Exploring the Dordogne River Valley
Charming towns dotted with medieval architecture, dramatic French countryside scenery, fertile vineyards, and rich culture: the Dordogne region is an alluring corner of rural France. Here are a few ways to make the most of your time in the Dordogne River Valley.
The medieval town of Sarlat in the Périgord region draws many visitors, especially in summer. With more than 250 buildings dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, the town’s sense of history is strong. Take a walk along the Rue de la République, then use Sarlat as a base for other destinations in the region.
Nestled in a gorge overlooking the Dordogne River, Rocamadour has been a popular pilgrimage site for centuries. Visitors come for the maze of cliffside chapels and spectacular scenery in equal measure, and highlights—that can be enjoyed via a guided tour—include the sacred Notre Dame Chapel and sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No visit is complete without heading up to the 14th-century hilltop castle to gaze out over the landscape below.
The Lascaux Caves
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the prehistoric caves at Lascaux are home to primitive drawings of animals dating back to the Upper Paleolithic era, about 50,000 years ago. Believed to have been painted over many generations, the images depict hunting scenes from daily life at the time. Some tours combine these caves with the National Prehistory Museum in Les Eyzies de Tayac and the UNESCO-listed Rouffignac Cave.
Guarded by no fewer than seven imposing medieval gates, the UNESCO–listed town of Saint-Émilion features Romanesque churches and ancient ruins hidden along its narrow, cobbled streets. Most famous for producing some of the finest wines in the Bordeaux region, the town remains a popular base on the Dordogne’s wine route. The vineyards were first planted by the Romans roughly 2,000 years ago and continue to thrive in the sun-soaked hills today.
The fortified medieval village of Domme is one of the most beautiful in France, and it boasts impressive 13th-century ramparts along with spectacular countryside views. The Esplanade du Belvédère, which offers sweeping views over the valley, is the best spot to take in the scenery.