Wander and wonder in Sarlat
UNESCO World heritage listed Sarlat, with its wonderfully preserved medieval centre is one of the most well-known cities of the Dordogne Valley. In fact it has the highest number of classified buildings per square metre of any town in Europe and is a classified Town of Art and History. Walk its cobbled streets, enjoy the marvellous Saturday morning market and climb to the top of the Church of Ste Marie via a glass lift for 360° panoramic views of the town.
Discover enchanting Collonges-la-Rouge
Collonges-la-Rouge takes its name from the red sandstone buildings for which the town is famous. It was once favoured by nobles and officers from the nearby court of the Viscounts of Turenne. The homes they built resemble small chateaux. Wander the pretty streets and enjoy the quirky shops, gorgeous architecture and the 12th Century church of Saint Pierre.
Food, food, glorious food
In France, gastronomy is revered, in fact French cuisine is on the UNESCO “world intangible heritage“ list. And, in the Dordogne Valley there’s plenty of opportunity to savour the finest local produce and incomparable flavours. From farmers markets to local specialities such as cheese, walnuts, foie gras and truffles, wonderful wines and numerous foodie events - a visit to the Dordogne Valley offers a taste of the best of France.
Each year around a million and a half visitors and pilgrims flock to Rocamadour. Built on a cliff, its houses and churches clinging to the rocks, you can’t help but wonder how on earth this astonishing village was ever constructed.
It’s been a popular visit for pilgrims since the 12th century. They would climb the 216 steps on their knees to visit the ecclesiastical city and see the shrine of Saint Amadour. Today two of its churches are UNESCO listed and it remains an architectural marvel. Head there in September to witness the extraordinary sight of dozens of hot air balloons floating over the landscape as Rocamadour hosts Les Montgolfiades, the biggest hot-air balloon festival in Europe.
Discover the Roque Saint-Christophe
This unique, 1km long cleft 80m up a cliff makes for a fascinating visit. The natural shelter has been inhabited by humans since the days of prehistory to the Middle Ages. A 3D film and replicas of ancient machines invented by those early dwellers bring the history of this awesome site to life.
The wonders of Lascaux Cave
The UNESCO listed Lascaux Cave in Montignac is the most famous, prehistoric decorated cave in the world. When it was re-discovered in 1940, its walls revealed the greatest masterpieces of prehistoric art. The 200m long caves are made up of alternating, almost circular, chambers and corridors in which paintings and engravings of many different animals and enigmatic signs are astonishingly lifelike, rich in detail and colour.
To preserve this wonder, the Lascaux Parietal Art International Centre for Cave Art in Montignac contains a reproduction of almost the entire original cave. Created using the most modern virtual and imagery technology, the experience is realistic and fabulous.
The glorious Gardens of Marqueyssac
The Gardens of Marqueyssac are the most visited gardens in the Périgord which is no surprise when you see just how beautiful they are. Created in the 19th century in the grounds of a manor house and now a National Historic Monument, there are more than 6km of shaded paths bordered by 150,000 hand-pruned box trees, some of which are more than hundred years old. Perched on a cliff over the Dordogne Valley, the view from top, 130m high, offers exceptional views over the Dordogne Valley.
One of the best times to visit the Gardens of Marqueyssac is in the summer when the paths are lit by thousands of candles and the sound of music carries over the hedges, creating a wonderfully relaxing ambiance.
The extraordinary underground world of the Gouffre de Padirac
The Gouffre de Padirac is one of the most impressive chasms in Europe, a gaping 75m deep hole which used to be known as the “Devil’s Hole”. It wasn’t until 1889 that intrepid explorer Edouard-Alfred Martel dared to venture in and discovered the underground river flowing below.
Ten years later it was opened to the public and now more than 450,000 visitors a year enjoy a boat trip 103m underground, plus a tour of the vast caverns, the second largest in Europe that are open to the public.
The Historic Château de Val
The perfectly preserved 15th century fairy-tale Château de Val stands proudly on its own small peninsula jutting into a lake formed by the creation of the Bort-les-Orgues hydro-electric dam. Visitors will love its immense, gothic chapel, prestigious art exhibitions and summer concerts.
The Puy de Sancy - source of the Dordogne River
The Dordogne Valley starts at the Puy de Sancy, a majestic volcano rising above a vast mountain landscape. At 1,886 meters, it is the highest peak of the Massif Central and the tallest volcano in metropolitan France. At the foot of its northern slope, two babbling streams, the Dore and Dogne, meet to form the Dordogne River, which then begins its 472-kilometer journey to the Gironde estuary and on to the Atlantic Ocean.
Venture to the summit of Puy de Sancy, which has been inactive for 250,000 years, on foot via a steep trail or by cable car – whatever route you choose, the climb ends with 864 wooden steps. The effort is well worth it though for the tremendous views from the top.
The area is a year-round sports paradise. In summer choose from hiking, along well-marked trails, trail running, tobogganing, climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, golfing and more. Skiing here in winter months offers pistes to suit all levels, plus cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, ice-skating, ice-climbing and winter hiking.