The Dordogne Valley is a mix of all the things that make France so unique: beautiful nature, delicious cuisine, and a wealth of history and culture. This rural area attracts many local tourists in search of a rich cultural and relaxing holiday, but here's why it's perfect for those outside France, too! These are 10 unmissable activities in the Dordogne Valley that will make your trip unforgettable.
Explore the Lascaux cave
Since its discovery in 1940 by four teenagers, the Lascaux cave has become one of the most important archaeological sites of the 20th century. The walls of this complex of caves are covered in over 600 Cro-Magnon paintings. It was closed to public in 1963 to preserve it from external threats and was reproduced on the same hill for visitors under the name of Lascaux II. You can now visit this reproduction, as well as Lascaux IV, a 2016 identical replica of the original cave equipped with a 3D cinema, to learn more about its discovery. Lascaux III, a travelling international exhibition, enables visitors to discover the Lascaux paintings in depth no matter where they are in the world. Make sure to visit this incredible UNESCO World Heritage site while in Dordogne.
Follow in Josephine Baker's footsteps at the Milandes Castle
This charming 15th century castle is known worldwide thanks to its former inhabitant, the famous Josephine Baker. The African-American born dancer and advocate for equality lived in the Milandes Castle for almost 30 years with her family. This beautiful building is a great example of Renaissance architecture and Gothic features. It's surrounded by a beautiful and impressive garden where visitors can take a stroll and relax in the middle of Cypress trees, oaks, tulips, cornflowers and pines. It was awarded the prestigious title of "Maison des Illustres" (House of the Illustrious) which honours exceptional women of the 20th century.
Discover the village of Brantôme
Nicknamed the Venice of the Dordogne, the village of Brantôme is nestled between canals and cliffs, just like the charming Italian city. Brantôme has a mix of Renaissance and medieval architecture that makes it a fairy-tale-like place to visit. The picturesque village offers many lovely activities for visitors such as canoe trips or river cruises to navigate the canals and discover the city, as well as iconic monuments and gardens to explore. For history lovers, you will find the Brantôme Abbey, which according to a legend, was founded by Charlemagne in the 8th century.
Visit the Château de Beynac
Located in what is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, the Château de Beynac stands above the picturesque village of Beynac-et-Cazenac. Visitors can hike to the top to experience a unique panoramic view of the Dordogne Valley. The authentic 12th century fortress is one of the most well-preserved buildings in the region. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Richard the Lionheart of England or Eleanor of Aquitaine thanks to guided tours of the castle for approximately £7.
Wander around the Dordogne markets
Good food and quality ingredients are an essential part of Dordogne culture! The weekly traditional markets offer travellers a pleasurable holiday experience. Just like a true local, you can visit one of the many food markets found in the Dordogne Valley and stock up on products you might not find elsewhere! Find fresh and delicious vegetables and fruits at the Bergerac market, famous for its local truffles and strawberries. During the summer months, you can enjoy lovely night markets such as Le Bugue, where people eat and drink in a relaxed atmosphere.
Attend one of Dordogne's festivals
Numerous festivals take place in the Dordogne Valley during the year and are a great way to meet locals and discover more about their culture. For music lovers, the Périgord Noir Festival is the perfect place to enjoy jazz or classical music, and the Summer Music Festival in Bergerac also offers dance and theatre shows. Other events are dedicated to cuisine, such as the famous Truffle Festival in Sarlat or the Chestnut and Mushroom Festival in Villefranche-du-Périgord. The Dordogne offers an eclectic selection of festival themes that is sure to please everyone!
Wander the Marqueyssac Gardens
Are you keen to visit a unique sculpted garden that seems to come from an imaginary land? The Marqueyssac Gardens are for you! This 22-hectare park offers a panoramic view of the entire Dordogne Valley and is a true symbol of the region. Visitors can wander around and find lots of detailed information about the species of flowers and plants in the various panels and signs installed in the gardens. Individual visits last around 90 minutes and cost £9. For those interested to learn more about these wonderful man-made gardens, additional guided tours of the gardens and the surrounding 19th century castle are also available for curious visitors.
Time travel in Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère
Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère is listed as one of France's most beautiful and charming villages and is set in a curve of the Vézere River. For those who enjoy quiet and calm, it's a great place to recharge your batteries. You can wander around its narrow streets, enjoy the beauty of traditional houses in the village, and explore the village's jewel: a 12th century Romanesque church. This lovely building is one of the oldest churches in the Dordogne Valley.
Go on a vineyard tour
If you enjoy good French wine, the Dordogne's vineyards are the perfect place to learn more about the passionate winemakers who work to produce the finest beverages in the area. It's possible to take a tour of most wineries, both large and small, and follow the winemaking process from planting and harvesting to bottling. Visitors have the option to go on an entire day or half-day tour and weave their way through the beautiful vineyards of Dordogne.
Travel to the depths of the Padirac Cave
Located 338 feet below the ground, the Padirac Cave is just one of Dordogne's many natural wonders! It's France's most visited cave and it mesmerises travelers with its otherworldly sights. From a labyrinth of cavities decorated with unusual rock formations to the Rain Lake and its translucent waters, you won't forget the Padirac Cave anytime soon. After descending by lift, you can take an underground boat ride and admire the Grande Pendeloque, a giant 337-foot stalactite, as well as the impressive crystalline formations in the "Salle du Grand Dome" whose roof rises approximately 300 feet above visitors' heads. It's an unforgettable experience!