Small charming villages is the specialty of France and as the summer is just across the corner, here is my suggestion of what to visit along the Dordogne River. This is my choice of places we had visited last summer during our 10 days holidays in France. If you have no idea how to spend those precious days from your annual paid leave, I’ll be happy to inspire you and to make you follow my itinerary.
Normally, I always choose a beautiful place as a base to explore a region. Thus, we have a home base, we don’t need to move and we can explore everything around in a radius of one day travel. If we don’t want to go to places, then we just stay and enjoy the little gem I’ve chosen. During our last summer’s holidays we were staying in a camping near Argentat. Most of the places included on this itinerary are already on the official list of the Most Beautiful Villages of France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France), which, of course, was my primary reference material when putting together this journey.
The Dordogne is a river in the central part of Southern France. It crosses 5 departments (Puy-de-Dôme, Corrèze, Lot, Dordogne and Gironde) and 3 regions (Auvergne, Limousin and Périgord) before it flows into the Gironde near Bordeaux. The upper part of the Dordogne is characterized by fast waters flowing through deep gorges with vertical cliffs and steep banks. After Argentat the river gets calmer and in Périgord the valley opens wide.
Argentat-sur-Dordogne is a small town on the Dordogne River with tiny streets, old houses and lively riverside. We enjoyed a few lovely evenings sitting outside at one of the numerous restaurants on the riverbank, watching the sunset colouring the houses on the other bank in gold, red and purple. I must admit that Argentat is not on the official list, but you can judge it yourself – isn’t it simply postcard-worthy?
Les Jardins d’Eau
We are great lovers of parks and gardens and I always try to include at least one or two on our itinerary. This time we went to this beautiful botanical garden in Carsac, near Sarlat. They have a lovely collection of water plants, water lilies and lotuses. You can easily spend there a whole day, walking around and enjoying the beauty of this water inspired garden.
My favourite place from these holidays! Domme is another small village on the Dordogne River that offers absolutely stunning views on the valley. It has also a busy market street with a lot of little shops where you can buy souvenirs and handcrafts.
Rocamadour is a medieval village clinging to the rocks and hanging above the Alzou River gorge, offering some dramatic views of the countryside. Besides of being a popular tourist destination, it is also a famous pilgrimage place.
Loubressac was the cutest of all villages we had visited along the Dordogne River. Very small, perched on a hill, it will make you feel as if you go back in time. Not very touristy but absolutely worth the visit!
Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne has a lovely historical town centre. It doesn’t have the dramatic setting of some of the other villages on this itinerary, as the river flows slowly and majestically through the place calming down the nature and the visitors.
Les Tours de Merle
Well, technically, the Tours de Merle are not located along the Dordogne but along one of its tributaries – La Maronne. These picturesque ruins of a 13 c. castle are sticking out of a lavishly green island in the middle of a forest. You can almost sense the ritters passing by and the jangle of their heavy armour.
Les Fermes du Moyen Age
Les Fermes du Moyen Age is an open-air ethnographic museum depicting the rural life in the Middle Ages in France. There’s a medieval garden with plants and the various farms are actually functioning – animals are bred and kept there, crops are grown and harvested.
Bort-les-Orgues is famous for the Château de Val – a beautiful castle on the lake created after the building of the dam on the river. The dam itself is pretty impressive, as well. This part of the Dordogne River is marked by a series of dams and hydro-electrical power stations.
10 days were quickly over and I must admit that I had planned more than we could have visited even if our holidays were a whole month. But that’s the best part – to leave a place with the feeling that you are not done yet there, that you have to come back and back again, although you perfectly know that next time it’s gonna be another place, another country… always following this insatiable wanderlust to visit the unknown, to see the unseen.
Do you want to know more about the specific places from the itinerary – follow my blog. I will publish a separate guide for each place from the above itinerary.
And you, how many places have you visited from the official list of the Most Beautiful Villages of France? Which is your favourite one?
Where are those charming places located? Click on the map below:
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