With so much information available on the Internet these, it can be difficult to find places to visit around Europe that are surprising. Our most recent French adventure, to the Dordogne, Sarlat and Bordeaux, absolutely surprised us. While we expected a relaxing weekend in the French countryside, this incredibly charming area of France delivered so much more.
It was a truly fabulous trip that combined all the things we love to experience when we travel: rich history, incredible natural landscapes, active adventures, excellent food, delicious wine and a relaxing vibe. After a bank holiday weekend in Sarlat and Dordogne, this is one of the top places we wish to return to – it was that great.
Since we were so lucky to get to do so many unique things in Dordogne and we traveled there with a new camera lens (yaaay!), there is too much to share for just one post. Here, I’ll share our itinerary and link to posts with more about each of our activities.
I hope this itinerary inspires you to take a trip to this magical region of France. From Bordeaux to Sarlat, there is so much to discover in the Dordogne, Perigord and beyond.
Our Dordogne Region Itinerary
Getting to Bordeaux
On the Friday of the August Bank Holiday weekend, we took a morning flight from London to Bordeaux on EasyJet. Just forty-five minutes long, we were up and down into Bordeaux in what felt like no time.
Once we arrived in Bordeaux, we picked up our rental car. Renting a car is essential for exploring this region, since so many of the incredible sights we saw were only accessible by car. It is well worth the cost – even for an automatic vehicle, like we both required – ha!
If you are coming from Paris, Bordeaux is just over two hours by train from Gare Montparnasse. Once you arrive in Bordeaux, rent a car to begin your adventure.
From Bordeaux Airport, it’s about a forty-five minute drive to the picturesque medieval town of St Emilion, known for the red wines its nearby vineyards produce.
Originally, I thought we ought to stay in St Emilion, seeing that was better known, close to many vineyards and half the distance from Bordeaux compared to Sarlat. I was wrong! It is a charming little village, but very small. It is possible to tour in a matter of hours and many bus tours stop through, so it gets quite crowded during the day.
That said, we enjoyed our stop in this lovely little place. But we are also glad we didn’t listen to me and stayed in Sarlat!
Before this trip, I finally got the brilliant idea to base my reading around where we were traveling to next. I searched for a new book based in the Dordogne or Perigord and landed on a sort of mystery genre easy read called Caves of Perigord, with a protagonist who is also an American expat living in London.
The book wasn’t great, but I did get a hot tip from reading it – when trying foie gras the perfect wine pairing is the sweet wine from Monbazillac.
Our drive to Sarlat took us near Monbazillac, so we decided to drive through and visit the beautiful chateau there. Once we arrived, we found that learning more about the wine famous to that area was easy, with a tasting room at the chateau itself!
After exploring Monbazillac, we continued on to Sarlat. We arrived in the evening and were delighted to find our Airbnb just as adorable in person as the pictures suggested. Our requirement in booking an Airbnb for the August bank holiday was one that had an air conditioner, as we’ve learned that summers in Europe now get really, really hot.
The city center was a quick walk from our lovely little flat and we had a fabulous dinner at Le Jardins d’Harmonie. Wandering through the town after dinner revealed that there is a lot going on in Sarlat! Street performers, families wandering, many restaurants, there was plenty to discover even in the dark in Sarlat.
With Sarlat as our home base, we were very well positioned to explore the Dordogne. On our first day, we visited the famous Saturday market in Sarlat, which has been running for centuries. We gathered supplies for a delicious feast featuring many of the Dordogne’s best delicacies.
After the market, we drove around the beautiful countryside to one of the many caves throughout the region, Grotte de Rouffignac. We chose this one because it was open that day, was well-reviewed and featured a train. Many of these caves, including Rouffignac, contain ancient cave drawings and paintings which are remarkable.
Day Three: Kayaking the Dordogne from Carsac to Beynac and Les Jardins de Marqueyssac
On our second day, we rented kayaks from Canoe Loisirs in Vitrac and paddled from Carsac-Aillac to just past Beynac-et-Cazenac along the Dordogne. Passing by several gorgeous riverside medieval towns, this day was the highlight of our trip.
That afternoon, we stopped into Les Jardins de Marqueyssac. They were absolutely beautiful and offered fabulous views over the countryside and the river we had just paddled down. We got to watch as hot air balloons took off over the valley for sunset. It was magical.
Day Four: Bordeaux
On the Monday of the bank holiday, we woke up early and drove directly back to Bordeaux to spend the day exploring its vineyards and city. Our first stop was a vineyard tour at Chateau D’Agassac.
Since it was before noon on a Monday, it was just us on the tour. We enjoyed learning more about Bordeaux and D’Agassac on our basically private tour and especially enjoyed the tasting at the end.
After our vineyard tour, we drove into Bordeaux to our hotel, dropped off our stuff and took the bus into the city to explore the rest of the day. Bordeaux is small and beautiful and we had a lovely time wandering its picturesque streets, eating its delicious food and learning more about the wines that make this region so famous.
This trip absolutely ranks up in the top five we’ve taken during our expat experience. It was the perfect relaxing yet active long weekend and Bordeaux and Dordogne are truly beautiful areas with so much to offer from the food and wine to the culture, history and natural wonders! I’ll be sharing more photos, tips and details from our four days in France over the coming weeks in further posts – I hope you enjoy reading as much as I am enjoying reliving this fabulous trip through our photos and memories!
Last August Bank Holiday was another one of our favorite trips. Read about our trip to Lake Como here!