Tours of Dordogne: Heritage & Nature
From the limestone plateaux down to the luxuriant valleys, Perigord and neighbouring Quercy are lands of contrasts. Three rivers intersect them - the Dordogne, Lot and Vezere. Our self guided tours of Dordogne take you on an adventure through French history. From prehistoric to medieval times through the glorious Renaissance period, your Dordogne driving itinerary will include a bit of everything.
Taste regional food, including roasted duck and goose, explore medieval towns and discover the beautiful French countryside and prehistoric caves. Our Dordogne driving itinerary will give you a taste of the best of French scenery, history, cuisine and culture.
How to Get to the Dordogne region
Dordogne is more than 300 miles away from Paris in the South West of France. While it is possible to get a train from Paris to Dordogne, this is a less convenient option. There are no direct TGV trains to Périgueux, so journeys from Paris often take between 4.5 and 5.5 hours. We recommend taking the TGV high-speed train down to Bordeaux and pick up your hire car from there. Alternatively, if you don't want to spend time in Paris, fly directly in to Bordeaux or Toulouse. From there you will only have a 2-3 hour drive to Dordogne, with plenty to see along the way.
If you decide to drive from Paris to Dordogne, make sure the passenger has a camera ready. You will be cruising past some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world. It takes just over 5 hours to drive from Paris to Dordogne, so we'll plan rest-stops in the Loire Valley. We warmly recommend this route for the beautiful places you'll see along the way. You will stop for lunch in one of the Loire Valley's beautiful villages before continuing your journey feeling refreshed and ready to begin your Dordogne self-drive tour.
Where to Stay in Dordogne
Dordogne is a rural area of France and we warmly recommend staying in the gorgeous mansions or farms in the countryside. This will give you a real feel for the region.
Be careful as "Dordogne" is vast and you can easily be in a fringe location which makes the touring complicated on the small roads.
We have selected premium B&Bs, in very charming houses, where you are centrally located to explore the Black Perigord jewels and enjoy everything the region has to offer as part of your Dordogne self drive itinerary.
Make your own savory picnic lunch from one of Dordogne farmers markets
Places to visit in Dordogne
The first thing you'll notice as you drive through Dordogne is the truly awesome scenery. The Dordogne boasts valleys and gorges, craggy mountain-tops and carefully sculpted botanical gardens. Our tours of Dordogne take you to the most beautiful viewpoints, so you'll experience French nature at its best.
Dordogne is also famous for its extensive heritage spanning across the ages. This takes the form of prehistoric caves, medieval architecture, medieval towns and castles and many a medieval village which seems like it's been suspended in time. It also has a strong food tradition that forms part of its heritage. We will make sure your Dordogne itinerary includes the best places to go for extraordinary culinary experiences.
Here are some more things to do and places to visit in the Dordogne. We would be happy to include any or all of these in your Dordogne driving itinerary:
The Dordogne has an abundance of gorgeous architecture and natural beauty. But arguably its most spectacular feature is its prehistoric caves filled with original prehistoric art. The prehistoric cave paintings in this region date back to between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago. The caves have become one of the most fascinating attractions in the country.
Many caves - such as the original cave at Lascaux, a UNESCO world heritage site - have been closed for conservation purposes. Furthermore, those that remain open - such as the Font de Gaume cave (about 1km east of Les Eyzies) - will only accept a limited number of visitors each day. These are also likely to close within the next 5-10 years to preserve the prehistoric art. We warmly recommend trying to see these wonderful prehistoric cave paintings before they are cordoned off from the public forever. Normally, we have to make bookings about 8 months in advance to have the best chance of getting tickets.
We are well acquainted with the caves of the Dordogne. Based on our experience, we will plan a self drive itinerary with recommendations for popular caves and chasms such as Lascaux or Padirac. But we will also guide you to some of our favorites that few tourists know about. This way you will get a taste of this incredible part of French history as part of your self guided trip to the Dordogne.
Paintings of bison dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years
The Dordogne’s Medieval Fortresses
Above ground, Dordogne boasts an astonishing number of castles and fortresses, dating as far back as the medieval era. Dordogne has a lot of the most charming medieval towns in France. It may not be an exaggeration when they say that Dordogne is the region of a thousand castles. We haven't counted them all, but there are a LOT and we would love to guide you to our favorites. Unfortunately, not all are open to the public but those that are, are well worth seeing. We love Castelnaud la Chapelle, Château de Beynac and les Milandes, which was once owned by Josephine Baker. Visitors may tour these on foot or view them from unique vantage points of the Dordogne River. We are happy to organise canoe trips or excursions on a comfortable gabarre boat, depending on your preferences.
Exploring the majestic halls and magnificent staircases of these chateaux transports you back hundreds of years to when the feudal system reigned supreme.
This is on our list for wedding anniversary celebration trips, you may check it out.
Gorgeous view over the Dordogne Valley & Castelnaud medieval fortress
Beautiful Gardens in Dordogne
Although the medieval castles are a wondrous sight, the grounds outside often steal their thunder. The hanging gardens of Marqueyssac are quite magnificent and you may enjoy wandering through its leafy avenues for many hours. If you visit in the summer, stay till nightfall and experience the magic of candlelit Thursday nights.
Not only are the gardens themselves spectacular, but some have outstanding views of the Dordogne region and its chalky cliffs.
Beyond Marqueyssac, the Eyrignac Gardens are another example of the great outdoors, sculpted and manicured to perfection. The entire complex consists of seven different gardens, each with its own charm and delights. You can admire the hedge sculptures, visit the Chinese pagoda and discover the herbs and spices in the Kitchen Garden. On a fine day, there is no better place to be than one of the beautiful gardens in Dordogne...without a doubt some of the most magnificent gardens in France.
Mouth-Watering Local Products
When it comes to cuisine, the Dordogne has much to be proud of. We'll help you discover the wide range of local produce at one of the many farmers’ markets in Dordogne. These take place every day of the week in different towns. As you wander through the market, stop to try a sample of what they have on offer at different stalls. We guarantee you will leave laden down with delicious treats.
Typical food of the Dordogne includes cabécou goat’s cheese, foie gras, duck confit and walnut cake. There is also a special dish known as pomme de terres sarladaises.This consists of three ingredients: potatoes, garlic and goose fat - simple yet satisfying. You can also find truffles and related products such as truffle oil in this region. If you have a taste for gourmet, let us know - we're sure you'll enjoy a fantastic day out truffle-hunting!
Go truffle hunting in Dordogne with a local producer
Beautiful Villages in the Dordogne: Authenticity without equal
It is well known that this region has the highest concentration of beautiful villages in France. These include the medieval town of Sarlat La Canéda, the beautiful village of Saint Amand de Coly, as well as Rocamadour, Martel and La Roque Gageac. Your Dordogne driving itinerary will include opportunities to stroll along cobbled streets and enjoy the slow, provincial pace of life. Enjoy a pastry in one of the quaint village cafés and sit outside watching the world go by.
While we know the wonder and enchantment of the Dordogne, this marvellous region has managed to stay under the radar. This is a blessing in disguise for visitors. The region has maintained an authentic, local atmosphere, having so far avoided the influx of tourists. This means you will have space to explore the Dordogne valley away from the tourist crowds.
The Dordogne looks like a landscape from the pages of a fairytale. Thick swathes of green fringe the glistening river that runs through this region of stunning chateaux and hidden caves.
A favorite getaway for both tourists and French holidaymakers, the Dordogne holds enough beauty and charm to enthral even the most weary of travelers. So what are you waiting for?
See a short movie made by Mary & Charles who traveled with us
FAQ about the Dordogne
Which is best part of Dordogne?
It's very difficult to choose one thing, because it will depend on your preferences. We love the beautiful medieval town of Sarlat, with its beautiful cathedral and stunning views of the rooftops from the tower.
We also highly recommend a trip along the Dordogne river, where you'll be surrounded by the rocky cliffs of the valley and encounter impressive castles and fortresses. If you enjoy sports, you can go canoeing along the river. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, we'll recommend a trip on a traditional gabare boat.
Our favorite photo-stop is in Rocamadour. And if you enjoy history, visiting one of the regions prehistoric caves to admire the cave art is a must.
Where do you base yourself in Dordogne?
Again, this will depend on your itinerary and your preferences. We have selected comfortable, premium B&Bs in Dordogne that we have tested ourselves and where we know you'll receive a very warm welcome from the hosts. We'll arrange for you to stay at accommodation that is quite central and an easy drive from the main places we recommend you visit during your stay in Dordogne. It will be a beautiful and quiet location. There are many benefits to staying in a French B&B, including fewer guests, a warmer welcome, the opportunity to get to know your French hosts, and the chance to stay in an old home that is hundreds of years old.