Dordogne Walking Tour

Duration: 8 days/7 Nights
Departures 2014: May 10 & 24, June 7, Aug. 30, Sept. 13 & 27, Oct. 11 & 25.
Trip departs: Périgueux, 9 a.m. Day 2
Trip ends: Bergerac train station, 10 a.m. Day 8
Price: €2,450 per person in double occupancy. See our Guaranteed Departure policy. Single supplement: €320.
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The Dordogne region of southwest France is rich in both natural beauty and historic treasures.  Our distant ancestors lived in the region 20,000 years ago and left amazing cave paintings as a testament to their spirit and creativity.  Thousands of years later, medieval pilgrims and noblemen built some of the most beautiful abbeys and castles in all of Europe.  Even today, the Dordogne has more castles per square mile than any other area of France!

Our walking trip explores the villages, castles, traditions and history of the Dordogne.  We walk along meandering rivers, through lush forests, and softly undulating countryside dotted with ancient farms and stone hamlets. We also walk to better enjoy the region’s fabulous food and wine! There are plenty of opportunities to sample the region’s famous cuisine be it at local markets, during our picnics, or at dinner at a gourmet restaurant or unpretentious local bistrot. The wine lists offer nearby Bordeaux and Saint Emilion producers, but also excellent regional wines from Pecharmant and Cahors.
(Luggage is transferred by van. 1 night Périgueux, 2 nights Sarlat, Les Eyzies and Biron. Trip ends at the Bergerac train station.)

“Just loved it. The walks, the chateaux, the history, the food. The visit to the pre-historic cave was incredible. All first rate. Brett and Virginie were wonderful guides.”  D. Shaffer, Brisbane, Australia.

 

Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 5: Independent arrival in Périgueux and check-in at your centrally located hotel, the Hotel Mercure. 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 di Compostela. Overnight in Périgueux. Dinner on your own tonight. Hotel included. Dinner not included.

Day 2 – Sunday:  Meet your guide and the other members of the group 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 over-hangs which once sheltered our pre-historic ancestors. We visit Castel-Merle, a prehistoric site with the distinction of having its own museum displaying many artifacts from that time. 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 a converted 18th-century water mill, the Moulin de la Beune. Dinner is in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant. Overnight Les Eyzies.  Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.

Day 3 – Monday: 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 bistrot in the village. This evening we will do a tasting of wines from the emerging appellations of Cahors, Bergerac and Pécharmant before dinner with our friends, Babette and Jean–Marie, who serve up beautifully prepared local spécialités. Overnight Les Eyzies.  Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.

Day 4 – Tuesday: 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. 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. Dinner tonight at Le Bistrot de L’Octroi, a favorite with locals, where we will dine on the terrace and enjoy some of the region’s specialities, like confit de canard. Our hotel for the next two nights is within the medieval walls of Sarlat, the Hotel Couleuvrine. Overnight Sarlat.  Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.

Day 5Wednesday: This morning you are free to immerse yourself in the wonderful weekly market of Sarlat, an extensive and fabulous array of food, wine, and just about anything else you can imagine. 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. We visit the Castelnaud castle and enjoy striking views of the river valley as well as a fascinating museum of medieval warfare. 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.

Day 6Thursday:  The nearby Château d’Erignac, whose fabulous rose 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 the 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 medieval life. Our hotel for the next 2 nights, Le Prieuré du Biron, will be an exquisite finale to our week together.  Once a working monastery at the foot of the Chateau, it offers gorgeous rooms with all of the comforts in a preserved historic setting. We dine in their dining room. Overnight at Le Prieuré du Biron. Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.

Day 7 – Friday: We depart on foot directly from Le Prieuré for the walled village of Monpazier, where we will enjoy a mid-morning ‘pause café’ in the charming arcaded village square. We then have a short transfer to the village of Beaumont, an English bastide. Bastides were walled fortress villages built by both the French and English during the Hundred Years’ War. Beaumont’s first stones were laid in 1272 and its fortified 13th-century church stands as testimony to those troubled times. Our walk takes us to the Château de Bannes, where we will stop for a picnic lunch next to the Romanesque church. We loop back through orchards and walnut groves to Beaumont. This afternoon we can relax in the garden of the hotel before our final farewell dinner at the nearby restaurant, La Table du Moulin. Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.

Day 8Saturday: After breakfast, we transfer to the Bergerac train station for rail connections to Paris and Bordeaux.  Breakfast and 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.

The Hotels:
Perigueux:  Hotel Mercure. Modern, comfortable, quiet and well located. The perfect, no-nonsense, everything works, one-night stop.
Les Eyzies:  Moulin de la Beaune. 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.

Biron: Le Prieuré du Biron. Built over 500 years ago as the home for the priests of Biron, Le Prieuré is today a deluxe bed and breakfast with only five rooms. It is located at the foot of Biron castle. Completely restored, Le Prieuré has been carefully furnished with elegant period furniture. Each bedroom has its own personality with comfortable beds and a sitting area. The terraces offer quiet places to sit and relax or to enjoy the evening aperitif.

Useful Links -
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!

General Information

Qualifications: This trip is rated easy to moderate. Some prior hiking experience is beneficial but anyone in good physical condition will have no problems with the walks. We walk between 10-16 km a day (6-10 miles), more or less equally divided between morning and afternoon.Trip Cost Includes: All accommodations in three and four star hotels “de charme” (7 nights total); 7 breakfasts and 5 dinners; bilingual Customwalks guide(s) to accompany the tour and lead you on the walks; all van and luggage transfers starting with pick up from Périgueuxand ending with the final transfer to Périgueux; entrance to the Font de Gaume prehistoric caves with guide.Getting there(this will redirect you to our “Getting to the Trip” page)Booking: e-mail us to receive a booking contract (or use the “Reservation” page).Insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of Trip Insurance. We recommend “Travel Guard” to our North American clients, just click on the logo below.  Australian, New Zealander, and British travelers, please consult your insurance brokers.

We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime!

 

 

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