France is an alluring country – one that most people associate Paris, the city of love, with. However, there is so much more to see in the French countryside. Dordogne is one of France’s largest regions, home to 1000 medieval castles and chateaux, cobblestoned streets, quaint historical villages and towns barely touched by the modern world. After you’ve read about these 7 reasons to visit Dordogne, you’ll certainly want to add it to your list of places to go.
The Prehistoric Caves
Dordogne has a rich history, thanks to the Vézère Valley and its world-famous prehistoric cave system dating back to the Paleolithic age. The heart of the valley is home to Lascaux cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s is surrounded by an additional 15 world heritage sites. Inside you’ll find an unforgettable collection of prehistoric cave paintings, which are thought to be over 17,000 years old.
Lascaux cave itself is currently closed to preserve its condition, but a number of surrounding caves such as Lascaux II (a recreation of the original) and Font du Gaume are still open; be sure to book in advance for the latter. Aside from the caves, there are numerous ways to explore the Vézère Valley – from canoes and boats, mountain biking and hiking, to horseback and hot air balloons!
The Beautiful Villages to Explore
Dordogne is known for having some of the most beautiful villages in France. Villages such as Saint Amand-de-Coly and Lemeuil are picturesque with beautiful architecture, steep lanes, and riverbanks. If you dare to explore you’ll be rewarded highly with the treasures hidden around every corner. What’s better yet, you could have this right on your doorstep should you choose to rent a charming local home in the heart of one of these villages.
The Food and Wine
Dordogne is widely regarded as having some of the best food and wine in the country. Home to some of the country’s finest vineyards – such as Bergerac, where they still use 2000-year-old winemaking traditions – a wine tour or tasting day definitely wouldn’t go amiss with wine lovers.
Combine it with a food tour to experience the best in French cuisine, or explore quaint restaurants at your whim to uncover hidden culinary gems. Given that Dordogne is a key region when it comes to French food, expect the most exquisite of dishes, with menus particularly focused on duck and goose dishes.
The Castles and the Chateaux
Dordogne’s nickname is ‘the land of a thousand and one castles’ for a reason. Castles such as Belvès, Beynac and Châteaux Biron date back to as far as the 9th and 12th century! These remarkable buildings are scattered around Dordogne, waiting for you to uncover what they have to offer. A travel itinerary is all you need to start your magical castle adventure.
The Unspoiled Beauty
The scenery in this untouched countryside is simply stunning – there’s nothing like spending a leisurely morning looking out onto the fairytale land that is Dordogne. To truly experience its beauty – the winding rivers, rolling hills and majestic buildings that will sustain your gaze for hours – it’s recommended to hire a car or bike so you can explore at your own pace.
The Things To Do
Other than exploring the countryside on foot – which is a must given the numerous beautiful walking routes – there are plenty of activities and attractions to do in Dordogne. Spend a day in the enchanting gardens of Jardins de Marqueyssac and navigate through the labyrinth of boxwood trees. Or canoe down the picturesque Dordogne River that overlooks secluded beaches, medieval castles, and quaint towns.
If you are in the region between December and March, be sure to join a guided truffle hunting tour. You’ll visit a truffle farm and learn about the much-desired Périgold truffle, as well as accompany the farmer with their hunting dog on a one-of-a-kind experience! Follow the dog as it sniffs out the underground truffles and then learn how to cook with these culinary gems the authentic way.
Many of the villages and towns will host a market once or twice a week. The produce that is on offer will differ depending on the time of year that you visit. Whilst in the summer you can expect fresh farm produce; in the winter, expect foie gras and truffles.
The summer markets are a lot larger than the winter markets and many markets will stay open through the evening during the peak of summer. Whichever time you decide to visit, the market days are a must-see, if only for the liveliness of the townspeople.
Is a visit to Dordogne making your bucket list?