Practical guide to visiting the Dordogne – Perigord
If you are thinking of visiting the Dordogne – Perigord, you have to read this post. It is a practical guide to visit this region and plan your trip to one of the most beautiful provinces of France (said by the French themselves)
In the previous post, I described the 7-day road trip itinerary around the Dordogne in a van (read it now). That was the itinerary that we made and that will help you organize yours.
What is the proper name: The Dordogne or the Perigord?
We begin this practical guide to visit the Dordogne – Périgord, with the question we have all asked ourselves: Dordogne or Périgord? Is Dordogne and Perigord the same thing?
The Dordogne Department is very often called by its old name: Périgord. The ancient province of Perigord was larger than present-day Dordogne.
The name change is due to the French Revolution, where it was decided to call the provinces as a department and their names are due to the main river that crosses them.
In the case of the Périgord, its name was changed to that of the main river of the province and it was renamed Dordogne. But the French continued to call this department Périgord.
The Périgord evokes more gastronomy and land, and the Dordogne evokes nature, outdoor activities and the countryside.
You will see that the Dordogne is divided into 4 “Perigords” Black, White, Green, and Purple. Additionally, the inhabitants of the Dordogne are still called Périgordins (in French), as formerly.
Where the Dordogne – Périgord is and how it divides
Dordogne – Perigord is located in the New Aquitaine region. The Regions are a few provinces united under one governor, kind of like a state in the US, but with less power.
It has an area of 9060 km2 (3500 square mile), more than 400,000 inhabitants and its main cities are Périgueux, Bergerac, Sarlat, Nontron, Terrason and Ribérac.
The four colors of the Périgord
Périgord Noir is the natural, historical, and most touristic area. And it owes its name to the green oak forests that give a dark appearance to this region of the Dordogne (nothing to do with the truffle).
In the Perigord Noir you will find medieval villages, fairytale castles and unforgettable landscapes.
Périgord Blanc is the economic heart of the region and owes its name to the limestone color of this area.
The Perigord Vert, north of the department, is the lung of the Dordogne and as you can imagine, it owes its name to the vegetation. You have to visit Brantôme: the green Venice of Perigord.
The Périgord Pourpre owes its name to the color of the wine it produces. Its capital is Bergerac and this area is full of charming villages and has a rich historical heritage. It suffered from the 100-year-old war, has strongholds (“bastides”) of English origins such as Monpazier, Beaumont-du-Périgord, and Eymet (the latter of French origin).
A little history
The different periods that characterize Perigord are as follows…
The Paleolithic: during the glacial period in this region there were reindeer and mammoths that were reflected in the cave paintings that can be seen in the caves of Lascaux (a must-visit that we could not see by due to Covid19).
In this period (400,000 years ago) men lived at the foot of the limestone cliffs that we see scattered throughout the Vezere Valley and the Dordogne, like those of the Roque St Christophe.
The Neolithic: during this period man begins to become more sedentary, agriculture develops and the metal begins to work.
It is characterized by the birth of the territory “Petrocore” (gala community dating from 400 years before Christ) that, after the war of the Gauls, became one of the cities of the Roman province of Aquitaine, who’s head of the place is Vesunna.
In Vesunna important urban facilities were built during this period (aqueducts, amphitheaters, etc.), some of which can still be found in the current walls of Périgueux.
The Middle Ages
In Dordogne, there are more than 1,000 castles, mansions, and stately homes that are distributed along the valleys of Dordogne, Vézére, and the island.
The construction of these castles stretched from the eleventh century to the French Revolution, so the castles that we can visit today are characterized by the juxtaposition of various architectural trends.
As for the “bastides”, they were created in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and are located in the southwest corner of the department (country of Dropt). They bear witness to the confrontation between the King of England and the Earl of Toulouse. The main feature of a bastide is its geometric plan articulated around the Place du Marché, such as Monpazier’s bastide.
How to get there and visit the Dordogne
You can reach the Dordogne – Perigord in several ways, the best method is using your own transport, whether it is by car, van, motor-home, motorbike, or even bicycle for the more athletic.
- You have trains from Bordeaux to Sarlat, you have trains + buses from Paris.
- Paris-Toulouse line with stops at: Brive (Corréze) et Souillac (Lot). Then you take Bus 6 from Transpérigord for Souillac-Sarlat.
- Train line Paris-Agen: stops in Périgueux.
- Train line Bordeaux-Lyon: stops in Périgueux (Dordogne) and Brive (Corroze)
- Line TGV Paris-Libourne (Gironde): switches to the TER line (regional train) Libourne-Sarlat. *TGV: high-speed train
In larger cities like Périgueux or Sarlat, you can rent a car to explore the Dordogne.
Or you can rent a car, van or motorhome in Paris or Bordeaux and start the road trip from there.
How many days do you need to visit the Dordogne-Perigord
To visit the Dordogne – Perigord you need at least 5 days if you do it by van, as you travel slower than by car.
Recommended 7 days to make a road trip through the Dordogne and if you can do more, better. There are so many things to do and visit!
To visit the Dordogne you have to keep in mind that the roads are winding and you travel slower.
When you start preparing your itinerary, you’ll realize how many things there are to do:
- Do you like castles?
- Are you going to visit medieval villages?
- Abbeys, churches, museums?
- Do you like outdoor activities?
- Do you want to visit grottoes?
- Want to see troglodyte cities?
- Visit gardens, viewpoints, vineyards
- Gastronomic Tours.
As you can see there is a lot to visit and you will have to choose.
- Check out our 7-day van itinerary through the Dordogne.
To eat or dine out: the schedules are European. Lunch hours are between 12 and 1:30 in the afternoon. And for dinners are from 19 to 21.30 h. More touristy or fast food restaurants can be more flexible with these schedules.
Perigord products are known worldwide:
- Bergerac wines
- Nuts, strawberries, and tobacco.
- Foie gras, truffle, and mushrooms.
- The confit and the duck magret, the potatoes, and the sauces.
Travelling by van – motorhome through the Dordogne-Périgord
Travelling by van or motorhome around the Dordogne is super easy. There are areas for camping cars in virtually every village. Some of these areas are free and others are paid. The paid ones are better located, closer to the villages.
There are also many campsites, which occasionally are a good idea to visit and give you a dip in their pools, give you a longer shower, wash clothes, etc.
To buy groceries you will find large supermarkets on the outskirts of the largest cities. But my recommendation is that from time to time you buy in the local markets, they are a little more expensive, but you will find very good quality and typical things that you have to try on your trip.
The Dordogne, and France in general, is very Van-friendly and you will enjoy it awesomely.
What are your recommendations for visiting the Dordogne?
Prepare your trip to the Dordogne
- 7-day road trip through the Dordogne – Perigord by van
- The most beautiful villages of the Dordogne
- Tips for van travel
- Accommodation in the Dordogne Valley
- Car rental
We are not native English speakers but we have decided to translate our post to English so we can share it with the whole world. If you see any spelling mistake or something, please let us know, it is so important to us. If you do so, we can improve our post and also our English knowledge! Thanks in advance!!!
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