Dordogne Travel Guide
We are in awe of the Dordogne region in France (you’ll see it called Perigord too!). It’s just to the right of Bordeaux and home to more than 1001 chateaux, so many caves, gorgeous green landscapes, daring cliffs along the Dordogne river, and incredible food.
The below is a log of the trip we did in July 2021. We were in the area for 2 weeks and honestly could have easily stayed another week. There is so much to do!!
HOW I PLAN VACATIONS IN FRANCE
What I’d suggest is using the below as a guide, but leaving the schedule loose. This is how I like to plan. I have an idea of things we’d like to see in the area. For scheduling reasons, I make reservations at the restaurants I really want to go to. They’ll be busy so you sometimes have to plan around this. Then I take a look at events that we might want to do, like the candlelit evenings at the Marqueyssac gardens or the vide greniers/brocantes (antiquing!!) that are happening on certain days. I’ll add those to the calendar, then each day see how we are feeling.. is it a slow day where we just want to chill and grill out and enjoy the pool, or are we feeling like a chateau or a hike? Leaving it loose like this means less stress but also that we can enjoy what is happening in the area. At the beginning of every trip, as we get close to where we are staying my eyes are peeled for signs. France is still very traditional in this sense, so to find fun local things to do like the outdoor movie at a chateau and picnic, you have to look for the signage.
Where we stayed: Le Bugue – we loved the butcher in the town and the markets were great on Saturday and Tuesday. It’s also not a touristy town so it wasn’t overrun by people.
The apartment we rented: Le Clocher (psst.. we booked through Olivers Travel here, but it’d be cheaper to book through the local agency, Simply Perigord, that takes care of the property. They have lots of other great options too.) To note… most rentals in France are Saturday to Saturday, ours was Friday to Friday, meaning we missed a lot of traffic on the road.
Getting around: We drove from Paris which was about 6 hours. The rest stops in France are excellent and very clean. Just a heads up that you really do need a car to get around in this area. The roads are small but not difficult to maneuver.
How to find Antiques: I like to search for Vide Greniers (yard sales, cheap!, but lots of baby clothes) or brocantes (antique vendor fairs, a little more expensive, but no baby clothes). I look on these sites: Brocabrac.fr and Vide-greniers.org. Both are great. You’ll also see brocantes and antiquaires as shops to visit. I look at pictures on Google Maps to get a feel for it before we go.
Helpful Tip: Yes a lot of things close on Sunday in France – so keep this in mind for grocery stores. BUT… as it’s a vacation area, there are tons of events that happen in the evening (on Monday as well).
Restaurants: Nice places book up FAST!!! If there’s a restaurant I suggest below that you really want to go to, make a reservation 1-2 weeks out (or even 3!). Call or email, sometimes you can reserve on the website. Don’t worry if you don’t speak French 🙂 this is a mostly tourist spot and you’ll be able to get by making a reservation in English.
The Regional Food: Duck, Foie Gras, and Walnuts!
OUR ABSOLUTE FAVORITES:
Francois: BBQ!!! Driving around to visit all the villages, each better than the last, on B roads (small back roads) then going back “home” and having a great BBQ and saucisson (charcuterie).
Molly: Le Vieux Logis Restaurant- it was incredible, comfortable as far as a high-end restaurant goes, and the food was extraordinary. Honestly, a can’t miss in my book if you like to go to a nice restaurant while on vacation. I loved the Chateau Campagne. It’s a beautiful feminine chateau where you can explore the grounds for free. They have great (free!) events like the food truck and outdoor movie theater evening. And then there are two caves that we visited that I can’t recommend enough: Grotte de Rouffignac and Gauffre de Promeyssac (see below for more details). Both for me were extraordinary.
MORE SPECIFIC FAVORITES:
Towns: Issegeac, Beynac, La Roque Gageac, Rocamadour, Saint Cyprien, Limeuil
Caves: Grotte de Rouffignac and Gauffre de Promeyssac
Restaurants: Le Vieux Logis, Chateau de la Treyne, and Logis Hotel Belle Etoile
VIEW THE GOOGLE MAP OF OUR FAVORITES TO PLOT OUT YOUR TRIP
WHAT WE DID EACH DAY:
Day 1 (Friday) – Arrival and check in to the house we rented in Le Bugue after a 6 hour drive from Paris. Thankfully we arrived before the butcher closed so it was BBQ for dinner and a drive around at sunset to orient ourselves.
Day 2 (Saturday) – Taking it easy. We went to the market in Le Bugue, did a BBQ for lunch, enjoyed the pool.. I stopped by La Grange, a great antique shop just outside of Le Bugue.
Day 3 (Sunday) – Brantome Abbey for the brocante out front. A gorgeous town with rivers throughout. The Abbey has troglodytes outback. The brocante was fantastic but very expensive.
LUNCH suggestion: Comme a la Maison (13 Quai Bertin, 24310 Brantôme en Périgord), go around the back of one of the main parking lots along the river to find it. Fantastic. Local food, reasonably priced, and very good. As it was off the main stretch, it was not overrun with tourists. For a nice lunch, l’Abbaye de Moulin looked nice.
After lunch we drove through the town of Perigord. I wasn’t super enamored with it – you really need to go to the older area in the city center, but it was very neat! I think I was hot and everything was closed (Sunday!). So not high on the list but eh! if you’ve got time!
Day 4 (Monday): Chateau Beynac – LOVED the city. It’s a big uphill hike to the chateau but the streets are stone-paved and it’s beautiful everywhere you look. The fortress was huge, medieval, and rather empty, but neat to walk around. Great views. On Monday, there is the producteur market at the base of the city in the parking area. It’s local producers – it was a tad touristy, but fun to walk through if you’re there. In the evening we went to Chateau Campagne for a picnic and outdoor movie (free!). There were lots of food trucks with local food from the region – SO much fun!! I found this after I saw a sign advertising it in Le Bugue.
Day 5 (Tuesday): HUGE market in Le Bugue then we went to Le Village de la Madeleine, a troglodyte village with the ruins of a fortress and prehistoric traces. It was neat, but so much more interesting as we had a great guide, otherwise, we would have wondered around for about 30 minutes said, eh that was cool, and headed out. Just a heads up that you cannot see the prehistoric area as it is too close to the river and in danger of flooding. Then we went to Le Grand Roc, a cave inside of a huge rock on the side of a cliff, perfectly situated to have all sorts of stalactites and mites inside. The visit leads you through a small carved-out passageway surrounded by formations. It felt like being in a gemstone and for some reason wasn’t my favorite, maybe because I like huge caverns, but Francois really liked it. In the evening we went to a Marche Nocturne (evening food market) in Vergt where the theme was fraise (strawberries!!). There was music, lots of food trucks, and it felt like the whole village was out celebrating! There are tons of these, so just look for the flyers or search local tourist sites.
Day 6 (Wednesday): AMAZING brocante at Brantome en Perigord that was happening every Wednesday in July/August. If you’re here for this (check BrocaBrac.org!), then GO!
LUNCH: La Tour des Vents – a nice, modern restaurant with views of the vineyards in the Monbazillac area. The desserts are massive and delicious.
The town: Issegeac – LOVEDDDD!!!! This town is SO So cute!! Great little boutiques, a wonderful vibe, and is unknown to tourists!!! It was picturesque and I’d highly recommend it. Explore the windy streets and look for a tiny brocante run by a brit. She has great taste! A restaurant here that looks great: L’Atelier
Cloister of Cadouin – A cloister where you tour the open courtyard and the arched covered pathways around it. There isn’t a whole lot to see, but I would recommend it as it the garden in the courtyard was simply magical and took my breath away.
Day 7 (Thursday): A chill day as Francois’ parents arrived. We did a little walk around the Chateau Campagne and had a delicious ice cream at La Maison de Campagne, a restaurant in a square just opposite the entrance to the Chateau. Would highly recommend!
Day 8 (Friday): We went to Grotte de Rouffignac and I LOVED it!! You do the tour in the original train from 1959 that they used when they started doing tours there. This is one of 30 caves in the world that has prehistoric drawings. The guide will talk in French – I didn’t understand it all – but it didn’t matter… I was in awe of the mammoths and rhino drawings. HIGHLY recommend. Psst – the site isn’t impressive in the least, but take my word for it!
In the afternoon we drove to Chateau Commarque a fortress ruins in the countryside. It’s a little hike to get to it (which I loved), and really impressive to see. You can climb through the ruins and explore as much as you’d like!
Day 9 (Saturday): An insanely busy visit to Sarlat during their market day. Would not recommend it… it was TOO BUSY!! So you couldn’t enjoy the city itself. I’d go on a non-market day (aka not Saturday or Wednesday) as it really is a gorgeous town to explore.
The city of Domme – a cute town but very touristy (when there’s no boulangerie to be seen.. that’s not a good sign). Would I recommend it though? Yes… because there is a great view over the countryside and Dordogne river. So just stop by, grab a drink on the terrace and soak up the view. We did the cave underneath the city, which was nice, but eh, could have skipped it… but… great on a hot day..!
Day 10 (Sunday): We dropped Francois’ parents off at the train station then popped into Saint Cyprien for a vide grenier. How cute is this town!!! and how great was the vide grenier!!! It was raining but I didn’t care!
Day 11 (Monday): Francois’ birthday!! We went to lunch at Le Vieux Logis and it was incredible. The space was gorgeous and we ate under a tunnel of trees. For a once in a lifetime meal, oh would highly recommend. (hoping I can make it a couple more times in a lifetime!!!). The food was super good and they were kind enough to ask if there were any major dislikes we had or allergies at the beginning. The staff was very welcoming and even though it was quite fancy, it felt so comfortable (especially after a glass of champagne). YES!
Afterwards, we drove through gorgeous landscapes on a tiny road (seriously, like the entire vacation we’ve done this – excellent!) and went to go see Chateau et Jardins de Losse. I really enjoyed it – there’s a brocante on the grounds! A sweet tea room and the tour was short but well done, and interesting. It felt like it was family-run. There were kid-friendly activities too and you can go down into the dungeon!
Day 12 (Tuesday): We took the suspended basket down through the natural entrance to the Gauffre de Proumeyssac. It was honestly incredible. As we went down, the guide chatted with us about the basket and cave, and a light show was taking place highlighting the huge chandelier-like formations in the cave. It was one huge open space and had a fascinating history (I won’t ruin it!). You can enter through the side entrance on foot, but shoot, I’d really recommend paying extra for the basket. It was unforgettable.
Afterward, we hit up the market in Le Bugue! It’s the day when it’s huge and takes up almost the entire town. We explored the brocante that was next door to the house we rented and chilled! Honestly a bit tired from the last couple days 😀
We headed out mid-afternoon and drove about 1.5 hours to Chateau de la Treyne for tea. We weren’t able to get in for lunch or dinner but OH WOULD I WANT TO COME BACK!!!! WOW…..!!!!! BOOK IT! Plan this one weeks ahead! I called a week before and said, any dinner, any lunch, whatever you’ve got.. and they were full. So I asked if we could come for tea. I would say they don’t normally do this, and it was nice, but oh to come for a full meal…!!! or to stay here! This chateau is beautiful and had such a family feel about it – with … incredible food and a fabulous decor.
After that, we headed to Rocamadour, a town a lot of people had recommended. On the way, we saw a goat cheese farm and stopped to visit – fun! Keep your eyes out for this! The region is known for Rocamadour chevre. NOM!
Rocamadour itself… hmm.. the main street was VERY touristy, lots of souvenir shops, like all souvenir shops, and lots of people. I still liked it though.. here’s why.. Francois had been before and suggested we start at the top and work our way down. Touristy mostly do the main street, then just venture up to the cathedral, so we avoided a lot of the crowds. We started by walking to the chateau and visiting the ramparts. You have to insert a two 1€ coins, or a 2€ coin to go through the revolving gate, then up to see neat views and the courtyard of the chateau (which is closed to visits). We went at the end of the day, and were the only ones up there. Then we walked down the winding path down the mountain to the cathedral that is built into the rock. It wasn’t too busy as it was the end of the day, and incredible to see. After that, we very quickly walked down the main street. haha. Would I go back? hm maybe not, felt like I’ve seen it, and yes it was neat, and very beautiful, but very touristy. Try to go on a grey day. There will be less people, and if it’s the summer, it will really help with the heat, as it’s a lot of hiking up and down!
Day 13 (Wednesday): We took it easy and hiked on one of the many trails in the region with Eliott and grabbed an ice cream. Then in the evening, we returned to Sarlat to experience the city without the market. It was beautiful!
Day 14 (Thursday): Our last day!!!!! We went to La Roque Gageac for lunch and to explore the city. It was pretty busy with tourists but pretty! Lots of canoes along the river. We had an excellent lunch there that I would definitely recommend, at Logis Hotel Belle Etoile. They have a pretty terrace that overlooks the river. The formula for lunch is inexpensive and fabulous, like eating at a starred restaurant.
We really didn’t want the day to end after that and drove to the cute town of Limeuil. You do need to walk uphill to see the town, but I really liked it. It is lesser-known and pretty. There is a garden at the tippy top that you can pay to visit that looked nice. We grabbed a drink at one of the terraces along the river to watch the canoes go by and reminisce.
Day 15 (Friday): On our way out of town, we stopped by Boulangerie-Patisserie Maitre Artisan (Avenue de la Liberation, Le Bugue) to pick up a walnut cake. They won the 2019 award for the best “Gateau au Noix” and I had to try it – spoiler alert: it was fabulous! The best!
Loved reading your trip – we are headed to saint cyprian first week in July. You mentioned a train station – do you know the closest one to sarlat?
Also how were the crowds?