Walking holidays in the Dordogne

Rural landscapes and lush river valleys: the Dordogne, one of the most popular walking regions in France.

Many enthusiastic walkers have the Dordogne high on their wish list for a walking holiday. And that’s no wonder if you look at everything this region in southwest France offers. With its beautiful rural landscapes and lush river valleys, the landscape has an arcadic quality and is perfect to explore on foot.

What you’ll find on this page …

On this page you’ll find general information about the area, as well as ideas for things to do and explore. There are many excellent footpaths in the area and walking is a great way to experience this part of France. You’ll also find walking holidays to the Dordogne offered by small independent businesses.

Between mountains and bays

Just East of the Dordogne, in the mountains of the Massif Central in the Auvergne, several streams tumble down the mountains. These small rivers gradually grow in size until they become the beautiful Dordogne rivers that lazily travel through the more rolling landscapes of the Dordogne. As they travel further in the direction of the coast, they reach the flatter areas around Bergerac and then flow into the Bay Biscay in the Bordeaux region.

Where is the Dordogne?

You’ll find the Dordogne in the southwest of France, centered on its capital Périgueux.

handdrawn map of the Dordogne

Dordogne Trails

Walking holiday with both guided and self-guided options in France

view on river with historic bridge
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  • Guided / Self-Guided

From £ 550.- / 8 days

With its many rivers, undulating hills and valleys, chateaux, bastide towns and prehistoric roots the Dordogne has long been a popular walking holiday destination. Explore many historic towns, quaint hamlets and scenic footpaths during this Dordogne walking holiday in France.

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Dordogne Plus Beaux Villages Walk

Self-guided walking holiday in France

Aerial view onto a Dordogne castle on a hilltop, surrounded by green farm-fields
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  • Self-Guided
  • Trail

From £ 650.- / 8 days

A self-guided trail walking holiday in the picturesque landscape of the upper Dordogne valley. Visit six of the “most beautiful villages” in France as you follow the meanders of the Dordogne river and visit famous sights such as the 11th Century Château de Castelnaud and limestone caves.

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Bordeaux vineyard walks

Self-guided walking holiday in France

Vineyard in the Bordeaux in France
  • +
  • Self-Guided
  • Trail

From € 820.- / 7 days

Walk a trail through the famous vineyard landscapes of the Bordeaux, and taste its famous wines. Luggage transport is included in this France walking holiday, and you will stay in charming guesthouses, hotels, and sumptuous castles or wine chateaux in the heart of the vineyard landscapes.

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About the Dordogne

The Dordogne is no doubt one of the most popular walking holiday destinations in France, but also in Europe. But why exactly? Read on to find out why the Dordogne is a must to explore on foot. 

why the Dordogne is perfect for a walking holiday

When it comes to walking, the Dordogne offers a lot. Not only is the landscape perfect for hiking through, but if you go on holiday here you’ll find there is an abundance of culture too.

Beautiful rural landscapes

The Dordogne is famous for its soft rolling hills, a patchwork of meadows, pastures, woodlands with scattered farmsteads and villages. To add variety to the scenery, there are many impressive limestone areas with impressive cliffs, often enhanced by the presence of castles, churches and villages.

Attractive rivers and streams

Of course the most famous river in the Dordogne is the Dordogne river itself. It lazily meanders through the scenic landscape. Along its banks you will encounter numerous beautiful towns and villages. Next to the Dordogne, there is also a lot to explore on foot along the other rivers in the area, the Vézère, the Auvézère, the Isle, the Dronne and the Lizonne. Another stunning feature of the Dordogne is the many stone bridges.

Towns and villages where time has stood still

The Dordogne area is littered with extremely beautiful villages and towns where time has stood still. Many of the villages have actually been designated as one of the ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (‘The most beautiful villages of France’). They are designated by an independent French association, which promotes small and picturesque French villages of quality heritage.

Hundred and fifty-two villages in France have been labelled as the ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’ and a significant number are present in the Dordogne area, such as Domme, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Beynac-et-Cazenac, Belvès, St Jean de Cole and La Roque-Gageac. These designated villages are receiving a lot attention and visitors, but while out walking anywhere in the area, you will stumble on extremely scenic hamlets and settlement, sometimes consisting of just a few houses, farm buildings and a church.

Hundreds of caves

The most famous cave in the Dordogne area, and possibly in the world, is the cave of Lascaux near Montignac. Here, the well-known 17,300 year old prehistoric paintings have been discovered. They primarily consist of primitive images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. Next to Lascaux, there are hundreds of other caves in the area that can be visited, such as Grotte de Domme, Gouffre de Padirac and Gouffre de Proumeyssac.

Also the bigger towns and settlements have a lot to offer. There are many interesting ancient buildings to be seen, often in extremely scenic riverside settings. Interesting places to visit include Sarlat-la-Canéda, Montignac and the capital of the Dordogne, Perigueux.

Over a thousand castles

The Dordogne is famous for its many castles; many say there are a staggering total of 1001 in the area, most of which are open to the public. Often build in strategic and extremely scenic places high on cliffs or overlooking the river valley, these are a must see during a walking holiday in the Dordogne. Famous castles are Le Chateau de Castelnaud, Chateau de Jumilhac in Thiviers and Château de Beynac.

Lascaux cave painting.

Did you know… That the original Lascaux cave is now closed to visitors? The cave was opened to the public after the Second World War, but the breathing of 1,200 visitors per day, the warmth of lamps and changes in air circulation created problems. Lichens and crystals started to appear on the cave walls, damaging the paintings. So the number of visitors was quickly restricted to only a few a week. In 2001 a new air conditioning system was installed, but unfortunately this quickly resulted in the spreading of a white mold across the cave ceiling and walls. The cave is now closed to the public altogether and only a few scientists are allowed to visit. The good news is that there’s an exact replica of the cave and paintings close to the original site, and this is what you will be visiting nowadays.

Regions of the Dordogne

The Dordogne area is known locally as the Périgord, divided into 4 regions, the Périgord Noir, the Périgord Vert, the Périgord pourpre and the Périgord Blanc.

Dordogne regions map

Périgord Noir

The Périgord Noir is centered around the town of Sarlat and the Dordogne valley, and this is where most tourists flock to. In this area you will find the beautiful villages Domme, Castelnaud, the castle of Beynac, the caves of Lascaux.

Périgord Vert

The Perigord Vert is an area of green and rolling hills in the north of the area, here you will find beautiful rural scenery, with many streams and scattered farms and hamlets, ideal for walking. In the north part of this area you will find the Parc Naturel Régional Périgord-Limousin (Périgord-Limousin Nature Park).  See further below for two links with more information about this nature park. 

Périgord Pourpre

The Périgord Pourpre is a more flat area where the coastal plains of the Bordeaux start. This area and is famous for its wines and the town of Bergerac.

Périgord Blanc

The Périgord Blanc area contains the regional capital Périgueux, worthwile visiting for its beautiful architecture and general atmosphere. Other attractions in this area include Brantome and the extremely pretty village of St Jean de Cole.

more info about the Périgord-Limousin Nature Park

You can download a map of The Périgord- Limousin Natural Park here (some English) and a brochure with more information about the nature park here (in English).


Also See

Walking Holidays in France

Walking Holidays with both Guided & Self-guided Walks

All Walking Holidays

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