Off the Beaten Path in the Dordogne
The Dordogne is one of the most popular regions of France, both for visitors from around the world and locals alike.
In the summer months when the weather is almost guaranteed to be gorgeous, the most famous sights - largely consisting of picture perfect villages and chateaux overlooking the River Dordogne - are incredibly busy. Think Venice in cruise ship season.
Like Venice though, there is more to the Dordogne than the highlights and it’s not too hard to find yourself some less visited locations if you step off the main tourism trail. All of which are worth a visit. Here’s a quick run down of some of my favourites off the beaten path sights.
Known as the Venice of France, or at least, the Venice of the Dordogne, Brantome is a gorgeous little town that sits on an island encircled by the Dronne river.
Whilst comparisons to Venice are perhaps a bit of a stretch, that shouldn’t stop you from visiting. The limestone caves here were home to trogladytic monks, who later moved to a rather majestic looking abbey which overlooks the town from the far side of the river bank.
There are countless places to eat and watch the world go by, as well as winding cobbled streets to explore. Visit on a Friday for the added bonus of the weekly market.
The Caves of Villars
The Dordogne is home to the caves of Lascaux, arguably the most famous caves in the world. Even if these days you can only visit an, admittedly mind-blowingly accurate, copy.
If you want to go inside real caves, then the Caves of Villars, a short drive from Brantome, are worth your time. With far less queuing and some real underground action, including ancient cave paintings and a complex which is the largest in the Dordogne, you’ll not be disappointed you did so.
Whilst a city can’t exactly be described as being off the beaten path, I’d argue that Perigueux is not as visited as it should be. Even more so because it is the capital of the Dordogne. On first approach it may not seem so attractive, but get into her heart, and you’ll discover a medieval centre, Roman ruins and a cathedral dating from the 11th century.
More than enough to do here to fill a day or so of exploration!
St Jean de Cole
Everyone loves a label, or some way to stand out from the crowd. In the case of the tiny village of St Jean de Cole, it’s all about the roofs, which have been awarded the title of prettiest roofs in France.
In my mind, French roofs are generally rather pretty, with their tiles sloping down above the, traditionally blue, shutters, and St Jean de Cole has roofs which don’t seem tremendously different from many others I’ve seen.
Still, I guess somewhere has to have the title, and it might as well be this adorably cute little spot. The river runs through the town, which is also home to a chateau and tiny cobbled streets, not to mention some absolutely excellent restaurants!
That just about sums up some of my thoughts on getting off the beaten path in the Dordogne. I would absolutely urge you to take the time to visit the highlights as well, but if the crowds are getting to you, then this northern region that I’ve described has plenty to offer, from castles to cute villages and ruined abbeys, where you can roam to your hearts content with less queuing and more relaxation!