Dordogne Walking Tour Write a review
Delve into a world of prehistoric cave paintings, Medieval intrigues, and French culinary delicacies during our Dordogne Walk. Our tour takes you through a region rich in both natural beauty and historic treasures. Our distant ancestors lived here 20,000 years ago and left amazing cave paintings as a testament to their spirit and creativity. Thousands of years later, some of the most beautiful abbeys and castles in all of Europe were built during the Medieval era along the banks of the Vézère and Dordogne rivers. You will walk between ancient walled villages, past proud chateaux and into charming Renaissance towns whose cobblestone streets and gabled houses transport you back several centuries. Highlights include an afternoon of gentle kayaking along the meanders of the Dordogne river, a visit of the Font de Gaume prehistoric cave to marvel at the artistry of Cro-Magnon Man, Sarlat’s weekly market, and the delicious chocolate-covered walnuts that are produced at a 15th century water mill. Of course, the region’s famous cuisine is a central element of our experience, and you will enjoy a range of local delicacies during our picnic lunches and gourmet dinners in chic restaurants and unpretentious bistros.
Dordogne Walking Tour Includes:
Dordogne Walking Tour itinerary Request full itinerary
Independent arrival in Périgueux and check-in at your centrally located hotel, the Hotel Mercure (or similar). Périgueux can be reached from Paris by direct train (travel time about 4.5 hours). It is a charming walled medieval town located on the Isle river. Be sure to visit the beautiful museum housing a Gallo-Roman villa from 16 BC, and the cathedral which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site commemorating the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela. Overnight in Périgueux. Dinner on your own tonight. Overnight Périgueux. Hotel included. Dinner not included.
Meet your guide(s) at 9 a.m. for an hour’s drive to an ancient land of meandering rivers and limestone escarpments where Cro-Magnon man lived 20,000 years ago. Our walk starts from the riverside village of St. Léon sur Vézère and follows the shady banks of the river, passing beneath limestone outcroppings which once sheltered our pre-historic ancestors. After lunch we have two options: we can visit La Roque Saint-Cristophe, a troglodytic cliff-dwelling that has been inhabited for 55,000 years, or the new "Lascaux IV" museum with an extensive mock-up of the famous caves that are now off-limits to human visitors. We have an afternoon transfer to Les Eyzies, where the very first traces of Cro-Magnon man were found in 1868. Our hotel for the next two nights is at a renovated noble house, the Hostellerie du Passeur (or similar), and we dine tonight at their lovely restaurant. Overnight Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
This morning starts with a guided visit of the truly amazing Font de Gaume: a narrow cave corridor 65 meters long leading to an awe-inspiring series of over 200 polychromatic paintings of horses, bison, reindeer and mammoth. The paintings are from the Magdalenian period (15,000 to 9,000 B.C). The artists used the natural contours of the rock walls to create effects of perspective and movement. We still do not know if they were meant as art or religious symbolism, as simple sketches of daily life or abstract depictions of an afterlife. Thought-provoking, at the very least! Afterwards, we set out for a lovely walk along the Gorge de l’Enfer. Lunch will either be a picnic or in a bistro in the village. This evening we will do a tasting of wines from the emerging appellations of Cahors, Bergerac and Pécharmant before a dinner of beautifully prepared local specialities. Overnight Les Eyzies. Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.
A short transfer takes us to the riverside village of la Roque-Gageac whose houses are tucked in under a limestone escarpment. After a café au lait with a view of the Dordogne river, we walk up the limestone bluff that hangs over the village for impressive views over the river valley. In the distance, we see our destination, the “bastide” of Domme perched high on a hilltop. Domme was a strategic fortified village during the Hundred Years’ War. We have lunch in Domme and then descend on foot to Monfort, passing through quaint Vitrac along the way. After our walk, we transfer to Sarlat, famous throughout France as one of the country’s most beautiful towns. Our hotel for the next two nights is within the medieval walls of Sarlat, the Hotel Couleuvrine (or similar). We will enjoy dinner at their lovely restaurant. Overnight Sarlat. Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.
This morning you are free to immerse yourself in the wonderful weekly market of Sarlat, an extensive and fabulous array of food, wine, and local products. We depart mid-morning for a different view of the Dordogne valley as we paddle along it by canoe (we also have a walking option if you prefer). This is a very pleasant and easy excursion on the serene river. We’ll start in Ceynac, under the cliffs of Domme, and float almost effortlessly along this moderately flowing river to our picnic spot underneath the Chateau of Castelnaud. We finish our paddle on the other bank of the river beneath the imposing mass of Beynac castle. The two castles, one French and one English, sit on opposite sides of the Dordogne river and were rivals for over 700 years. Return to Sarlat to further explore its beautiful medieval and Renaissance architecture. Tonight is a “free night” so you can choose between a salad and an early night, or the one-star Michelin Le Grand Bleu, and lots of other choices in between. Overnight Sarlat. Hotel and breakfast included. Dinner not included.
The nearby Château d’Erignac, whose fabulous gardens are considered to be among the most beautiful in France, is the starting point for today’s walk. We stop at the Moulin de la Tour, a 16th-century mill whose original 400-year-old water-driven mechanism is still used to crush walnuts and hazelnuts to extract their prized oil. They also make some killer chocolate-covered walnuts, a highlight for all chocolate lovers. After lunch, we have a 45-minute drive to our hotel for our final 2 nights, the Hotel Edward 1er (or similar, a 19th century turreted château that has been transformed into a lovely four-star inn, complete with a small swimming pool. It is located in the walled village of Monpazier, one of the best-preserved of Périgord’s “bastides.” Bastides were walled fortress villages built by both the French and English during the Hundred Years’ War. One of the attractions of Monpazier, besides its beautiful arcaded central square, is a superb little restaurant with a relaxed and casual atmosphere that is the perfect spot for our dinner this evening. Overnight Monpazier. Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.
Today's walk takes us to the nearby Château de Biron, one of the most impressive fortified castles in the Dordogne region. It dates from the 12th century, and a walk through the castle gives us a fascinating glimpse of the historical development in France from the Middle Ages until the present day. Architecturally, it is an interesting mix of elements from different centuries, from the 12th-century castle keep to the elegant Renaissance living quarters of the Duke. We will lunch at the nearby Auberge du Chateau, a lovely bistro serving up local specialities. This afternoon we can relax in the garden of the hotel before our final farewell dinner in the hotel's excellent gastronomic restaurant. Overnight Monpazier at the Hotel Edward 1er (or similar). Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.
After breakfast, we transfer to the Bergerac train station for rail connections to Paris and Bordeaux, arriving around 10 a.m. Breakfast and one group transfer included.
The walks in the Dordogne contain moderate hills over some uneven terrain. We usually walk between 3-5 hours a day, divided between morning and afternoon. We have designed the trip so that there is always some free time in the late afternoon so you can relax, read, or explore the towns we stay in. Breakfast is included every day, and dinners reflect the excellent traditional food of the region. Daily distance between 8 and 16 kms.
Perigueux: Hotel Mercure. Modern, comfortable, quiet and well located. The perfect, no-nonsense, everything works, one-night stop.
Les Eyzies: Moulin de la Beune. A converted 16th-century stone water mill next to the river (naturally!) featuring a lovely garden and shady walnut trees. Family-run with an excellent gourmet restaurant.
Sarlat: Hotel Couleuvrine. Located within the medieval walls, well actually the hotel is part of the 13th-century medieval walls! A charming, family-run hotel which also features an excellent restaurant.
Monpazier: Hotel Edward 1er. A 19th century turreted château that has been transformed into a lovely four-star inn, complete with a small swimming pool. It is located in the walled village of Monpazier and features an excellent gourmet restaurant.
Dordogne & Périgord tourism: general information on the region, with lots of photos and links.
Hundred Years’ War: interesting Wikipedia site on this interminable war, involving the infamous Joan of Arc.
Prehistoric Cave Paintings: nice site; only in French but good photos of the caves
Getting to know Cro-Magnon Man: accessible BBC site tracing the evolution of man
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: look at all the fabulous things to see in France!
Activity Level 2 + = Easy to Moderate Plus:
In general: This is an Easy to Moderate tour for fit hikers, and a little challenging but do-able for not-so-fit hikers.
Terrain: Flat to gently rolling terrain but with some rocky, rugged terrain. May have some short, relatively steep climbs and descents, but nothing longer than 30 minutes of sustained ascents or descents. The walks are shorter in distance than those found on a 3 rated tour.
Actual walking time: Between 2-4 hours per day, mostly in the morning but sometimes also in the afternoon.
Distances: Usually between 7 and 10 kms/4.5 and 6 miles. Max distance is 12 kms/7 miles.
Surfaces: Trails consisting of mostly compact earth, gravelly earth, and sometimes dirt-gravel roads and on occasion rocky and uneven trails.
Footing: Good, but on occasion you have to pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes with thick soles with good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
Specifics: Daily activity between 2-4 hours per day, mostly in the morning but some also in the afternoon. Max distance 10 km (6 mi.).
Hiking Poles: Not required, but if you habitually use hiking poles then you will find them helpful.
Compared to the Cinque Terre: This tour is significantly easier than the hikes in the Cinque Terre.
Other: This tour is appropriate for fit first time “hikers” who enjoy walking and who have good balance and are coordinated.
Easy to Moderate Plus Tours: in this category are all of our boat–based tours in Turkey, Croatia, and Greece if you decide to do all of the walks on offer. On these trips, we usually do a walk in the morning, return to the boat for a swim and then lunch, then cruise, then sometimes drop off for another late afternoon hike, which you could skip and just relax on the boat. Your guides of course can advise you of the difficulty level and the terrain and footing of each walk. Other Easy to Moderate Plus tours are: Tuscany Val d’Orcia & Maremma Walk and Provence Walk
Getting There: The trip starts in Périgueux, which is easily reached from Paris by direct train (travel time about 4.5 hours).
Air: Most intercontinental flights fly into Paris “Charles de Gaulle” but you can also fly into smaller regional airports from larger European hubs, such as Paris, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam etc.The most convenient airport to the start and end of the trip is Bordeaux, which is well-connected to other cities in Europe. It is only a 1.5 hour train ride from both Périgueux and Bergerac, and is also an interesting city in itself. See their website here for the latest schedules: http://www.bordeaux.aeroport.fr/en.
Rail: Périgueux is accessible by rail. Travel time from Paris is between 5 and 7 hours, depending on the train, and from Bordeaux travel time is about an hour and a half. See current train schedules at the SNCF website here. Note: Bordeaux is connected to Paris by the high-speed TGV line, so you might want to head there first, spend a night or two, and then carry on to Périgueux.
Getting Away at the End of the Trip: After breakfast on Saturday, we provide a 45-minute shuttle to the train station in Bergerac, arriving around 10 a.m. Trains to Paris take 4-5 hours (with one change), while trains from Bordeaux take 1 hr 20 minutes. There are frequent departures from both cities.
If you book a trip with us you will receive detailed information about how to get to the start of your trip, or feel free to e-mail us with any specific travel questions.
This was the most well organized trip I have ever been on. From the moment we arrived, every detail was taken care of for us. What a fantastic vacation! Our guides, Melissa and Stephanie were extremely knowledgeable about all things Dordogne: the history of the art, the trails, the caves, the towns, the restaurants, most importantly, the wine! Everyday was full of adventure. We walked, we talked, we kayaked, we laughed, we ate, we drank and came away with new friends with whom we shared an incredible experience. For us (my mom, sister and I) it was the trip of a lifetime. We will cherish the memories. Thank you Melissa and Stephanie for creating an atmosphere of joy and inclusiveness for us all.
This trip is a wonderful combination of art, history, food and scenery. Perhaps not quite enough walking to compensate for all the amazing food we enjoyed. All brought together by the expertise, humor and generosity of spirit provided by Melissa and Stephanie. We have travelled with them before, and plan to do so again.
I heard about this particular tour from a friend of a friend who raved about the professional guide and the delicious food. I will have to second her raves. Melissa is a perfectionist as a guide making sure that all is well handled and that everyone is getting the experience they desire. She obviously took great care to study the history of the region and shared in great deal what she had learned, so much of which I had no clue. Melissa also knows good food and wine and directs you to only the tastiest. The walking was perfect because it was flexible. If you wanted to do all the walks Melissa had planned you could, and if not, you could pull out and do whatever else you cared to do without disrupting others. The walks were so lovely and really gave you a feel for this beautiful Dordogne area. I liked the fact that we stayed mostly two nights at each hotel so there was not a lot of packing and unpacking. The highlight of the tour for me was the cave paintings and Melissa was able to get us into a cave that might not be open much longer to the public. So if you want to explore some of the most beautiful French countryside, learn lots about prehistoric and medieval history, eat sumptuous food, drink great wines, and meet good people you should sign up for this tour.
This was our second Customwalks tour and, once again, all of our high expectations were exceeded! The trip was the grand trifecta - beautiful walks through the country side, fascinating history, and fabulous food/wine every night. Plus, the canoe trip down the Dordogne River was a special treat. Melissa and Stephanie were fantastic guides - helpful, professional, and fun. We enjoyed the company of our fellow travelers who all shared a love of the outdoors and French food and wine. We're now planning our next Customwalks adventure. Thank you!
We were a group of friends of many years standing and Melissa our guide was simply wonderful. She got to know all of us individually, fitted in like one of the girls, and became a friend who guided us on this magic tour. We had the best time, all the time! The walks were just challenging enough that we knew we had worked, the meals stunning and well earned at the end of the day, and the day was filled with a variety of activities so that everyone's needs were met. I am so glad we elected to have a guide (and that it was Melissa) as it totally enhanced our experience. The picnics were fantastic, and i haven't laughed as hard as i did during the canoe ride. This is a part of the world not to be missed and walking it is the way to go.
Melissa was our group's guide for this wonderful adventure and we could not have asked for a more wonderful, generous and informed (now) friend. The whole trip was so carefully and interestingly diverse and well planned. The canoe trip and the cooking class at the chateau were the highlights for me but the whole package was so well rounded everything was so well worth the experience. Cannot praise Custom walks or Melissa highly enough. If you are thinking of taking this trip - jump in. You'll love it.
An exceptionally well designed tour in a little known region for an american tourist. Dordogne is the 'gourmet region\ of France and we ate accordingly. All the hikes were beautiful and the days were pepperd with other cultural activities from visiting a farmers market to ancient cave paintings to wine testing or castle tours. The canoe trip down the Dordogne river was perfect, I wish it was longer. Our guide, Melissa was wonderful and knowledgeable from the history and culture of the region to french fashion, music and social issues. A perfect trip that I highly recommend.
One of the most interesting,scenic, tasty, enjoyable trips I have ever been on. Easy access from Paris via Limoges to Perigueux.where we saw cave art dating back 15000 years. Lovely dining and fine wines in a beautiful hill town setting. Several days of walking through lovely landscape, including escarpments, lovely River Vesere, woods and meadows. Another beautiful walk to Dome and then across valley to Sarlat. The accommodations were alway excellent and unique. A 15 km canoe ride on the Dordogne River was a highlight. Beautiful light, magnificent castles, and the quiet and calm of the river were heavenly. One final highlight was a stay at Le Prieure , a 12th century structure, now an elegant B&B. The trip was a magical way to see a special part of France.
This was the most well organized trip I have ever been on. From the moment we arrived, every detail was taken care of for us. What a fantastic vacation! Our guides, Melissa and Stephanie were extremely knowledgeable about all things Dordogne: the history of the art, the trails, the caves, the towns, the restaurants, most importantly, the wine! Everyday was full of adventure. We walked, we talked, we kayaked, we laughed, we ate, we drank and came away with new friends with whom we shared an incredible experience. For us (my mom, sister and I) it was the trip of a lifetime. We will cherish the memories.
Thank you Melissa and Stephanie for creating an atmosphere of joy and inclusiveness for us all.
by Judi Greene
In a word....fabulous! We have hiked with Stephanie before and it was a very added pleasure to get to know whose lovable approach to everything and her art history knowledge made this a trip with well rounded depth on all levels.
by Gwen & Jack Brush