After a week-long visit to Dordogne I’d like to pass on some personal thoughts that could be helpful to you planning a trip. A travel guide to Dordogne, of sorts, that gives some tips on do’s and don’ts we discovered.
Planning Hints and Faux-Pas
Narrow it down – Dordogne is a big place — the third largest department in metropolitan France. If you have only a few days to visit, choose your route with the intention to visit only one, maybe two, places each day. Our first two days we made too many stops, then we slowed down our pace. You don’t want to return from your trip and it’s all a “blur.”
“Home” base – Changing places to stay every night is exhausting for me. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. If possible, find a central location and “camp out” there for two or three nights. Our mistake on this trip was that our home base was in the middle of nowhere. Even finding a place for a meal was a problem. So stay in a village where you can buy a glass of wine, or two, when you arrive back in the evening.
A place to relax – Your “home” base is probably not going to be your “place to relax.” You’ll be busy traveling from there to hither and beyond. Choose to spend a couple of nights where you can “chill”. Make it towards the end of your holiday, perhaps, so you’ll be relaxed when you return home. Choose something special — a little village by the river, or at a chateau.
Travel guide to Dordogne
Bad weather alternatives – As much as you hate to think about bad weather during your holiday, it happens. We were fortunate to be close to Lascaux, so we spent our one day of rain underground, in a cave. No caves? Shopping and wine tastings are great alternatives, too!
Time to dine – One thing you don’t want to miss about the Dordogne is the food. If you wish to enjoy the canard, the fois gras, the cheese, the wine …. remember you’re in France. In some towns and villages, restaurants serve dinner starting a 7:00 pm. During heavy tourist season you may be more fortunate to find businesses that have longer hours, but don’t always count on it. Plan your day accordingly. Stock up on cheese, bread, wine and fruit that you can enjoy in your room — just in case. Take plenty of water bottles that you can fill whenever you stop.
Photo opportunities – As much as I hate to admit it, getting up early in the morning is a good idea if you want great photos from the Dordogne. My friend, Julie, has some fabulous sunrise shots. For example, the best shots of Rocamadore are taken early in the morning, before the sun shines right into your camera lens. Bring several camera batteries, chargers and, if possible, more than one camera. My iPhone, iPad and camera were all put into action at one time or another.
Travel guide to Dordogne
If you plan to drive through the Dordogne — which is fabulous, by the way — be prepared for “interesting” road conditions along the way.
Maps vs. GPS – I love my Garmin GPS. However … there were a few places we wanted to go that Garmin didn’t recognise. That’s because we didn’t program it before we left on the trip. Oh dear. That’s where my map-reading friend, Julie came in. She had every map of this part of France that’s been printed, I believe. If you want to use a GPS, check the route beforehand.
Curvy roads, one-way roads and bridges – If you think you are used to back road driving, Dordogne is a test to your skills. Roads that lead to some of the most charming places are way off the beaten path. In many cases, you’ll think the road you’re on is a path.
Travel guide to Dordogne
Click on each of the links below to read about my favorite places we visited and view the photos.
Albi’s Saint Cecil Cathedral and Toulouse-Latrec Museum
Whatever you do … eat fois gras!
For more on the Dordogne
7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step
7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors
7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat
7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme
7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour
7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat
7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!
7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale
Categories: Around France, Blog, Dordogne
How in-depth and lovely this post was! I recently moved in the Dordogne area, as I fell in love with it last summer.
In fact, if you ever decide to come back, I strongly recommend the Briancon area, it’s just incredible. Atmospheric woods, picturesque villages… you’d love it.
I went to a cooking class in a magnificent venue, they’re called Les Soeurs Anglaises, maybe that’s something to add to the list of local activities, French cuisine is so interesting.
So glad you enjoyed the post. I definitely want to plan another trip. I’ll check out Briancon. A visit with a cooking school would be perfect, too. Thanks for the suggestions. Best wishes to you in your new home.
I’m so behind with my own blog posts from a trip I took back in April/May 2017. We also went to some of the places you mentioned and had a wonderful time.
You’re right about the GPS taking you on some rather scary roads but we absolutely loved it all.
I’m going to try to get back at it, both reading blogs and writing my own. I love yours and wish I was living the life you are.
I do love my life. There are so many things to do and places to see, there’s just not enough time! Wish I’d started at this earlier… thankfully I’m at it now! Just keep keeping on…
Do you speak French and if you do, were you fluent before you decided to buy there?
Au contraire! I didn’t speak any French before arriving in Uzés, and I’m not much better now. It’s something I’m determined to accomplish, though. It’s really hard to focus on learning a new language when I’m busy traveling and blogging. However, it’s a challenge I’m not giving up on!
I liked your articles on Dordogne immensely! You made me feel as if I were traveling with you and you also also made me discover this amazing region an desire to visit it as soon as possible! Thank you for this amazing inspiration !
I’m so glad you enjoyed the journey with me. There’s still so much more to see, but st least this was a start. You should go for sure. Thank you for your note and visit again!
Albi is not exactly in Dordogne but rather in the Tarn region (department of France). Other than this Dordogne is probably the most interesting place to go if one wants to discover rural France (my favorite place anyway!)
Yes, Albi is not in the Dordogne, but it’s often a city tourists visit enroute to the Dordogne — which was how I ended up there. Although reviews of Albi are not always glowing, I’ll have to say, for me, it was a great place to stop. The hotel on the water’s edge, the Toulouse Lautrec Musée and the Sainte Cécil Cathedral were all quite memorable. I even thought I might like to live in Albi! And yes, I agree also, the tour through the Dordogne is still tops on my list of places I’ve visited. Thanks for your note, Carla, and the link to your website. I’m looking forward to learning more about France’s southwest.
Really good, Deborah!
Thanks Paula. Time to start making new memories now!
Your Travel Guide to Dordogne Post is spot on for our upcoming visit. I am convinced we will run out of time before we run out of areas of interest to visit…and we have booked an entire month in the Dordogne! We just received the latest issue of France magazine with special coverage of this department, as well! Remember, the welcome mat will be out for you, Deb!
So glad to have some hints that might help. I forgot to add that some of the stays were through AIRBNB, but I’m sure you have your reservations. If not, think about an overnight in a chateau. It was a highlight of the trip! Be careful when you say the welcome mat is out. I’m liable to be there! Enjoy your trip and Le me know how it goes!
On one of my early visits to the Dordogne (where I now live), I only stayed at places where I knew I could have dinner, as I didn’t want to deal with driving after having wine with dinner. It makes it a bit more difficult to plan a trip, but for me – it was worth it. I also would insert an airbnb stay at some point, just to do washing and have a quiet “home cooked” meal, using some of the wonderful local products. And it was an airbnb stay where the owners told me about the place I am now renting!
Chris, I totally forgot to mention that almost all our stays were through AIRBNB! Thanks for the reminder. Especially our last two nights and Julie washed her clothes for the remainder of her visit in Paris. I headed back to Uzes and stayed overnight near Narjac at a superb AIRBNB listing. Such good fun and food there, too. The hostess was a gourmet cook! Glad you’re enjoying your new home. It’s a beautiful place!
What fun and what food and what beautiful villages. There are so many places to see that you are right in saying that a person should pick a place centrally located and stay there with visits each day. Pick a small place in a village with restaurants and bars so you can have a relaxing evening and get ready for the next days visits.
Looking forward to more visits to places I didn’t have time to see. So much to do! Thanks, Rich!
Excellent suggestions! I would also probably chosen a quiet location as my base camp without considering things like dinner, wine, etc! Good to know
Not a huge mistake but it would have been nice to sit somewhere to at least have a glass of wine.