If you are in search of old buildings and traditional villages, you will be in your element strolling through the typical narrow streets of our “Most Beautiful Villages in France”, discovering our bastide towns, or visiting Périgueux or Sarlat, both of which are officially recognised “Towns of Art and History”.
The Dordogne is renowned for its beautiful villages, 10 of which are officially recognized “Most Beautiful Villages in France” – along with the Aveyron, the Dordogne has the largest number of these villages in the country. Situated 20km from Sarlat, Saint-Amand-de-Coly nestles between two wooded valleys and is famous for its 12C abbey. At the other side of the département, in the Périgord Vert, Saint-Jean-de-Côle’s history is linked with that of the Château de la Marthonie which dominates its main square, while the typical small commune of Saint-Léon-sur- Vézère between Montignac and Les Eyzies boasts no fewer than three castles. Other villages include Limeuil (overlooking the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère), Monpazier, La-Roque-Gageac, Belvès, Domme, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and Beynac-et-Cazenac.
Although the Périgord’s villages are already popular with holidaymakers, you should not overlook the département’s three main towns, Sarlat, Périgueux and Bergerac, which are also full of charm and interesting sights.
The “Castles Route”
The Dordogne features an impressive built heritage: Romanesque churches, farms, wine estates, manors and of course the ‘1001 castles’ that the Dordogne is known for. These show an incredible diversity due to the successive periods of their construction, destruction and restoration: their very walls tell of war and peace. Perched high above the Dordogne Valley, Beynac castle conceals splendid fortified dwellings that face off with Castelnaud castle’s stout towers. Bourdeilles castle represents two very different periods, including a feudal fortress and a Renaissance pleasure castle with a marvellous collection of period furniture. Don’t miss Les Milandes, a castle that belonged to Josephine Baker and Jo Bouillon; Hautefort castle, surrounded by classical French-style gardens; Monbazillac castle, in the heart of the vineyards… And the list goes on.
With its 147 prehistoric sites dating back to the Palaeolithic period and 25 decorated caves, the Vézère valley or “valley of Prehistory” is of exceptional ethnographic, anthropological and aesthetic interest, with no fewer than 15 prehistoric sites in the valley on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Today, these masterpieces of prehistoric art are being preserved for posterity.
The Dordogne has been a popular destination for more than 450,000 years, and today it offers a panorama of the evolution of man throughout the ages. To discover the Dordogne is to encounter the distinctive origins of beliefs and culture that define us today. The Périgord contains several thousand prehistoric archaeological deposits and almost half of all the cave art in France. These precious gems include the Lascaux caves, painted more than 20,000 years ago, featuring an exceptional collection of cave paintings. To tour its facsimile, Lascaux II, is to view the dawn of man’s existence. The Prehistory Centre in Les Eyzies can facilitate your approach to the heritage of this ‘prehistoric valley’ and help you to better understand it through educational workshops, lectures, exhibitions and theme circuits.