10 Ways to Discover the Dordogne Valley
From film-set backdrops and incredible food to sleepy little villages that make you want to up sticks immediately, it’s easy to see why so many holidaymakers return to France’s Dordogne region year after year. Planning a trip soon? Here are 10 ways to make the most of your holiday…
See the Prehistoric Art
Go back in time, way back to prehistoric times and appreciate the region’s artistic heritage. Grotte de Lascaux, 2km southeast of Montignac contains some of the oldest artwork known to man. Four teenage boys discovered the cave in 1940 when they were searching for their lost dog. Little did they know that they had stumbled upon the prehistoric equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. The cave is home to around 600 paintings of animal figures including reindeer, mammoths and horses as well as a 5.5m-long bull, the largest single cave drawing ever found.
The original cave was opened to visitors in 1948, but due to worrying levels of wear and tear, authorities closed the site in 1963. A replica of the most famous sections of the original cave was created a few hundred metres away and is well worth a visit.
Tickets are available at the cave, at the ticket office next to the tourist office in Montignac and here.
Plan a Road Trip
Rent a car in Brive and take to the open road to properly explore the medieval villages and spectacular scenery of this corner of south-west France. Discover the outstanding natural beauty of the Dordogne Basin, a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve. Stop and wander around bustling towns such as Sarlat and Beynac, where movies including Chocolat and Jeanne d’Arc were filmed.
Instagram the Pretty Villages
The Dordogne Valley criss-crosses three of France’s most attractive departments: Corrèze, Lot and Dordogne, linking the three French regions of Limousin, Midi-Pyrenees and the Aquitaine. Make it your business to get a selfie in pretty-as-a-picture villages such as Collonges-la-Rouge, Turenne, Curemonte, Autoire, Carennac, Loubressac, Beynac or La Roque Gageac.
Embrace the ‘Joie de Vivre’
Do as the locals do and appreciate the simple pleasures of everyday life – the joys of good conversation, great wine and beautiful surroundings. The Dordogne is the perfect destination to digitally detox and go off the grid for a couple of days. You’ll be surprised how well you cope without the constant need to scroll, search and share. Although with such scenic sights all around, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to check-in and upload photos at every opportunity.
Tuck into Incredible Food
With fertile soil, plenty of rain and warm sunshine to ripen its produce, the Dordogne region offers a feast of delicious foods. Fill up on fragrant truffles, strawberries, walnuts, crisp juicy apples and local specialties such as foie gras, slow-roasted duck and Rocamadour cheese.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
What could be more relaxing than watching clouds drift overhead as you make your way down the river Dordogne from Argentat to La Roque Gageac and Beynac?
Experience Magical Midnight Gardens
By day, the lush gardens of the Dordogne are an Instagrammer’s dream, but pay a visit at night and the experience is nothing short of magical. Les Jardin de Marqueyssac was one of the first gardens in the Dordogne to offer evening visits. Known as Marqueyssac aux Chandelles (Marqueyssac by Candlelight), the gardens are open for the public to explore by the cosy glow of candlelight from 7pm until midnight. Other after-dark gardens include the Jardins d’Eyrignac, Colette Gardens and the Gardens of Sothys.
Take a Flight of Fancy
See the Dordogne Valley’s cliffs, wooded slopes and hilltop villages from a completely different angle, with a flight in a hot-air balloon. Gliding silently above the countryside gives you a real sense of the geography and layout of the landscape, and the bird’s eye view reveals hidden gems that you’d never see from the ground.
Sleep Like Royalty
Whether you’re on a long holiday, or just taking a short break, a good night’s sleep in a comfy bed is an essential part of the experience. The Dordogne has no shortage of hotels, B & Bs and other accommodation but if you’re in search of something just that little bit different, out of the ordinary, or very, very special, look no further than a stay in a traditional French château. Fairy-tale castle hotels pepper the landscape of the Dordogne – live the dream and book a stay fit for a king or queen.
Go with the Flow
Often, the charm of the Dordogne Valley lies in the unexpected. You’re driving or cycling and en route you take a wrong turn and find yourself in a little village you haven’t researched or heard about. By all means stop and explore. New discoveries are what make this one of the most rewarding destinations in France.