View over the Dordogne Valley - @ M. TurinBook your stay
With world-class cave art, amazing cultural heritage, beautifully-situated thousand-year-old fortresses, lively markets in yesteryear villages and canoe trips under cliff-top gardens, visitors are truly spoilt for choice.
So to help you plan the perfect trip, here are 10 of the region's A-listers we think deserve their place on your bucket list.
Not only is Rocamadour one of France's most important tourist destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has also been an crucial pilgrimage site for a thousand years.
With a Sanctuary built into the cliff around a central courtyard, it's the Chapelle Notre Dame and the Vierge Noire that is the highlight of any visitor's trip. This Black Madonna was carved from the wood of a walnut tree in the 12th century and has ever since been drawing worshippers from all across Europe in search of miracles. Rocamadour is both a place of legend and a place of history where old stone houses, majestic towers and a castle keep cascade off the cliff into the Alzou canyon.
As a reminder: The village is still an active place of worship so it's advised to dress accordingly. With a million visitors flocking to Rocamadour every year, try and plan a visit to the sacred marvel early in the morning as it can often get quite busy during the day.
Listed one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, Collonges-la-Rouge is surrounded by lush countryside and freckled with chestnut and walnut trees.
Whilst torrents of beautiful flowers invade the unusual red sandstone buildings, 25 towers peek above the village's narrow streets lined with manor houses, artisan boutiques and restaurant terraces.
Visitors can enjoy a leisurely lunch, poke around the backstreets and do a bit of shopping before deciding where to settle down for an apéritif with the promise of a ‘Kodak moment’ at every corner...
#3 Gouffre de Padirac
103m deep and 10,000 years old, the Gouffre de Padirac is the most visited cave in France. Descend 75m below ground and board a boat that will take you through the fantastical galleries towards the largest of the cave's stalactites and the impressive Salle du Grand Dôme with its 94-metre-high ceiling. Wow factor guaranteed!
Just a couple of small pointers to help you prepare your trip: The cave temperature is around 13°C, so don't forget to take a jacket and proper footwear if you want to avoid going head-over-heals on some of the slippery paths. In peak season, you won't be the only ones planning a visit. Book your tickets online and dodge the somewhat hefty entrance queues.
#4 Canoeing from Saint-Sozy to Pinsac
The Dordogne Valley's most idyllic canoe trip: crystal-clear waters, cliff-fringed banks and 3 magnificent castles overshadowing the river.
Jump in a canoe from Saint-Sozy and head downstream past Château de Belcastel, Château de la Treyne and Château de Lanzac until you arrive at the pretty village of Pinsac. Canoeing makes an excellent half-day or day trip and don't forget to take a picnic with you.
The faint-hearted can choose an afternoon trip from Saint-Sozy to Pinsac (9km) whilst the more courageous can do the full 19km Gluges to Souillac stretch. No need to fear though, there are lots of little creeks to take a breather and a minibus will take you back to base.
#5 Tours de Merle
Used to house the lords and their families as early as the 12th century, the feudal fortress of the Tours de Merle was built on a secluded peninsula by the Maronne River with seven towers, two chapels, a medieval village and the Madège house. Book a (un)guided tour around this 7-tower citadel and take in the amazing views from the top.
Don’t forget to check out the events calendar too with dozens of themes, workshops and kids activities organized every year.
Voted one of 'The Most Beautiful Villages in France', Domme occupies a lush position high above the Dordogne river and offers a smashing array of shops, restaurants and walking trails.
Like many others in the Dordogne Valley, the creamy-stoned bastide village boasts a successful combination of architectural and natural heritage but with an added bonus: The Grotte de Domme. Dive under the main square to explore the 450m of stalactite-decorated galleries and resurface in the panoramic lift to an absolute corker of a view.
#7 Château des Anglais in Autoire
One of an 8-part series of castles built by the English in the Hundred Years' War, Autoire's magnificent Chateau des Anglais is a 13th century work of art embedded in the limestone cliffs above the village. It is in surprisingly good nick despite only the main body and one turret remaining and offers outstanding views over the valley.
Although the walk up is fairly short and accessible to most, any visit to a cliffside ruin means keeping the kids well supervised and wearing proper footwear (in other words: lose the flip flops). The site is free but no guides or leaflets are available so make sure you do your homework before venturing out to explore this little gem.
While in Autoire, do not miss the visit of the village itself with its many manor houses and a walk to an impressive waterfall.
#8 White Garden Picnic in the Gardens of Eyrignac
Every Monday night in Summer, the Jardins d'Eyrignac open the White Garden for an evening of festivities where visitors dress in white and bring along a picnic or buy one from the restaurant. Unwind from a hardy day of visits and watch the sun go down behind the fountains before boogying on down to some good ol' tunes.
Entry tickets include a welcome cocktail and a live band on the grounds.
#9 Aubazine Abbey and the Canal des Moines
Aubazine has it all: A stunning village (yes another), a splendid 12th-century Cistercian Abbey and the Canal des Moines. Famous for its wealth of history, the Abbey continues to reap the rewards of a recent claim to fame when Coco Chanel found inspiration for her futur logo in the interlacing C window designs during her stay at the orphanage.
The 1.5 mile-long Canal des Moines is just a stone's throw away and was dug out of the rock by 7th century Monks to bring water from the nearby stream to the Abbey. The walk is sure to reward visitors with a stunning show of colourful landscapes!
#10 Meyssac Market
All summer long, visitors get the chance to nibble their way around the Dordogne Valley's markets whilst basking in the midday/evening sun. And where better to kick start this munching spree than at Meyssac market?
Every Tuesday and Friday mornings, Meyssac is transformed into a bustling crowd of buyers, sellers and photographers that want to capture the perfect picture of a French market place. Built with the same red sandstone as Collonges-la-Rouge, the town's rich architectural heritage and collection of magnificent buildings that surround the main square make a very impressive sight for any shopper on the market.