Dordogne-Périgord – Travel Guide, Activities & Accommodation
Dordogne-Périgord – An Active Holiday Guide
When it comes to outdoor activities, the Dordogne with its rivers, limestone cliffs and forested hillsides is exceptional. In the Dordogne-Périgord area there’s more than 600 km of river to explore by canoe, and more than 7000 km of waymarked trails for hiking and mountain biking.
The Dordogne region offers a huge range of outdoor activities. Choose a leisurely canoe trip down the Dordogne or the Vézère rivers, or a magical early morning hot air ballon ride over the chateaux of the Dordogne valley. Or ramp up the fun by hitting the cable ski park in Lanouaille, scaling the via ferrata at the Jardins de Marqueyssac, or by swapping the canoe for a stand up paddle board.
Dordogne-Périgord Map | © routard.com
Getting to the Dordogne
Active Holidays in the Dordogne
We’ve teamed up with the best active holiday companies to help you organise an unforgettable trip to the Dordogne:
With limestone cliffs, forests, hills and the Dordogne and Vézères rivers, the Dordogne is a top destination for active holidays and outdoor sports.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Canoeing down the Dordogne river towards Beynac | © dordogne-perigord-tourisme.fr
The Dordogne is a canoeists paradise. With 100’s of kilometres of meandering river, you’ll paddle through forested valleys, past ancient villages, and beneath chateaux perched high on limestone cliffs.
The 2 rivers that are most popular for canoe trips are the Dordogne and the Vézère. But these aren’t the only waterways to explore – you can also paddle the Ilse, the Dronne and the Auvézère which are all just as worthy despite being a lot quieter.
There are canoe rental companies all across the Dordogne. You’ll either paddle downstream from the base and get picked up at the end of your itinerary. Or, more typically, you’ll be driven upstream to your starting point and you’ll paddle back to base. A leisurely paddle will see you travelling at roughly 6 km an hour, so a 15 km descent will take just over 2.5 hours.
You can rent everything from single person kayaks to Canadian canoes for 4 people. You’ll be given a paddle, buoyancy aid and a waterproof container for personal gear. Prices are based on the length of the descent and start from about 9.50 euros per person for a 6 km trip. You need to be able to swim and you have to wear your buoyancy aid. On occasion sections of river may be closed due to the water level either being too high or tool low for safe paddling.
For the full experience, rent a canoe for a full day and take the time to stop for swims and a picnic on one of the many beaches along the river.
Hiking in the Vézère Valley | © rando.dordogne.fr
Hiking is a great way to experience the Dordogne close up. It gives you the chance to breath in the fragrant air, watch out for wildlife and chat to locals along the way. The undulating rural landscape is well suited to a walking holiday. It’s hilly but more accessible than the Alps and the Pyrenees, and there are campsites and gîtes d’étapes conveniently located beside the trails. Whenever the trail dips down to the river, there’s an opportunity for a refreshing swim.
Waymarked Grande Randonnée hiking routes offer long distance itineraries. You can often tailor make your own route to include a section of a GR route. You’ll know you’re on a GR by the red and white striped markers on trees and fence posts. The region’s main GR trails include the GR6, GR36 and GR65.
The GR6, which travels west to east right across France, stretches 165 km within the Dordogne from Sainte-Foy-la-Grande to Figeac. The GR36 meanders southeast from Bourdeilles to Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil. And the GR65, also known as the Chemin de Saint-Jacques, is the old pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela. The walk is listed among the European long-distance paths. The trails runs south of the Dordogne across a region known as Haut Query following the Lot river from Figeac to Moissac.
You can pick up maps of the walking trails from tourist offices. The central tourist office in Périgueux will have trail maps for the whole of the Dordogne region, whereas tourist offices in smaller towns will only be able to provide localised maps. The French hiking association – the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre produces detailed Topo Guides of the GR routes.
Hiking in the Vézère Valley | © france-bike-trips.com
The Dordogne’s gentle rolling hills are criss-crossed with hundreds of kilometres of waymarked cycling routes and trails. Minor roads and gravel tracks provide plenty of opportunity for leisurely cycle touring. And, forested valleys provide mountain bikers with superb terrain to explore.
Long-distance cycling routes include the 180 km Grande Traversée dy Périgord which runs from Mareuil in the north-west of the region to Monpazier. A good middle distance option is the 80 km Véloroute which follows the Lot river from Aiguillon to Bonaguil.
A highlight for mountain bikers is the area around Montignac between the Vézère and Dordogne rivers. Here, you’re in the heart of Périgord Noir with its picturesque landscapes, hundreds of chateaux and a bio-diversity so rich it’s UNESCO protected. The Fédération Française de Cyclisme (FFC) have set up 24 waymarked MTB loops graded according to difficulty and covering a total of more than 500 km. The tourist offices in Montignac and Salignac-Eyvigues can provide maps and info.
Rock climbing in Autoire in the Dordogne | © vallee-dordogne.com
The pocketed limestone cliffs of the Dordogne offer huge scope for rock climbing. The Dordogne is a year-round climbing destination. Highlights include the Rocher de l’Isle in Jumilhac-le-Grand where the climbing in the grounds of the Château de Jumilhac is suitable for all abilities.
Bayac, 20 km upriver from Bergerac is great for beginners. There are two sites to check out – Falaise de Mombrun and Falaise des Corbeaux. Both sites have a variety of well-equipped easy climbs with big confidence inspiring holds.
The Falaise du Château in Excideuil, 30 km northeast of Périgueux is another great spot for beginners, or those looking for an easier session. On the cliffs below the chateau, there are about 30 routes from 3b to 6c.
Just south of the DOrdogne river, Autoire is nestled at the base of a forested outcrop of limestone complete with an impressive 30 metre waterfall. It’s home to a quarter of all the climbing routes in the Lot department, some 270 routes offering great variety on superb rock. With climbs from 5 to 25 m, graded from 5a to 8b, all abilities are catered for.
Local activity companies and climbing guides such as Couleurs Périgord and Kalapca offer beginners’ courses and half-day or full-day excursions.
Here’s a few recommendations for places to stay in the Dordogne. Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, Souillac, Sarlat and Limeuil are all ideally located on the Dordogne river with easy access to the outdoor activities. A bit further north Périgueux, the Lanmary Forest and Jumilhac-le-Grand provide great access to the attractions of the Périgord Vert area.
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