogne attractions allow visitors to uncover layers of history and culture. 

Whether you’re meandering through marketplaces brimming with local delicacies or navigating the tranquil waters of the Dordogne River, the diverse array of things to do in Dordogne will keep you busy and promise to encapsulate the essence of this fairytale destination.

As you bid adieu to this remarkable region, the memories of castles perched on cliffs, the aroma of regional delicacies, and the echoes of ancient history will remain etched in your memory long after you leave. 

Are you tempted to embark on a trip to Dordogne? Unforgettable Travel Company hosts a variety of tour itineraries in France which are carefully crafted by our experts and fully customizable. Why not browse what’s on offer so you can get excited about planning your next vacation to this European gem?

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