435 Chateau De Beynac Dans L Ombre Declicdecolle435 Chateau De Beynac Dans L Ombre Declicdecolle
©435 Chateau De Beynac Dans L Ombre Declicdecolle


Natural and Cultural Heritage

The essence of the Dordogne Valley

Birthplace of humanity, conquered by Romans, coveted by the English in the Middle Ages, the Dordogne Valley ticks all the boxes:  a pleasant climate, gorgeous food, preserved natural beauty and the most impressive cultural heritage.

Instagram #valleedeladordogne
Instagram #valleedeladordogne

A river runs through it

The region owes its name to the famous Dordogne river, linking the woodlands and wilderness of the Upper Valley to the gentler slopes and vineyards further West.

Here, people know how to enjoy simple things. Thanks to a less hectic pace of life, they take time to talk, making visitors feel welcome whether at the markets, village festivals or in the shops and restaurants of the Valley.

With the arrival of autumn, the Dordogne Valley’s rich cultural heritage takes on a new and captivating allure. As the summer crowds disperse, a quieter ambiance settles over the region, offering the perfect opportunity to explore its historical treasures and vibrant traditions.

Ancient castles and medieval villages stand as silent witnesses to centuries of history, leaving you free to admire at your own pace the architectural marvels that have withstood the test of time.

Cultural Heritage

From cave paintings to the Hundred Years’ War, from Gallic dolmens to medieval fortresses and Renaissance castles, history has left an incredible cultural heritage throughout the Dordogne Valley.

No fewer than 19 villages have been awarded the coveted label of ‘Most Beautiful Village in France’.

From small hamlets to bigger cities, they all bear the traces of a tumultuous and legendary past. Rocamadour and its thousand years of pilgrimage, Sarlat and its beautifully-preserved medieval centre, Montignac and the mythical prehistoric cave of Lascaux, Collonges-la-Rouge with its distinctive colour, Bergerac and its Protestant past…

Travelling in the Dordogne Valley is a journey through time unravelling the threads of history woven into the region’s landscape and culture.

Prehistoric times

Lascaux tops the list of the most incredible and unmissable prehistoric caves in the world. Dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”, for its vast and important collection of Palaeolithic art it is a definite must-see of mind-blowing proportions.

The UNESCO World Heritage site Lascaux IV, opened in 2016, it is an exact replica of the entire original cave with the added bonus of interactive technology.

Smaller caves with original cave paintings are also opened to the public such as the Grottes de Rouffignac, Grotte des Merveilles, Combarelle and Font de Gaume

To find out more about your distant ancestors and how they lived, check out the Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies and its huge collection of artefacts. La Roque Saint-Christophe with its prehistoric dwellings should also be added to your list.

Gallo-Roman remains

Before the English in the Middle Ages, the Romans too loved the Dordogne Valley and stayed a while. Here are some Gallo-Roman sites worth checking out:

Vesunna: In a bold architectural design by Jean Nouvel, the Vesunna site and museum presents the Roman origins of Périgueux built above the remains of a large Gallo-Roman residence. Exceptional archaeological collections tell the story of the ancient city and the way of life of its first inhabitants.

Les Cars: this archaeological site is the most remarkable Roman site of the Corrèze. Set between moors and forests, a villa and two temple tombs stand testament to a time that dates back almost 2,000 years.

Middle Ages mayhem

Where to start!? In the Dordogne Valley, you can’t seem to go anywhere without bumping into yet another incredible medieval gem.

First stop: Sarlat where you will truly feel like you have stepped back a few centuries. The city has the most medieval buildings per square metre in the whole of Europe! That’s why so many historic movies are shot there.

Then you have the castles. But which one? They call this area the Valley of 1001 castles… So you might need a very long holiday or a very good shortlist.

For starters, the châteaux of Beynac and Castelnaud both of whose opposing forces were pitted against each other during the Hundred Years’ War. Then the other Castelnau (this time without a ‘D’), a medieval fortress built in reddish stones – very impressive.

What about a medieval citadel? Yes, we have this too! The Tours de Merle, seven of them, hidden by thick forest, stand like magical towers from a forgotten kingdom.

Did we mention the castles of Biron, Commarque, Fénelon, Puymartin? All with a unique and fascinating story to tell.

Throughout the Dordogne Valley, the villages still display remnants of their medieval past, often through religious history like the UNESCO site of Rocamadour, one of the Four Pillars of Christendom in the Middle Ages.

Many villages developed around an abbey like Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, Aubazine and Coly Saint-Amand or were linked to the powerful abbey of Cluny like Carennac.

Bastide towns, the modern fortified cities of the 13th and 14th centuries, were being built all around Bergerac. Many of them have kept their original lay-out like Monpazier and Eymet.

Close to Brive, the medieval village of Turenne was the stronghold of the Viscounts of Turenne, one of the most powerful dynasties in French history.

Renaissance period

More castles anyone? The Renaissance period saw the construction of many elegant châteaux throughout the Dordogne Valley.

Designed by a woman, the Château de Montal near Saint-Céré is a prime example of the refinement and sophistication of the time.

In the Périgord, the Château des Milandes, once home to Josephine Baker, boasts Renaissance architecture with magnificent Gothic features.

Later, in the 17th century, the Château de Hautefort was transformed from a medieval stronghold to an elegant residence where beauty and style took centre stage.

Museums and unique sites

Smaller museums with specific themes are open to the public throughout the valley.

Are you a chocoholic? Great! Head to the Bovetti chocolate factory near Terrasson (tasting and shop on site). While in lovely Terrasson, pay a visit to the local and very gifted artisans who have opened up shop in the city centre.

If photography is your passion, do not miss the Musée Robert Doisneau (yes, the one who photographed “The Kiss”in 1950) situated in the old train station of Carlux.

There is also a hugely interesting Museum of Medecine in Hautefort and a quirky Tanning and Leather Museum in Bort-les-Orgues.

If walnuts tickle your fancy, you can find out everything about them in two museums:  Les Quatre Demoiselles in Saillac and the Domaine de Vielcroze in Castelnaud. We highly recommend a visit to the Dordogne Valley in October as it is the height of the walnut picking season. Various walnut festivals are happening during this time including one in Saillac in the Corrèze.

The Dam in Bort-Les-Orgues

Take a tour of the inside one of the largest dams in France, from the control room to the engine room and the tunnel.

Les Pans de Travassac

Corrèze’s premier visitor attraction, a unique visit to the heart of a slate quarry, shaped by centuries of exploitation.

Natural Heritage - The River

The Dordogne river meanders its way amidst picturesque landscapes, charming villages and historic sites. Its tranquil waters wind through the lush countryside, passing by dramatic cliffs, dense forests, and rolling vineyards.

The Dordogne river, its tributaries and the surrounding natural environment have been classified a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO for its exceptional environmental quality.

The upper Valley of the Dordogne is a series of deep gorges, perfect for hiking and mountain biking. Further downstream, the wilderness makes way to historic villages and hilltop castles, inviting visitors to indulge in outdoor activities such as canoeing, swimming and cycling along its banks.

The Dordogne river is also one of the best spots for fishing in Europe with plenty of trout, salmon and pike to catch.

The caves

As beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, the Dordogne Valley is full of treasures hidden just beneath your feet. Water filtering through the limestone soil over millennia has created astonishing natural caves throughout the region.

Visitors to the Gouffre de Padirac first explore the great chasm by boat on a crystal-clear underground river before continuing on foot, 103 m under the surface, through galleries and spaces of pharaonic dimensions.

All of the caves in the region display the most mesmerising natural sculptures and forms created by Mother Nature throughout thousands of years of patient work.

The caves of Lacave, the Gouffre de Proumeyssac, the cave underneath the bastide of Domme… They all boast incredible stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes.

Some, like the Gouffre de la Fage, are home to colonies of bats that can be observed at certain times of year.

Culture and traditions

The Dordogne Valley attaches particular importance to the arts by staging numerous festivals throughout the year.

Here are some you should not be missing:

Classical music in Rocamadour inside the UNESCO basilica and surrounding villages

Jazz in  Souillac, small and intimate with international jazz players and the magnificent abbey as a backdrop

Pop music in Brive, a great summer outdoor festival

Opera in Saint-Céré, chic atmosphere in the courtyard of the impressive Château de Castelnau

Mimos in Périgueux, dance, theatre, circus and more….

Pourpre Jazz Festival in Bergerac, in the spring and some concert dates later in the year at wineries

Périgord Noir Music Festival, classical music in and around Montignac with concerts in smaller churches

Food festivals in Sarlat: Fest’Oie in March and Truffle festival in January – https://www.sarlat-tourisme.com

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