Dordogne Villa holiday guide
Dordogne villa holidays draw gastronomes, nature lovers, and history buffs to France’s south-west. Food markets in Sarlat’s quaint streets are piled high with foie-gras, prunes, and truffles. Cave-paintings in Lascaux II bear witness to 400,000 years of human habitation. And Medieval châteaux, strung like pearls along the Dordogne and Dronne rivers, recall periods of Anglo-French rivalry—especially the Hundred Years’ War. If you are into wines, head to Bergerac and Cahors to sample their full-bodied reds
Explore the Dordogne
Périgueux, the region’s capital, flaunts a photogenic mix of Gallo-Roman vestiges and Medieval architecture, including at the Cathédrale St.-Front with its Byzantine turrets and cupolas. The labyrinthine, pedestrian-friendly streets of UNESCO-protected Sarlat have starred in many a period movie. The town hosts its own film festival in November. Rocamadour teeters on a cliff, topped with a Medieval castle that has withstood more than a thousand years of attacks. One of France’s oldest bell towers watches over relaxed Brantôme, famous for its Sunday market and summer water-jousting competitions.
Climb Limeuil’s panoramic gardens and watch the Dordogne and Vézère rivers converge under arched bridges. Grottos deep under the Périgordregion conceal stalagmites and stalactites. In Domme descend below the Bastide to discover a vast chamber of rock formations, before catching the panoramic lift for vistas over the valley. For a romantic experience, wonder the sinuous paths of the Jardin de Marqueyssac in Vézac. In one memorable section, 19th-century topiary hedges provide a fairytale backdrop for uninterrupted views across patchworks of field and forest.
Eating and Drinking in Dordogne
Many truffles served in Michelin-starred restaurants across France started life in the Dordogne’s soils. Visit Sorges’ Ecomusée de la Truffe (Truffle Museum) to learn about how the fungus grows, then bid for some at Lalbenque’s truffle auctions (December to March). Preserved duck, foie-gras, saucisson, and prunes from Agen decorate the stalls on Périgueux and Sarlat’s food markets. Wash it all down with a Bergerac red, bought on a serendipitous journey along the D29 wine route; or a smooth Armagnac from Condom, south of Agen.
Dordogne's National Parks
Brantôme sits at the gateway to the Parc Naturel Régional Périgord-Limousin, which covers a vast landscape of chestnut forests and wild-orchid fields. The Dordogne’s northern extremity, the Lot, follows the River Dordogne into the Auvergne, a mountainous area formed by long-extinct volcanoes. Seasoned walkers should visit the Puy de Dôme volcano, whose crater—grassed-over by Mother Nature ten thousand years ago—is still visible. At family-friendly Vulcania science park, experience the simulated effects of natural disasters and see a crater bubbling with convincing lava.
Arts and Culture in Dordogne
Live out your château fantasies in the Dordogne, where there are hundreds castles to visit—many around Sarlat. Set on a limestone cliff, the Château de Beynac flaunts Romanesque and 17th-century architecture and was once seized by Richard the Lion Heart. Château de Castelnaud houses the War Museum of the Middle Ages, and stages costumed weaponry demonstrations in summer. At Joséphine Baker’s gargoyle-clad Château des Milandes, you can admire her costumes (including her banana skirt) then pick a pew for the falconry demonstrations.
Exlpore Dordogne's history
Although the world’s largest concentration of cave paintings at Lascaux is closed to the public, you can see extraordinary reconstructions at Lascaux II, including the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery’s nine friezes. Les Eyzies-de-Tayac’s National Museum of Prehistory has a vast collection of stone-age artefacts. The Vézère Valley also contains troglodyte settlements like La Madeleine in Tursac, inhabited from prehistoric times until the 1920s. It was also used more recently: by Résistants during World War II.
Active Pursuits in Dordogne
With rivers a-plenty and limestone cliffs topped with châteaux, canoeing is a wonderful way to combine sightseeing with sport. The calmest waters run through the River Dordogne, which sails past châteaux like Milandes and Beynac. The River Isle, nicknamed the ‘golden glitter river’ after its sparkling waters, takes you through gorges around Jumihac then calms to become a fisherman’s paradise. Waterfalls plunge into the River Auvézère before taking you into a landscape of forges and 19th-century paper mills.
Relaxation in Dordogne
The Dordogne’s fragrant gardens are some of the most eye-catching in France. The most beautiful jardin in the Périgord is at Château d’Eyrignac, where topiary hedges are sculpted into more than three hundred shapes. Let go in Les Jardins de l’Imaginaire, whose thirteen contemporary gardens take you through roses, beds of lavender, and water features to the Théâtre de Verdure, with views over the old village of Terrasson-Lavilledieu. Relax like a king at Château de Hautefort, where French-style gardens bloom all year.