If you are planning a trip to France but aren’t sure where to start – let me help you. The Dordogne Region is gorgeous and reasonably under the radar – so why not visit the most beautiful towns in Dordogne? You won’t regret it!
What do you think of when you think of France? Paris maybe? Or the Cote d-Azure? Or maybe even the D Day Beaches of Normandy or the lavender fields of Avignon?
Me too. Well, until I went to the Dordogne. Now I think about the emerald green meadows, limestone cliffs, chateau dotted hillsides, and the winding river of the same name that runs through it all. The Dordogne is where it’s at!
To be honest, although I have had a fascination with France from a young age, I had never heard of Dordogne. It only popped up on my radar after living in London for a couple of years. A few English friends had holiday homes there and I was told by many people that it is the most beautiful part of France.
I was intrigued.
When my Mum and stepdad were planning to visit me in London one summer and said that they wanted to go somewhere in France, where I would then join them for a few days, I suggested a couple of different regions that incorporated beautiful scenery and traditional French villages.
Lucky for me they chose the Dordogne because the Dordogne villages and towns are some of the most beautiful in all of France, and I loved exploring as many as possible.
Here are the best towns in Dordogne, France that you should definitely visit.
The Most Beautiful Towns in Dordogne
We based ourselves in Bergerac, one of the larger towns in Dordogne. My mum and stepdad rented an apartment there for a week.
Bergerac is a beautiful town with cobbled streets and a tidy main square lined with restaurants and boulangeries. Flower pots crowd the windowsills of half-timbered buildings with colorful blooms.
There is a large fountain in the main square, watched over by an imposing statue of Cyrano de Bergerac – a dramatist of the seventeenth century who was immortalized in a play that centered on his unusually large nose. Souvenir Shops in Bergerac featured items relating to him and his snoz.
The town sits on the banks above the Dordogne River, with the historic center ringed by a modern, bustling hub of conveniences such as supermarkets and fashion boutiques.
The apartment we were staying in was a light-filled and airy loft, overlooking one of the narrow streets and a busy restaurant in the historic center.
The day we arrived was HOT, so in the afternoon we traveled 40km to Le Buisson to swim in the fast-flowing Dordogne River. We picked a grassy spot beside the river, located beside a stone bridge and in front of a small restaurant playing music.
We joined a few other people and cautiously waded into the swift waters. The current was strong but we managed to stay rooted to the spot lest we be carried swiftly downstream.
Swallows darted around us as we let the cool water dry on our skin, lazing in the hot afternoon sun. It reminded me of my childhood on the farm, swimming in the creek at the end of our neighbor’s property.
Back in Bergerac, we sat in the main square at an al fresco restaurant, enjoying a couple of sundowners before eating at a nearby restaurant where the waiter was friendly and helped us with the menu. It was a perfect first day in Bergerac.
The next morning we visited another of the beautiful Dordogne villages, the small village of St Cyprien, which sits beside a magnificent rock with a 12th-century Belltower perched on top.
Luckily for us, it happened to be market day and there were some incredible products for sale down the long and narrow main street.
We bought some goat cheese and strawberries and sampled many other fragrant fresh cheeses and duck salami which was very good. We wandered leisurely up the winding roads to the belltower at the precipice of the town.
There’s something special about getting lost in the winding lanes of small French villages.
Further along the Dordogne River is Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and its magnificent chateau, one of over a thousand chateau in the Dordogne. Mum and Robbie went into the chateau but I was keener to explore the impossibly cute town surrounding it instead.
I meandered the narrow pathways to a small stone church with a spectacular viewpoint over the bucolic countryside of deep, rich green. More than anything, I wanted to just walk out into those verdant fields of French beauty.
Road trips are great but sometimes you just want to STAY somewhere and really soak it in. In my opinion, this is best done by walking.
I managed to restrain my wanderlust and I met Mum and Robbie back at the chateau before heading to a nearby restaurant that offered affordable three-course lunches.
We ate delicious goat cheese salads followed by a disgusting pork confit which was tough and jellied which reminds me all too much of cat food. Luckily dessert redeemed the meal and was a perfect creme brûlée. Cheese and desserts are my favorite things to eat in France anyway.
So far we were three for three with beautiful towns in the Dordogne!
La Roque Gageauc
One of the most beautiful towns in the Dordogne and definitely one of the most famous, La Roque Gageauc, just begged to be visited. My God, it was spectacular. It looked like a French Impressionist painting but with more vividity; a version of heaven on earth.
It is a small town perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the emerald waters of the Dordogne. Shuttered stone houses lined the river and traditional Gabarre, flat-bottomed wooden boats, cruised back and forth between the petite town and the cliff bound Chateau in the distance.
We did the cruise which took an hour to lazily navigate the short stretch of river and back again. The Chateau in the distance was in fact the Chateau de Castelnaud and it was an imposing sight, seeing it from below.
Perched high above, it became an impenetrable fortress. Along the way, there was also an ancient fort built into caves high in the cliffside but it was closed to the public due to rock slips, otherwise, I definitely would have wanted to go up there.
Back on dry land, we walked the cliffside paths past the elegant houses and flower-filled gardens with the gorgeous views only growing in grandeur the higher we walked.
I got lost (on purpose) and ended up coming down a gravel path and past small farms before reemerging by the river where I started. Wild poppies framed the pathway, a regular sight in spring and early summer in the Dordogne, like daffodils in English villages.
Another day in the Dordogne meant another road trip to discover the small villages and countryside of this beautiful region, and busy Sarlat-la-Canéda was next on our list.
More of a bustling mid-sized town than a small village, we had finally found where all the other tourists in the Dordogne had been hanging out. Sarlat-la-Canéda is definitely one of the most popular towns in Dordogne and it definitely showed.
Despite this, I thought it was stunning with the buildings hewed of honey-colored stone and accented with brightly painted wooden shutters and bursts of spring flowers. Wooden hand-painted signs hung above shop doorways.
The main streets may have been crowded but once we were exploring the small laneways, the cacophony abandoned us. Another day, another three-course lunch special, and this time, all three courses were incredible.
Foie gras with onion jam and crostini, panfried white fish fillet with potato dauphinoise, and walnut cake with custard sauce. All served in a beautiful courtyard draped in bougainvillea. It was worth the trip alone.
Sated and ready for a return to the smaller Dordogne villages, we continued our journey to the sky-high Domme.
Domme sits on top of a rocky plateau, rising high above the countryside and overlooking the lush Dordogne valley below.
The river looked like a tiny squiggle, sparkling in the distance. After the tight, winding streets of the other Dordogne villages we visited, Domme felt a lot more spread out with wider streets on a grid system.
We traced the town walls along the edge of a cliff and then down some small residential streets. It struck me as feeling almost English (Sacre Bleu!), mainly due to the grey stone cottages and a large number of roses in front yards.
It had an unhurried and relaxed vibe that I liked very much.
There was a smattering of tasteful souvenir shops selling homewares and crafts. Artists painted the valley below from the vantage point of a spacious square lined with park benches.
Domme felt quite different from almost anywhere else in France I had ever been. It was all the space.
Our last stop on our tour of the most beautiful towns in Dordogne was to the riverside village of Beynac-et-Cazenac, where the film ‘Chocolat’ was filmed. The village is even more beautiful than it looked on screen.
A grand chateau is perched high above town and houses squeeze close to the narrow roads that lead up to it. After scaling the heights we sat in the sun on a wall outside the chateau with ice-cream in hand. A brilliant end to our Dordogne adventure.
The fairytale villages and peaceful countryside of this gorgeous region of France utterly captivated us and I was very reluctant to leave.
In a country that is already among the most beautiful in the world, we found its pure heart in the most beautiful towns in Dordogne.
Where to Stay in the Dordogne
There are so many great options for places to stay in the Dordogne – you can camp, stay in a hostel, rent a room or apartment/house, or stay in a historic hotel.
I recommend staying in either Bergerac or Sarlat-la-Canéda, as the smaller Dordogne villages on the list sit between these two large towns in Dordogne, and there are more accommodation options.
In Bergerac, rent your own place through VRBO – this beautiful farmhouse with a pool on the outskirts of town and this beautifully appointed riverside apartment right in town are great choices.
For hotels in Bergerac, Europ’Hotel Bergerac and The Originals City, Hôtel de Bordeaux both have outdoor pools and are within a few minutes’ walk to the historic city center.
In Sarlat-la-Canéda, stay in this restored cottage located in a quiet garden right by town, or in this luxury apartment in the heart of the city center.
The best hotels in Sarlat-la-Canéda are Hotel Le Mas de Castel which has a buffet breakfast every morning, a garden, and a heated swimming pool, and Hotel La Maison des Peyrat which has stylish rooms, a garden terrace, and a heated outdoor swimming pool. Both are close to the city center.
The Best Insurance For Your Dordogne Villages Vacation
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it auto-renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it for longer trips
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
If you liked this post, check out some of my other Europe content:
- The Best Markets in London
- What Life is Really Like on a Houseboat in London
- A Perfect Day Hiking the Amalfi Coast of Italy
- Life in Genteel Richmond: London’s Quintessential English Village
- La Gomera: The Undiscovered Canary Island