Picture-postcard villages abound in this historic (and prehistoric) land of rushing rivers, deep caves and golden stone villages. There are many routes into the Dordogne‘s heart, but wherever you wander, try to include some of our favourite sights as you go.
This is one of the best attractions in the entire country, and offers a dizzying tour back through 17,000 years of human creativity. Modern human creativity is well represented too, in this state-of-the-art, gorgeously designed new visitor centre. They call it Lascaux 4 (Lascaux 2, the original visitor centre faithfully recreating a walk through the caves, is still very much alive – and worth a visit too. Lascaux 3 is a touring exhibition!).
Gardens of Limeuil, Limeuil
The ‘Panoramic Jardin Musée de Limeuil’, is a world-class botanical garden created to display plants that represent the history of botany, and the planet’s vast diversity, throughout the ages. It’s a riot of colour and fragrance throughout the summer. And a timely reminder of what we stand to lose, if we don’t get our act together as a global community.
Saint-Léon is, officially, one of the prettiest villages in France, and it’s not hard to see why. A cluster of Perigord-stone cottages so typical of the Dordogne, it’s a treat. Wander around its streets, take a stroll to the lovely river beach and soak in the beauty! Or take a canoe trip from the village along the riverbank.
The medieval centre of the town features many beautiful buildings and monuments and the picturebook streets conjure a fairytale quality; decked out in the yellow stone that is a feature of the Dordogne region, while night-time sees gas lights illuminating the town. Head to the Sarlat Tourist Office in Rue Tourny to pick up a map of the town centre.
Aquarium Perigord Noir, Le Bugue
You’re a long way from the sea in the Dordogne, but that’s no obstacle for Aquarium Perigord Noir. This attraction houses a fabulous collection of fresh-water fish and reptiles with over 6000 of them happily swimming around in 3 million litres of water. Crocs too!
Labyrinthe Prehistoric, Le Bugue
Part of the Univerland complex of attractions, this action-packed excursion invites you to follow the footsteps of one of the last surviving cave people. En route you’ll learn about your ancient ancestors, and their wonderful art – such a feature of this corner of France.
A huge limestone site that housed prehistoric settlements hewn from the rock, the sunning Roque Saint-Christophe is a must. Some ancient buildings remain, while other parts of the site have been reconstructed. Visually stunning and historically fascinating.
Le Gouffre de Proumeyssac, Audrix
One of the best cave systems in the Dordogne. A wondrous collection of caverns, stalactites and stalagmites await on a fascinating underground tour. Descend in a basket! Sail though the caverns on a gondolier. Make sure you book ahead online.
Wasteland (main pic, above) is the most popular château in southern France. Built high on a hill in the 13th century it changed hands many times. The Château has been home to the Museum of Medieval Warfare since 1985. Château des Milandes, the opulent home of Josephine Baker, has falconry displays and there are night hot-air balloon flights to observe the chateau. Château de Hautefort is surrounded by superb gardens. Also worth seeing are Les Jardins de Marqueyssac, in the grounds of the Château de Marqueyssac. There is a nature pavilion displaying flora and fauna from around the Dordogne and a light show, on Thursdays, in July and August.
Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil
The National Museum of Prehistory boasts the best important collection of items from the Paleolithic era in France, tracing the evolution of modern humanity from 1500BC. Animation and demonstrations bring history to life at this attraction, which combines well with local sites to explore the past.
The medieval walled village of Domme has 13th-century ramparts and narrow streets that are worth exploring. Domme is famous for its prehistoric grottoes; long illuminated galleries are lined with stalactites at Place de la Halle in the town’s centre. The clifftop town also offers an amazing vantage point from which to look down the valley.
Head to Place Carnot for some of Montignac’s loveliest buildings and cobbled lanes – and for the markets on Wednesdays and Saturday. The small town boasts numerous historic buildings, ranging from the 14-18th century. At the end of July ever year the Festival de Montignac celebrates art, dance and music. This is a good place to sample the black ‘Perigord’ truffle too!