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Bordering the Dordogne river in an idyllic setting, surrounded by hills covered in oak forests, this pretty town is waiting to be explored. Take a boat trip on a Gabare, or go for a walk to discover the beautiful natural scenery on offer.
A river runs through it
The growth of Argentat-sur-Dordogne from a village to a small town has been intimately intertwined with its location next to the Dordogne river. Like Souillac-sur-Dordogne, Argentat-sur-Dordogne was a major commercial river port in the north of the Dordogne Valley at the height of the river trade of the 17th-19th centuries.
Using Gabares (flat bottomed boats), the transport of wood and exotic goods from the French colonies in and out of the Dordogne stretched along a route from the Auvergne to Bordeaux. Wood from the forests here was sent to Bordeaux to make oak barrels for the wine industry and goods from Bordeaux brought back to the region. At its peak there were around 300 gabares on the river at any one time, plying their trade.
Today, a number of these ancient boats have been restored and you can take a scenic trip down this UNESCO classified World Biosphere river on one of them. Experience a taste of Gabare life on this hour long boat trip and discover the wild beauty of the Dordogne river here with stunning views of nature.
On the Town
Disembarking from your Gabare trip you can then head back to the village and the cobbled streets of this picturesque ancient town. Medieval houses and manoirs from the 15th century all make a charming backdrop for a walk and some casual shopping. There is also a traditional market every 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month, selling local fresh produce straight from the neighbouring farms of the area. Along the riverfront particularly, you can find various cafés and restaurants where you can stop to enjoy the pretty view across the Dordogne river while indulging in a refreshing drink or scrumptious lunch.
City of Gold
The name Argentat comes from the French for money (argent)- why? Gold! There is gold in them there hills. The ancient Gauls exploited it in gold mines here and also near Tulle. At the beginning of the 20th century commercial mining began and right up until the early 2000s produced around 2 tons of gold per year.
Today, you too can try your hand at some gold prospecting. The Pêcheurs d'Or association of Argentat-sur-Dordogne holds gold panning demonstrations in the morning and afternoon in the summer months.
Aimed at children from 8 upwards and excited adults they will give you the secret tips (French language only) to finding some gold and other precious stones along the banks of the Maronne river. Start prospecting, you may even find a nugget that pays for your holiday (well you never know).
Paddling and Walking
For keen paddlers, canoeing here is great too, as the river is slightly wilder with more rapids. Canoe operators give you multiple options for your decent including half and full days or just a few hours - the choice is yours.
Nestled in a wild part of the Dordogne Valley, Argentat-sur-Dordogne is surrounded by some excellent nature walks with magnificent scenery. Close by is the Barrage du Chastang hydro-electric dam which you can also visit. For keen hikers, mountain-bikers or day trippers you can discover the magnificent views of the dam and valley beyond by walking the well marked trails here. A variety of other walks in and around Argentat-sur-Dordogne will guarantee you lookout points with spectacular views of gorges as you walk through wooded forests and past small hamlets. It really is a walker’s paradise.
Argentat-sur-Dordogne is reputed as one of THE places to fly fish in the Dordogne Valley. For keen anglers, come and check out one of the best spots to fish for salmonids. If you are visiting in October, every second year there is also a Festival, celebrating the art of Fly Fishing, attended by both pros and amateurs alike.
Nearby - Les Tours de Merle
Only 30mins away, the Tours de Merle is like a set out of Game of Thrones. Immerse yourself in these magnificent castles, climb the ancient medieval steps to the top of them and admire the view surrounded by the wild oak forests of the Dordogne Valley.