8 days

Flavours of the Dordogne

Flavours of the Dordogne

The 50,000 year history of La Roque Saint Christophe

Perigord's Dordogne

Trip rating
  • Home to foie gras and black truffle, the Dordogne is an enticing mix of sumptuous cuisine, charming villages and rich prehistoric sites. Your local leader will guide you through the quaint towns and the local menus.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Les Eyzies

    • Welcome to the heart of the Dordogne region, known to the French as Périgord, and the village of Les Eyzies (pop: 900). Les Eyzies lies at the heart of an unspoilt area of great natural beauty with rolling hills, tranquil rivers and fascinating cliff and rock formations. An extended stay here in the incredibly scenic Périgord Noir (Black Périgord) region before your trip commences is an excellent idea.
    • Les Eyzies is best reached via the provincial centre of Perigueux, approximately 100 kilometres north-east of the city of Bordeaux. There are daily direct fast trains from Paris Gare d'Austerlitz station (4-5 hours) and Bordeaux (1 hour) to Perigueux among other routes. Here you change for a direct regional service to Les Eyzies (30 minutes). We recommend that you consult www.sncf.com for exact train departure times regardless of your routing.
    • While at your discretion, we recommend arriving and departing by train where possible within Europe, as this method of transport has minimal carbon emissions. Arriving at Les Ezyies Railway Station is magical in itself – it is a delightfully historic railway station that is located only 600 metres from the hotel.
    • The full name of the town is Les Eyzies-de-Tayac and it nestles against the cliffs and oak forests on the bank of the meandering Vézère River. Following the discovery in the 19th century of the remarkable remnants of prehistoric human occupation, the village has come to be known as a centre for archaeological excavations.
    • A trip to see the many fascinating artefacts at the National Museum of Prehistory is highly recommended. In the evening you will meet your tour leader and fellow travelling companions at a welcome meeting (this is at 6pm at the reception of your hotel), where you will be given a briefing of what lies ahead on the tour.
    • This is followed by an included welcome dinner – a great chance to get to know your fellow travellers. Santé!
    Hotel De France or similar
    Dinner

    Day 2 - Les Eyzies – La Grotte du Sorcier – Les Eyzies

    • After breakfast you will leave the bustling town of Les Eyzies, where a local market is held every Monday morning. You will stroll along the Vézére River, an ochre coloured waterway that flows and snakes its way beneath rolling hills in woods covered with oaks and chestnut trees, to a ‘wizard’s cave’!
    • Do you remember the tale of Hansel and Gretel? They were children who were lost in the woods and then attracted by the barley sugar windows and the gingerbread roof of a witch’s house? Well, this is it! Without doubt you will be irresistibly seduced by this troglodyte cliff-side house and the cave that is perched over the small village of Saint-Cirq in Dordogne, only a few miles from the village of Le Bugue.
    • Hidden among bamboos and banana tree plantations, you will enter another dimension - that of Saint-Cirq’s Wizard’s Cave that dates back 15,000 years. After exploring this very interesting little cave and learning about the history of the area, it’s time to share your first picnic!
    • Local goat cheese and the world’s sweetest strawberries will give you more energy for the walk back to Les Eyzies. (5 hours walking, +300m cumulative gain and 13.5km)
    Hotel De France or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 3 - Les Eyzies – Commarque - Bardenat

    • After breakfast you will leave Les Eyzies and walk up the small scenic valley of Beune, which was carved out over thousands of years by the meandering river that shares its name, and gaze upon the mysterious landscapes as we wander.
    • You will then walk up along the hilltops that seem almost like lofty balconies, nestled in wooded hills and festooned by orchids. From here you will come across some typically beautiful Périgord farms, where ducks and geese are bred for local culinary specialties, before arriving at the grand Château of Commarque, which was founded during the 12th century on the request of the abbots of Sarlat.
    • Originally the Château de Commarque was only a wooden tower that helped protect the valley from the constant threat from the rival barons of Beynac. It is located at a strategic nexus of two important commercial roads - the road from Périgueux to Cahors and the road from Brive-la-Gaillarde to Bergerac.
    • The castle was further fortified over the centuries and changed hands many times in the maelstrom of wars across the ages, such as the French wars of religion and the Hundred Years' War when it was occupied by the English.
    • You will take time to enjoy your fresh picnic lunch in bucolic and picturesque surroundings.
    • Your Hotel in Bardenat is located in the heart of Périgord. A well-deserved swim in the garden's swimming pool after the day's walk. (6 hours walking, +600 cumulative gain – a longer walk (16km))
    Hotel Mounea or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 4 - St-Leon-sur-Vezere - La Roque Gageac

    • After breakfast you will bid 'au revoir' to your hosts and wander off through hills and forest and rejoin the tranquil banks of the Vézère River.
    • You will now walk by the ghostly prehistoric shelters of Castermerle and Conquill that are hewn from sheer rock. Opposite these ancient relics is postcard-perfect Saint-Leon, a quiet and picturesque village located on a scenic bend in the river.
    • Once a river-port, this tiny township (pop. 441) is a vestige of medieval times and truly an undiscovered ‘gem’. There will be time to enjoy lunch by the river at a small café whose owner (a wonderful character) assembles flavoursome salads from the freshest of produce, all with a smile and a whistle.
    • You will complete today at the La Roque Saint-Christophe (St Christopher's Rock), set high above the waters of the Vézère River. This site (the biggest cave-dwelling habitation in Europe) consists of about one hundred caves on five levels hollowed out on the limestone cliffs and is believed to have housed up to 1000 people.
    • Walking up and down the stairs and passageways you will discover early traces of occupation that go back over 50,000 years before it became a veritable fortress during the medieval times. A late afternoon transfer takes you to your new base in the countryside outside of Beynac, which is known as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
    • Its magnificent castle is protected by the sheer drop on the side facing the Dordogne River and its northern defences were reinforced around 1598 when a double wall, two rows of moats and two barbicans (a type of fortified gateway) were constructed.
    • From this panoramic location you will enjoy breathtaking views over the whole of the valley and the surrounding châteaux. Just below is the village itself, stretching along the banks of the calm river. Inhabited as early as 2000 BC, it had lived off the traffic from the river during the Middle Ages.
    • The traditional ‘gabares’ (boats) have today given way to canoes and rowing boats, set against the picture-postcard backdrop of the fortified castle.
    • At the next hotel (2 nights) you will enjoy the inviting swimming pool to cool off after the rewarding walks, and a sumptuous regional dinner. (5-6 hours walking, 500m cumulative gain and 11km)
    Pech de Malet Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 5 - Domme - Beynac

    • This morning you will head into the heart of the Dordogne and begin with a guided and leisurely stroll around the ‘bastide’ town of Domme. Enjoy exploring the morning market of this medieval masterpiece of cobblestone streets, exquisite honey-coloured homes and compact gardens of creeping wisteria vines.
    • 'Bastides' are fortified ‘new’ towns built in medieval Languedoc, Gascony and Aquitaine during the 13th and 14th centuries in an effort to colonise what was viewed then as wilderness region especially in southwest France. Almost seven hundred 'bastides' were built between 1222 and 1372.
    • Of slightly more recent vintage, the ‘bastides’ of Domme and La Roque Gageac are now listed in the 'Plus Beaux Villages de France' (‘The Most Beautiful Villages in France’) - an official register of the 100 prettiest French villages.
    • Within the walls of this 12th-century village, you can visit the caves where the villagers hid during the Hundred Years' War. On the Grand Rue, the town's shopping street, you can purchase some of the many exquisite handicrafts, wine and food specialties from the Périgord region.
    • Your walk then descends through the village of Saint Julien-de-Cenac and takes you along the Dordogne River. This afternoon you will have the opportunity to undertake an optional activity - canoeing on the Dordogne from Cenac to Beynac (12 km, about 2 ½ hours), drifting via La Roque Gageac and Castelnaud.
    • Not only will you discover these beautiful places on foot, this will give you the chance to do it on water. Along the way you'll see the beautiful cliffs along the river before La Roque Gageac, the magnificent castle in Castelnaud, which has overlooked the village since the Middle Ages.
    • At the end of your descent at Castelnaud, the village of Beynac awaits. The canoe trip is an early taste of tomorrow's walk where you trek in the heart of the same villages!
    • Tonight is spent back in Vitrac. (2 hours walking, +300 cumulative gain and 5km; optional activity: 2 hours canoeing)
    Pech de Malet Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 6 - Castelnaud - La Roque Gageac - Sarlat

    • Today you will walk from villages to castles. In the morning you will amble through cornfields en route to Castelnaud, following the path alongside the wide slow-flowing Dordogne River.
    • Perched on a hillside on the left bank of the Dordogne, Castelnaud overlooks the small borough coiled at its feet. This was a stronghold of the English during the Hundred Years' War and you will have free time to enjoy the sweeping views from its dominating position up on the rocky outcrop.
    • You will then cross the Dordogne River before walking through a plain and reaching La Roque-Gageac. It is nestled next to the water at the foot of the impressive cliff where elegant houses, resplendent with gardens of banana, bamboo, and palm trees, are perched on the rock. La Roque-Gageac is considered one of the most beautiful villages in all of France.
    • In the late afternoon you will be taken to the pretty provincial town of Sarlat, capital of the Périgord Noir. (4 hours walking, +300 cumulative gain and 11km)
    Hotel Montaigne or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 7 - Sarlat (Free Day – morning market and optional visit to Lascaux II)

    • Today you will be free day to explore Sarlat and its surroundings. Your tour leader will be on hand to offer suggestions of things to see and do. Once the capital of the Périgord region, Sarlat contains more medieval, Renaissance and 17th-century buildings than any other city in southern France, with its splendour found in its sandstone architecture.
    • There will be time to experience the town's open-air market—the largest and liveliest in all of the Dordogne—which offers a mind-boggling array of fruits, vegetables, truffles, meats, cheeses, crafts and trinkets.
    • This afternoon you will have the option of visiting the Lascaux II prehistoric caves. With picnic items bought this morning at the market, those wishing to join this optional trip will then be transferred to Lascaux II. Here you will receive a private guided tour of Lascaux II - a stunningly accurate facsimile of the famous Lascaux Cave that contains some of the world's finest prehistoric paintings.
    • Discovered in 1940, the original cave was open to the public for over 20 years until scientists determined that the carbon dioxide created by the constant stream of visitors (almost 1200 per day) was compromising the preservation of the paintings.
    • The cave was officially closed for public viewing in 1963.
    • To enable the public to still experience the these amazing caves, the Dordogne Department’s tourism authority created Lascaux II—a life-size reproduction that gives visitors a sense of the original cave's splendour.
    • For those who wish to stay in medieval mode for the afternoon, why not stroll through Sarlat's historic centre and discover its labyrinth of vaulted passageways, hidden squares, streets lined with ochre stone houses, shops and cafés galore.
    Hotel La Couleuvrine or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 8 - Sarlat

    • After breakfast and saying farewell to your new-found friends, you will be transferred back to Sarlat Railway Station. If you intend on using this transfer service, please do not plan onward train travel before 10 am.
    • If you need to leave earlier, please discuss your requirements with your tour leader who may be able to make alternative arrangements for you, depending on the availability of vehicles (a surcharge will apply).
    • The cities of Bordeaux, Bergerac and Perigueux are destinations close to Sarlat that offer convenient connections for onward travel. ‘Au revoir’ from the beautiful Dordogne!
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • The services of Peregrine's expert English-speaking local tour leader
    • Gratuities for essential services in tour package

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Arrival and departure transfers
    • Departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Travel insurance (compulsory on all trips)
    • Meals (where not listed as included in the itinerary)
    • Optional additional tours or activities during free time
    • Gratuities for tour leader
    • Items of a personal nature
  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    Flavours of the Dordogne

    Patrick - Canada, 23 Sep, 2012
    4
    Overall Rating

    Our group was small (only six, plus Beatrice) so you always felt as if personal interests were well considered.

    Flavours of the Dordogne

    Mary - Australia, 15 Apr, 2012
    5
    Overall Rating
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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PEFD
Group size 1 - 16
Start City: Les Eyzies
End City: Sarlat
Style: Small Group

What to know

You'll need to be in good health and able to walk for a few hours, with some up-and-down, and on varied terrain, from well-defined paths to rocky trails.

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