Camping Guide to the Dordogne, France

The Dordogne, named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it, is part of the region of Aquitaine and is surrounded by the six other departements of Haute-Vienne, Corrèze, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Gironde, and Charente. Dordogne is the third largest department of France. If you would like to further educate yourself on the history of the Dordogne department, we believe Wikipedia is a good reference point.

The area offers outstanding landscapes, over a 1000 castles and interesting towns like Sarlat that are well-worth spending the time to explore. The Dordogne is served by Bergerac Airport and Bordeaux Airport is only an hour away.

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Our journey through Dordogne starts in the region's administrative centre Sarlat...

Visit the Dordogne, France - Sarlat

This beautifully restored golden-stone town is now one of the most popular places in the Dordogne. Set in the heart of the Périgord Noir area, Sarlat is renowned for its gastronomy, and devotees of foie gras and other delicacies make regular pilgrimages to the town’s specialist suppliers and restaurants. But the town itself is also an attraction.

Apart from the nondescript rue de la République, Sarlat looks much as it must have done in its Renaissance heyday, with narrow winding alleys and passages wriggling between well-preserved town houses. At the end of the Hundred Years War Sarlat was eventually returned from English to French rule, and was granted special privileges to reward its loyalty to the king.

It entered a golden age, as a new merchant class brought wealth to the area and created many of the fine stone houses that survive today. Sarlat became a pearl of the French Renaissance. It fell on harder times at the end of the 18th century but this was a blessing in disguise, as it meant the town escaped wholesale redevelopment. The Loi Malraux, passed in 1962 to help preserve France’s older towns, ensured it remained that way.

If you can’t decide which delicacies to buy, visit the Halle Paysanne des Produits Fins du Terroir, on rue de Cahors, and see them all foie gras, chestnuts, mushrooms, walnuts, truffles under one roof.

Sarlat’s Saturday market is one of the most varied and best known in France.

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Visit the Dordogne, France - Lascaux

Lascaux is referred to as the ‘The Sistine Chapel of Prehistory’. Visit Lascaux to venture back to pre-historic times and see replicas of cave paintings around 17,000 years old. The original Lascaux cave system was discovered in 1940 by local schoolboys after their dog disappeared down a pothole. What they encountered underground was one of the world’s most significant pre-historic sites; its walls alive with vibrant cave paintings.

The original cavern, a short distance southeast of the town of Montignac, in the Dordogne, is sadly no longer open to the public. The carbon dioxide from visitors was destroying the paintings and a film of greenish micro-organisms was creeping steadily across the walls. Using sophisticated 3-D plotting techniques, and new advances in resin and ferro-cement technology, experts created an exact replica some 200m away, and the second Lascaux is what today’s visitors experience. Even so, the whole re-created cave structure looks, and even feels, authentic.

During your visit to the Dordogne you can learn more about the techniques used by the original artists as they worked by the light from stone lamps. They mixed mineral pigments to achieve the desired shades and often allowed the natural contours of the rockface to accentuate the forms of the animals depicted.

Speckled effects were achieved by blowing diluted pigment through plant stems to create gradual tone. Even if the original intent behind the pictures remains a mystery, the overall effect is fantastic.

Yelloh! Village have a campsite nearby, perfect for you to base yourself.

Visit the Dordogne, France - La Roque Gageac

La Roque Gageac is a beautiful village that has been inhabited since prehistoric times and occupies a dramatic position beside the Dordogne river. The Hundred Years War, 14th to 15th century, and also the 16th century War of Religions turned the village’s fortress into an impregnable stronghold. The fortress was first created in the 12th century; it incorporated a number of ingenious devices, using caves in the limestone, to defy hostile attempts to scale the rock face. The village, nestled between the cliffs and the river gives it almost Mediterranean-style weather patterns, and vegetation thrives. Alongside the small church, perched high up, you’ll find the ‘Jardin Exotique’, home to exotic plants, trees and shrubs. Another garden worth a visit is the Jardin de la Ferme Fleurie.

You may also be interested to read more about what not to miss in Dordogne's neighbouring regions:
Charente Maritime Aquitaine Midi-Pyrenees. Or return to our guide to France directory list