The Dordogne is a department in the South West of France set between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees, that has long been renowned for the finer things in life, from stunning French cuisine to breath-taking scenery. The pastoral idyll has been fought over in antiquity with England claiming it after the 100 years war with France in 1453 and over the past few years the British have been claiming it again as a wonderful place to holiday.
It is easy to see why this is such a popular destination and especially with the British, as it is very quick and easy to get to with great transport links. The main reason is Dordogne itself, it is beautiful in a way that Tuscany is and as pretty as The Cotswolds in Britain, with its honey coloured stone cottages and villages nestled into lush green country side.
The area is littered with Chateau’s; there are more than 1500 in the region and picture postcard Medieval villages that take you back to another time. As if that wasn’t enough, it is also the home to one of the most important historical sites in the World and one that is a major tourist attraction The Lascaux Caves.
With so much to offer the visitor it is no surprise that so many people travel there and fall in love with it.
Dordogne- 5 of the Best Things To Do and See
1. The Lascaux Caves.
No doubt the most obvious choice for many visitor’s but The Lascaux Caves are a must see. Although you don’t actually view the original caves that were discovered by four young boys in 1940. The original caves were closed to the public in 1963 due to the high number of tourists who were visiting the site daily and the damage that they were inflicting.
Now you visit Lascaux Caves II a site that has been painstakingly and meticulously reproduced to look like the original with the same paintings, pigments and techniques used in the original. These Palaeolithic paintings which date back 20,000 years are famous the world over because of their exceptional size and quality. The paintings consist mainly of large animals that were native to the Region. The Lascaux cave is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although the site that tourists can now visit is only a reproduction, it is still well worth a visit to see Lascaux II to fully appreciate the size and scale of the paintings and also the artistry and understanding of the people who painted these animals so many years ago.
2. Gardens of Marqueyssac.
If you are looking for a trip that will truly take your breath away then visit The Gardens of Marqueyssac. These magnificent gardens sit high above the Dordogne River and are the most visited in the Perigord area. It is easy to see why they are such a popular tourist attraction. The gardens are a captivating swirl of box hedges that are meticulously maintained.
The garden’s wrap around the 17th Century Chateau Marqueyssac and take you on a journey through 5km of walking trails, a chapel and the famed over hanging gardens. You don’t just need to be a garden lover to fully appreciate these stunning gardens, they can be appreciated by anyone and will certainly stay in your mind long after your visit to The Dordogne is over.
3. Sarlat Market.
If you are looking for a day out that will give you a real flavour of life in The Dordogne, then visit Sarlat Market. This is a traditional market such as you would find in many parts of France but the difference here is the back drop of the old town. The market is large and takes over the town and has been there since the middle ages. It tends to be frequented by a large number of tourists and in the height of the Season and can get busy so a good idea is to go early on. Whilst visiting the market it is a good excuse to while away some time discovering the old streets and stopping to catch your breath, have a coffee and soak up the atmosphere.
4. Cathedrale St-Front.
Cathedrale St-Front is to be located in the town of Périgueux and sits just up from the waterfront. This stunning Byzantine designed Cathedral differs in design to many others found in France which tend to favour the Gothic Styling. Dating back to the 12th Century, this imposing building is awe-inspiring both inside and out and although the interior is starker than the exterior this doesn’t detract from your appreciation of this building. The outside with its five Byzantine tower-topped domes dominate the landscape but the best view to take in the Cathedral is from Pont des Barris.
5. Château de Beynac
The Dordogne region is well known for its Chateau’s and this austere Castle constructed in the Middle Ages which perches almost precariously on top of a lime stone cliff is one of the best preserved. Built in the 12th Century by the barons of Beynac it was in a good defensive position being built on a rock face to discourage an assault. During the 100 year war its panoramic position made it a key defensive position. It saw very little conflict however during the war.
Going inside you will see a 15th Century Chapel with frescos and the oldest part of the Castle, the Romanesque keep. There are apartments dating back to the 16th and 17th Centuries that housed the Barons. If you take a walk around the battlements you will get an amazing view of The Dordogne below.