To visit Dordogne is to step into magic. There are tiny villages in the region that date back to the middle ages clinging impossibly to cliffs, prehistoric caves with paintings that tell an ancient tale and towns that seem to have emerged untouched from medieval France. Dordogne keeps tradition alive and embraces culture through folk dancing and food, art and history.
The beauty of pastoral southwest France is absolutely lovely and seemingly taken in at every glance. Stone fortresses gaze down from high up on cliffs at the rich valley views, capturing carpets of cornfields and sunflowers dotted with picturesque cottages and farmhouses, orchards of walnuts and bank-side vineyards that flourish in the river valley.
What Makes Dordogne So Magical?
This region, so rich in culture, history, exceptional architecture, natural beauty and old world charm is a popular destination for visitors from around the globe. Dordogne has long-been a favorite place for Parisians to have a second home. Dordogne is a gourmand’s delight and offers an endless supply of local bounty to enchant any palate. Come find out the magic of Dordogne.
Many who come to the Dordogne find magic in the landscape. The French countryside seems to burst with beauty, both natural and man made, in this remarkable region. The Dordogne river wends its way through the valley in dips and twists and turns. Rapidly flowing water sails past cliffs along its steep-banked borders for three hundred miles. As the valley widens along the river you’ll find stunning homes as well as lush farmland, thriving orchards and well-watered pastures where livestock easily graze, unaware of the rare beauty that surrounds them.
The Vezere River, a significant tributary of the Dordogne, creates the Vezere Valley, an area filled with rich green countryside, tree filled forests and so much to amaze you. Charming and picturesque villages dot the valley and prehistoric caves with paintings so well-detailed and preserved for millennia are hidden among the trees. The entire region surrounding Dordogne is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the entire Dordogne River basin is a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve.
A Biodiverse Ecosystem That Dates Back 40,000 Years
The Dordogne is the last river in Europe where all of the western European migratory fish can be found. Cave homes exist along the river and the town of Les Eyzies is often referred to as the world capital of prehistory. Local crops, legends, culture and history abound in this region that is an authentic example of the French way of life.
Architecture That Defies Gravity
You don’t get to be world-renowned for your beauty without exhibiting some of the most stunning examples of architecture in France. Dordogne honey-colored limestone has left itself to local construction as far back as the 8th century. Picturesque stone cottages, village homes, farmsteads and the ever-popular chateaux all bear some reference to the limestone of the region.
Churches, cathedrals, cloisters and abbeys are all fine examples of architectural styles throughout specific periods. You’ll find Romanesque, Gothic and even Byzantine-influences in the churches, religious buildings and municipal structures throughout Dordogne. The region boasts some of the loveliest and well-preserved and maintained architecture in France.
Stroll a market in Sarlat that dates back to medieval times and enjoy some of the amazing products for which Dordogne is recognized. Duck and goose are among the favorite offerings. Walnuts grow all around the area and you will find some delicious examples to enjoy or take home. There are plenty of gourmet delights and just-picked produce (depending on the time of year) from just nearby. There are artisan cheeses and wines for sale as well as foie gras and truffles as well. In fact you’ll find just about anything you crave, often including non-food items, at the Sarlat Market.
Setting Sail on A Gabarre
Since the Middle Ages residents of Dordogne have sailed upon their eponymic river in traditional flat-bottomed boats called Les Gabarres. Once used to transport goods, especially wines from the vineyards that thrive along the banks of the river, The gabarre now provides visitors to the area a relaxing perspective from which to view the valley.
In addition to the wildlife that calls the Dordogne home you’ll see beautiful riverside chateaux and charming little villages as you meander along your way. A gabarre excursion makes for a quite memorable experience.
With all of the lush farmland, the abundance of river fish and fowl, livestock, truffles and mushrooms and so much more it’s no wonder the Dordogne is celebrated as a gastronomical delight. The exceptional wines of this region, notably the Bergerac reds, pair well with the lusciously palatable and truly-French chef creations. Traditional regional cheeses, some aged in the limestone caves around Dordogne, run the gamut from rich and creamy, to sweet and salty are all very delectable.
Heaven on Earth
France’s beloved King Henri IV is often quoted as saying “Good food and good wine, this is heaven on earth!” If you were to add lush, abundant countryside, rich history, lovely architecture and a welcoming people you would have Dordogne. Yes, it is that magical!