Too often, we focus solely on the coast when thinking about a holiday in France. And while the south and west coast are gorgeous places to visit, they’re pretty crowded as a lot of people are aware of this. That’s why I was excited to visit a completely different destination in France… Dordogne!
I leapt on the opportunity to visit this stunning region and managed to fit a lot into my five days in Dordogne. So to help you appreciate this undervalued area, here are my top picks of things to do, places to eat and places to stay in Dordogne.
I recommend visiting outside of the peak season if possible, as then you won’t struggle as much with bookings - plus it’s far cheaper! I visited in May and the weather was incredible. Not only did I manage to get a tan during my trip, but I left with a suspiciously red nose that I refuse to admit is sunburn…
Getting to Dordogne
Dordogne is situated on the western side of France, about six hours south of Paris. It’s possible to drive from the UK to Dordogne, by taking the Eurotunnel to Calais. You can travel from Folkestone to Calais in 35 minutes, with prices starting from £50.
You could also fly into Bergerac as I did. It’s a short flight, with various airlines available. Bergerac airport is small, so you can pick up your baggage and exit within twenty minutes of landing! There are car hire options available, but you could also choose to hire a campervan to continue with - definitely our recommendation!
Driving in Dordogne
I was initially hesitant about driving in Dordogne. I had heard about the rural roads, high elevations and speeds at which locals drove. But within an hour of driving in France, all of that concern had gone out of the window.
I definitely drove slower than the locals who know the roads like the back of their hand, but with practice, I managed to go at a safe speed.
Tips for driving in Dordogne:
- Don’t take Google Maps time estimates to be concrete. These work off the speed limit, which can be 80 km/h on a terribly winding road filled with sharp bends. So play it safe and add time to your journey.
- Use the ‘Avoid toll roads’ option on Google Maps. Not only will it save you a lot of money on French toll roads, but it will take you along beautiful roads! It doesn’t add that much more time to your journey.
- Ensure you have all of your documentation with you. If you rent a car or campervan, make sure you have the necessary documents in the vehicle.
- Fines are hefty in France, so always play it safe. A lot of people get caught out in the rural areas, where you’ll go from 80 km/h to 30 km/h as you suddenly enter a village. Most apps like Waze or Google Maps advise you on the speed limit, so be careful when driving.
- Like the majority of France, Dordogne is quite a hilly area. It’s not too extreme, unlike other French regions, so it shouldn’t be an issue on your trip. Simply remember to adjust your gears accordingly, using a lower gear to go uphill. If you need to stop on a downhill for an extended period, such as at one of the huge number of ‘Stop’ signs in the region, use your handbrake to relieve your foot from the pedal.
Things to do in Dordogne
My five days in Dordogne were packed with things to do, thanks to the Périgord - Dordogne Tourism Board. Out of everything I did, here are the seven things that stood out the most!
1. Gouffre de Proumeyssac
Start your trip with something truly out of this world… or at least 50km below it! Located in Audrix, this chasm was discovered in 1907, although it’s been around for far longer than that.
You’ll be taken down the Gouffre de Proumeyssac in a cable car, where an impressive light and music show will create an ethereal atmosphere. Then at the bottom, you’ll have a tour around the caves. There are audio tours available in many languages. Keep in mind that it gets a little chilly down there and certainly a bit damp. You’ll get to climb through small tunnels so perhaps leave your nicer clothes at home for this one!
2. Alto Duo
The winery of Terre Vieille is not just home to delicious wines, but also a furniture business. Both businesses are run by family members and aim to use everything produced on the land, including the various trees. Alto Duo, the furniture brand, is less than a year old and already catching people’s eye. They create simple works that will last, focusing on how sustainable a product can be, and combining their skills of design and woodwork.
A visit to their shop is well-combined with a wine tasting! Their dry rose was one of the best I have ever tried, and my only regret is not getting a bottle to take home.
If the heat is getting to you, cool off with a dip in the Vézère, one of the main rivers in the region. Pick up a canoe from Canoes Vezere and head down the river, along villages, forests and more. We took the 12km route between Montignac and St Leon, but there are also 4km and 8km routes if preferred.
They offer a free audio guide that can talk you through the route and the stunning history of the region.
4. Horse riding
Give your feet a rest and explore the area from a different viewpoint. A horseback ride is one of the best ways to experience the stunning scenery of Dordogne. Head to Echappée Pastorale, where Anne will take you on a horseback ride. There are options for every skill level, including for kids. Be sure to dress in long sleeves, as your ride will take you through dense forestry!
Follow this by a quick stop in nearby Coly- Saint Armand, considered to be one of the prettiest villages in France!
5. Visit Terrasson - Lavilledieu
One of the larger towns in Dordogne, Terrasson - Lavilledieu is ideal for a morning spent exploring. Terrasson is split into the old and new city, connected by an aged Roman bridge. On Thursdays, you can visit the weekly market, a tradition dating back over 500 years.
While here, I got the chance to speak to numerous local business owners and learn about their craft. Terrasson is a true artistic hub, with stunning pottery, art, wood carvings and more. Stop by the local glassblower for a demonstration and take home a stunning paperweight.
Finish your time in Terrasson with a visit to Les Jardins de l’Imaginaire. These gardens take up almost 6 hectares and are filled with various flora and fauna, as well as picturesque fountains and benches. But the garden is up quite a steep hill, so if you have limited mobility, perhaps consider giving it a miss!
If you’ve worked up an appetite, or you’re looking for a personal gift from the area, head to Bovetti before you leave. You can take a tour of their chocolate museum, with an intimate look into their factory, and try various delights. Their chocolate store is the largest I’ve ever seen and allowed me to get great gifts for my family!
6. La Madeleine
Take a trip back to prehistoric times with a tour of La Madeleine. This area was inhabited 12,000-17,000 years BC, during the ice age. This area has been rich in archaeological exploration, and you can still see markings and indications of life throughout the ages.
Additional activities are often organised here, including bread baking in the original stone oven of the middle ages, and yoga classes throughout the summer.
7. Gin tasting
Often when we think of France, our mind goes to wine - and for good reason! But once you’ve visited Distillerie de l’Ort in Montignac, you won’t be able to think of anything but their delicious gin. It’s run by Lois and Nolwenn, two siblings, who have transformed their family’s farm into a distillery, producing gin and pastis. They grow everything they need to flavour the spirits right there, including lemon thyme and rosemary. They’ve aimed to make the process as sustainable as possible, powering everything through solar panels.
Both the gin and pastis are delicious, with rich flavouring that sets you right there in that stunning countryside. If you’re flying home, be sure to book check-in luggage, as you won’t want to leave without a bottle of their gin!
Places to eat in Dordogne
A trip to France wouldn’t be complete without some delicious meals! The last time I travelled to France, I struggled to find vegetarian meals and wound up eating a lot of ratatouille. But I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of great vegetarian options in Dordogne. Here were some of my favourite places to eat in Dordogne.
This was probably one of the most unusual restaurants I visited during my trip. We almost missed the restaurant, as it was situated inconspicuously in a large garden with a small sandy parking lot. Until recently, Oddiyana Garden only offered takeaway, but due to great demand, they’ve added an outdoor dining area.
They offer various Pakistani dishes at a great price. We tried a small sample of each curry and left feeling full and satisfied.
Location: D6 Le Moustier 24620 Peyzac-le-Moustier
Le Moulin de l’Imaginair
We were lucky enough to eat at Le Moulin de l’Imaginair in the days leading up to their grand opening, and I’m glad we had the opportunity! Not only is the food delicious, but the service was incredible. We had each dish explained as we enjoyed a gorgeous view over the water.
Finish your time in Terrasson with lunch or dinner here, but be warned that you’ve simply got to try their desserts, which were unbelievably delicious!
Location: 1 Avenue Charles de Gaulle – 24120 Terrasson
You could visit Le Boïdicou every day during your trip and always get something different! They change the menu daily and aim to use as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible. They offer many meat dishes, but upon request, the chef created an incredible vegetarian three-course meal for us, including a creamy risotto.
Location: 27 Route des Eyzies – 24290 Thonac
Himalaya en Périgord
I visited Nepal several years ago, and coming to Himalaya en Périgord felt like stepping back in time to my travels. Patrick, the owner, managed a hotel in Tibet for years and always dreamed of starting his own. He brought all of the furniture over from Tibet and aims to make it as authentic as possible.
I haven’t eaten dahl that delicious since I visited Nepal, and everything else was incredible as well. This restaurant is a local favourite, and you can also stay in one of the two luxurious hotel rooms on offer. The hotel rooms are truly a slice of luxury in one of the calmest villages I’ve ever encountered.
Location: Le Bourg - 24620 Tursac
Where to stay in Dordogne
Dordogne is filled with great French motorhome sites, known as ‘aires de camping-car’. This is a great way to start and end your days in nature, and enjoy your home on wheels. Here are our top picks of campsites in Dordogne:
Aire Camping-Car Park de Vézac
Finish a warm day of exploring the local area with a dip in the river or pool. This campsite is geared towards motorhomes, so you’ll get the chance to meet plenty of local travellers!
Price: €10.30 per night
Location: la Roque - Gageac, 24220 Vézac
GPS: 44.824371° 1.16951°
Camping de mon Village of Carsac-Aillac
This wooden campsite in Dordogne provides shade, which will be a relief if you’re travelling in the heat of summer! Enjoy local delicacies at the numerous picnic tables provided at this site.
Price: €10 per night
Location: D703, 24200 Carsac Aillac
GPS: 44.840424° 1.274432°
Camping-Car Park area of Rouffignac-de-Sigoulès
Pitch your motorhome in the heart of the Monbazillac vineyards at this tranquil stopover. Ideally combined with a visit to the prestigious castle of Monbazillac, which overlooks the Dordogne.
Price: from €10 per night
Location: D933, 24240 Rouffignac de Sigoulès
GPS: 44.780186° 0.447407°
Looking for something a little different for one night? Here are some unique hotels and bnb's to consider in Dordogne.
- Kozi Dôme: These self-built domes are truly out of this world. They’re located deep in nature, where you can’t even see the other domes or signs of civilization. Watch the stars from the hot tub or even in your bed through the glass ceiling. I would gladly spend a week here never leaving!
- Maison d’hôtes l’Ancien Couvent: If you’re looking to escape the bustle of daily life, then look no further than this refurbished convent. It’s tranquil and filled with personality.
- Maison d’hôtes Villa Lascaux: This bio-house is a wonder to behold. Everything is built with the most sustainable intentions, and nothing beats ending a day of sweltering heat in their solar-powered swimming pool.
In all honesty, I don’t think five days is enough in Dordogne! There were plenty of other destinations I would have loved to visit, such as Périgueux and Sarlat, or to go hiking through the national park for a weekend. My only negative about Dordogne is that there is just too much to see there!
But if you’re planning a holiday to France, then I definitely recommend heading to this gorgeous region. There’s something for everyone, and it’s touristic enough that everyone speaks English but not so touristic that it loses its charm. Take the time to stroll through the towns and speak to the local business owners, to truly capture the soul of this region. And prepare to eat a lot of walnuts and truffle - both of which the region are known for! The Dordogne caramelised walnuts make great souvenirs for your loved ones - if they even make it off the plane with you!