The Dordogne has stunning medieval castles, historical villages and towns, and the famous prehistoric caves of the UNESCO listed Vezere Valley to enjoy, each of them set in the attractive landscapes of the region, with rivers, forests and beautiful countryside, so it is no surprise that the Dordogne is one of the most popular destinations in France!
The Dordogne is one of our favourite departments in France, and because there is so much variety the main challenge is knowing where to start when describing the highlights - and for you to decide where to stay when you visit!
To make your travel planning slightly easier we have divided our review further down this page into four distinct regions.
Note that the Dordogne area is quite large, perhaps two hours drive from north to south and a similar distance east to west, even more if the places are not close to the larger roads, so you are unlikely to see everything in one visit - no problem though, because you will certainly want to come back again!
In Perigord Noir you will find many of the most famous castles, towns and villages of the Dordogne region, many in spectacular locations, and with fascinating histories to tell - but you will also find more tourists and busier roads, especially in high season.
Sarlat, 'medieval capital of the Dordogne' and perhaps the most lovely town in France, is in Perigord Noir, as are a multitude of smaller picturesque villages and towns.
France This Way comment: this is certainly the most visited part of the Dordogne and contains many of the highlights although we would be inclined to visit outside high season if possible to appreciate it at its best.
The riverside setting, ancient village streets and castle make Beynac a highlight for visitors
Montfort is a fairytale castle on a hill a few kilometres from Sarlat
Puymartin is another of the lovely castles in Perigord Noir
The most extensive, and most visited, historical town in the Dordogne
Attention to historical detail and views across the river make Beynac castle a treat for visitors
The ancient stone houses along the river at La Roque-Gageac make it very scenic
See La Roque-Gageac
Domme is a hilltop village with some of the best views in the Dordogne, and extensive caves
Castelnaud is both a medieval castle and an extensive museum of medieval warfare - children will love it!
15th century Chateau des Milandes is well known because Josephine Baker owned the castle during the 20th century
Another attractive Dordogne market town
As well as well known medieval towns such as Bergerac, on the Dordogne river and with a lovely historic centre, this is a region to discover bastide towns (medieval new towns founded in the 12th-13th centuries) several of which are found in the southern Dordogne (and south into Lot-et-Garonne such as Villereal and Monflanquin).
The countryside north of Bergerac is generally forested hills, while to the south you are more likely to see fields of sunflowers and extensive vineyards.
France This way comment: many visitors love this region for its unspoiled nature, medieval villages, and also the lower visitor numbers and quieter roads and return year after year...
Beaumont is a small traditional bastide town
Belves is a very attractive village, listed as a 'plus beau village' and with a great deal of character
The extensive 'old town' and riverside setting make Bergerac very popular
Cadouin is a very small village with an imposing abbey, listed as a UNESCO heritage site
The hilltop position and far reaching views make Chateau de Biron one of our favourite castles
See Chateau de Biron
South of Bergerac, Eymet is a traditional medieval bastide town
Issigeac is an unspoiled medieval village very well known for its Sunday market
Le Bugue is a small town on the river well placed to explore the centre of the region
See Le Bugue
Limeuil is a pretty village on the river classed as one of 'the most beautiful in France'
Molieres might officially be an 'unfinished' bastide but there is still plenty to attract you!
Monpazier is among our favourite five villages in the whole of France. Unmissable.
Montferrand is a very small village on a steep hill in a scenic part of the Dordogne
Saint-Avit is visited for its medieval abbey, a listed UNESCO heritage site
Tremolat is a picturesque village and nearby Cirque de Tremolat has incomparable views across the Dordogne river
Villamblard is a very traditional French town in the countryside north of Bergerac
Villefranche-du-Perigord is a bastide town in the valleys to the south of the Dordogne
Here you can explore the prehistoric settlements of the Vézère Valley as the roots of prehistoric man are discovered in the Dordogne region - much of the region is now a UNESCO listed world heritage site.
Although there are less 'large' towns here, this is the most central part of the region, so is a good choice if you hope to explore all parts of the Dordogne.
France This Way comment: the sense of contact with prehistory along the Vezere as you visit the caves and prehistoric dwellings make it a very interesting region, and it is also very scenic, perhaps the most picturesque part of the department.
Les Eyzies is a small village much visited as part of a tour of the Vézère valley
See Les Eyzies
Font-de-Gaume has the only prehistoric paintings in the Dordogne where visitors can see the originals
Abandoned for several centuries, Commarque is now rediscovered and a fascinating castle to visit
Very interesting prehistoric settlement set into the side of a cliff along the Dordogne river
Plazac is very tiny - but also very picturesque
St Leon sur Vezere is a very pretty village on the Vezere river centred around a lovely 12th century church
Lascaux caves are probably the most famous prehistoric cave paintings in the world
See Lascaux caves
Montignac is a pretty riverside town most visited for its proximity to Lascaux caves
St-Amand-de-Coly is another of the exceptionally pretty villages to be found in the Dordogne
The world renowned Gardens of the Imagination in Terrasson are the major highlight and attract visitors from all across France
Less visited than the southern Dordogne, the north also has its share of market towns and castles, beautiful scenery and picturesque villages, including Perigueux, 'capital' of the Dordogne.
Part of these northern areas fall within the Perigord-Limousin Natural Regional Park.
France This way comment: this region is quite different in character to the 'central' Dordogne and provides a quite different visitor experience, with less major sights but more peace and quiet. Lovely region to unwind!
Nontron is a quiet town to the south of the Natural Regional Park of Perigord-Limousin
The Chateau de Jumilhac, sometimes called the 'sleeping beauty castle', is especially famous for its multi-spired roofline
Chateau Puyguilhem is unusual in being a renaissance period castle - most here are medieval in origins
Thiviers is renowned for being the foie gras capital of the northern Dordogne
Saint-Jean-de-Cole has a riverside setting and old stone bridge, a castle and many lovely houses. A highlight.
Bourdeilles, and the castle around which the pretty village developed, make for a lovely stroll in the northern Dordogne
Brantome is a town and abbey in a particularly lovely setting on the Dronne River
Riberac is a quiet town well known for its important regional market
Perigueux is an important regional centre with an imposing byzantine cathedral and interesting medieval town
Excideuil is a market town near the Perigord-Limousin Natural Park
Often claimed to be the most beautiful of the many castles in the Dordogne, Hautefort also has very impressive views
We lived near Monpazier for 10 years and now live in Bergerac. Apart from exploring many of the towns and villages our personal favourite activities (and also those of our visitors) include:
See more places, tourist attractions and local markets at visiting Dordogne
See an index of all Dordogne communes
Feature article: countryside and bastide towns in the southern Dordogne - Monpazier, Villefranche-du-Perigord and area
A common arrival point for visitors which has regular 'low cost' flights from the UK is Bergerac airport
French version: Dordogne (Francais)