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Dordogne spoiled me for all future vacations, now what?

Just back from a 12 day trip to France that started in the Lot Valley (just outside Cahors) and ended with a night in Saint-Emilion, with the bulk of our time spent in the Dordogne. I've traveled pretty extensively in Europe and North America, and have to say, never has a place resonated me with as much as the Dordogne - just the perfect mixture of scenery, idyllic serenity, history, food, relaxation, and adventure. As much as I'd like to go back, I won't typically repeat vacation areas for a good number of years, so now I find myself in the enviable position of wondering where we plan to go next, and would love to get some recommendations (in France or anywhere in Europe).
We'll touch on mid-sized cities and towns, but we prefer the country side, while also liking to splurge a bit on accommodations. Scenery is a must, as is regionalized cuisine and a healthy list of activities (ie, the idea of lounging on Mediterranean is only appealing for a couple of days). I'm also mindful of not trying to re-capture the magic I found in the Dordogne only to be disappointed, so a completely different experience might do me some good, while checking off some of the above boxes. Basque France & Spain maybe? Langeudoc/Roussillon? Open for suggestions to feed my constant wanderlust and to also itch the part of brain that craves day dreaming of where to go next

Posted by
18897 posts
  • The Basque Country and/or Galicia in Spain, with perhaps some time in the Picos de Europa area.
  • The Pyrenees on both sides of the border
  • Sicily
Posted by
419 posts

Jason, you have, indeed, discovered the most magical place on earth! While I understand about not being able to re-create the magic the 2nd time around my husband and I have found that we almost cannot return to France without spending 1 or 2 weeks in the Dordogne. It's just that good. Perhaps never as stunning as the 1st time in Sarlat. We arrived during the night of patrimony and the entire town was lit with candles on every stair with a wonderful group like the Pied Piper leading us from point to point. We have returned 4 times and hope to do so again this spring. Did you see the Château Fenelon or Château Milandes? A kayak or canoe trip from above la Roque Gagiac to Beynac? Okay, back to your question. Have you been to Cinque Terre in Italy? Gorgeous scenery, hiking as well as walking trails, wonderful boat rides along the coast and the glorious Mediterranean. Great food. In Provence, near Memerbes there is a wonderful gite called les Artemes. We have stayed there 3 times and enjoyed it immensely as we have the owners. Way off the main road in the middle of a protected forest. If you find yourself near Siena there is a wonderful place to stay, also way off the Main Rd., Castello Montalto, where he we have stayed twice. Very medieval. We liked the tower room over the gate.
Barcelona is incredible. Gaudi alone makes it worthwhile but there is so much more! So many places, so little time!

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6041 posts

The Dordogne is my favorite region too and we have spent week long stays there twice as well as stopped for two or three days passing through several times.

Other ares we have really enjoyed for similar regions are Burgundy and Brittany. We did a 5 night side trip to Brittany a few years ago staying in St. Malo for 4 nights in an apartment and visiting other towns in the region ad then a night in Carnac to visit the neolithic sites.
https://janettravels.wordpress.com/category/brittany/
We spent a coupe of weeks in a cottage at the base of the walls of Semur en Auxois in Burgundy and visited abbeys, chateaux, towns and hiking trails in the region. Also memorably wonderful. Here was one day trip:
https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/medieval-towns/
We have also stayed at a country inn. near Vezelay and visited Auxerre. Burgundy is beautiful and repays wandering roads and stopping where it looks interesting.
Normandy is also amazing.

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2809 posts

I agree that the Dordogne is a wonderful place. Fond memories of canoeing down the Dordogne RIver from Cenac to Beyac, paddling past medieval castles and villages on a warm September day. It was magical. So many places to feed your wanderlust!
~Sicily
~Greece
~Slovenia and Croatia

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911 posts

Have you thought about Greece or Scotland? Love, love, love both!! But Scotland really calls me home. I just love it and would recommend giving it a thought.

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145 posts

Alas, Jason, you do not mention where else you have traveled. The Dordogne is exquisite and the food is not only top notch but reasonably priced (unlike Paris). I'd say go to the mountains, to the Alps in the country of your choice. The food won't be as dazzling, but the scenery compensates. The Italian trip of Venice, Lucca, Florence, and Cinque Terre across the peninsula provides scenery and cuisine. Alsace provides France with the Germanic overlay with rolling hills and the inimitable German-French fusion of food. Vienna puts not only Austria, but all of Eastern Europe on your plate along with history and architecture. Don't despair, you have plenty of riches to mine.

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201 posts

Another vote for the Basque Country, both sides of the border, for all your reasons- one of my favorite trips ever and I also adored the Dordogne. I used the RS tour as my initial planning framework but added on. Also, St. Jean Pied de Port was a highlight ( train from Bayonne- overnight there/ museum- filled with pilgrims and backpackers)- RS is dismissive but I loved it and also walked a bit of the Camino. Absolutely gorgeous, absolutely fascinating!

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339 posts

I'd love to hear more about your itinerary if you have time to add it here or write a brief trip report. We had a trip to the Dordogne planned for June 2020, hope to try again in 2022.

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7921 posts

For me, the Alps in the Berner Oberland in Switzerland beats the Dordogne for mind blowing, jaw dropping, spectacular.

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30 posts

We love rural France as well. We were introduced when we toured the Cathar castles in Languedoc and find ourselves spending a little time in the area every time we are in France. This provides a good framework for visiting places you might not otherwise go. Every town had a tourist bureau which could recommend lodging for the night and a good "cooker". Covid may have taken this away as it's been 2 0r 3 years since we've been back. The Bruno, Chief of Police novels drew us to the Dordogne on one trip and you can relive a little of what you've seen and experienced as you read through the series..

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242 posts

I can't say this will check the "great food" box, but as far as scenery and wonderful people (not to mention quite inexpensive): Slovenia. Stay by Lake Bohijn vs. Bled, and spend at least 3-4 days in Lojarska Dolina. The gorgeous scenery and short distances reminded me a lot of New Zealand ... which, if you haven't been there yet, I'd say high-tail it there as soon as we're allowed back in :-).

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7 posts

I totally agree that the Dordogne is amazing, and our two weeks there were one of our best trips ever. Other people in this thread have mentioned Sicily, and I think I'd concur that that may come closest in combining scenery, history, and food in a similar way. Can't speak to accommodation - we stayed in cheaper hotels that weren't always great.
Within France, the Alps (Chamonix and surrounding) or the Lubéron are other areas with wonderful scenery and a lot of things to see/do. And I'll also put in a plug for Lyon and the Rhône valley: less rural, but some lovely scenery, scenic vineyards, lots of history (e.g., St Romain-en-Gal as well as Lyon), and the best food.

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6 posts

Barbara - absolutely. Here's a rough breakdown of our itinerary
Flew into Toulouse and drove to Chateau de Mercues outside Cahors
https://chateaudemercues.com/
There's a terrific restaurant a few km outside of Cahors that we loved:
http://www.la-garenne-cahors.com/
From there, we day tripped to Rocamadour, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Padirac Caves, and Grotte de Pech Merle, as well as spending some time in Cahors and visiting a couple of wineries. There's a wee bit of driving involved in getting to some of these places but I found the landscape in the Lot Valley quite magical, from the farmland to the forests.
Drove to La Roque-Gageac, staying at Manoir de la Malatrie
https://www.chambresdhotes-lamalartrie.com/
Aside from the wonderful people and accommodations, part of the attraction there was the central location, which made it easy for daily excursions to all primary highlights of the Dordogne
We arrived there on a Friday night (dinner in Domme), so made sure to visit the Sarlat Market on Saturday morning, which is a must. Armed with a bounty of cheese, bread and meats (and wine), we ate lunch in the garden at the Manoir, then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring La Roque
The next day we went to Beynac and visited the town and castle there, followed by an afternoon at Chateau de Milandes, both must sees of your itinerary
Next day was the Marqueyssac Gardens followed by an afternoon visit to Castelnaud Castle. You can buy tickets for both at Marqueyssac, or online
A canoe down the Dordogne took up the bulk of the following day, with a leisurely late afternoon back at the hotel.
Domme was next on the agenda, with a picnic lunch and swimming in the Dordogne in the afternoon.
And finally, Commarque and Les Eyzies, before heading over to Bordeaux, spending the night just outside Bergerac and then Saint-Emilion, making it relatively easy to fly out of Bordeaux Airport the next day
Hope that helps!

Posted by
122 posts

I really like the Landes and the endless pristine and empty beaches on the Atlantic coast from Arcachon to Hossegor.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the recommendations everyone! I have done Sicily, a good of amount of Greece (with Greek grandparents, that was a necessity), and Scotland remains one on the most magical places I've ever been.
Slovenia is now on my radar, and in particular, the recommendation of Picos de Europa caught my eye, which lead to me look further into the jaw dropping beauty of Cantabria Spain. I've got France on the brain and it's pull is mighty strong, but that checks a lot of boxes for me, from scenery, to food, to history and adventure. We'll see, cheers all!

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10 posts

I completely understand! I feel that way about Nice. We just returned in August from Nice and we are going back next week we liked it so much. I loved Norway too. I really enjoyed Norway in a Nutshell. It was so cozy to take a train through the countryside, then a boat through the fjords. It was very easy to navigate and incredibly beautiful. I also found Israel amazing! Tel Aviv was cosmopolitan while Jerusalem was fascinating. Turkey was fantastic too!

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339 posts

Jason, thank you so much for your itinerary! It's fairly similar to our original plan, which also started in Toulouse and ended in Bordeaux. How many nights did you spend in Cahors?

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104 posts

Dordogne and four colored Perigord regions enclosed a huge array of places with different qualities. Whatever you saw, there are probably many other great places you missed but a few downsides are ... many cities not reached by train, or not frequently, long train ride to Paris, and food is not special unless you like foie gras.

Thanks to a giant rail strike winter 2019, I cancelled my France trip, and went instead to Sicily, Spain, and Switzerland, and did not miss France at all. Dordogne's history is based on the 100 year war, but Sicily has one of the most fascinating histories in all of EU, and great food, and ocean views. Switzerland had some of the most stunning scenery if you can deal with the lousy food and high prices. Spain - especially anduluia is fascinating place and prices are very affordable. Of course, Italy is full of great areas too.

Posted by
6041 posts

some of the best meals we have ever had have been at good restaurants in the Dordogne -- you can dine like a king for about half what it costs for a similar meal in Paris. Many hotels have wonderful restaurants.

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821 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Yes, that is a wonderful place to go. When you go back to the Lott River follow the Cele River into even more magical locations.

And now for something completely different: TURKEY. Do some days in Istanbul then have a tour booked that does small groups (12) and do the 8 or 9 day circle of western Turkey. After the second day on our tour, I said to myself, "Go on, try to make my jaw drop today." Every day, I mean it, was jaw dropping. Leave a few more days after the tour for Istanbul. Istanbul makes 'old France' seem young. Food is safe, and interesting. Drink as much pomegranate juice as you can find freshly squeezed before your eyes. Keep in mind, that way too many people in Istanbul use "I have a cousin living in Chicago" or "you look like a woman who needs a carpet" as an ice breaker and then will want to sell you a carpet.

If you meant a place in France, I have to agree with an early responder, Basque country. Between the Spanish border and line between Biarritz/ Bayonne east to Pau is a lovely rolling hill area. Salies-de Bearn and Saint Jean Pied-de-Port are two interesting places. Salies is where you want to live and Saint Jean is where many people start their trek on the Camino de Compostela. Between those two cities you will be a noticeable tourist. Great food. It is hard to book in advance because the great food at great prices are local restaurants tucked in the countryside. When you find one you ask yourself, "How can this be? Such fine food in the middle of nowhere." Try staying a couple days in one location and ask your host where to get a really good lunch or evening meal. The prices are so good for what you get you won't believe it.

And one more place that is lesser traveled and puts our hearts aflutter is Riom-es-Montagnes. We stayed in Villette a very small place but if we return we will stay in Riom. If you can find Villette its wee church has a treasury worth seeing. Riom had the best market that we have encountered in our years of travel. Well, Bayeux's was quite excellent too. Neither can match the markets of Istanbul, that is comparing apples and pomegranates. But I digress. Once again, people will ask you, "What are you doing here?", as they asked us. This is RURAL France. The little cities each have a store that sells only cow bells and the necklaces to hand them from, that is how rural it is. Food was good.

Neither of these two French locations have the Hundred Years War's Castles of the Dordogne. The scenery will transport your heart and mind.

wayne iNWI

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6 posts

Barbara - 3 nights in Cahors, but one of those was the day we arrived around 4:00pm, so essentially 2 1/2 days before heading over to the Dordogne. A longer vacation might have warranted another day, 2 full days gives you enough time to hit the highlights

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339 posts

Thanks, Jason! After the Dordogne my next hoped-for trips are Berner Oberland, Greece, and Sicily.

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13 posts

I would put in a plug for Andalucia, Spain. Even the big cities feel small, and outside of them you hardly see any tourists, let alone Americans.

My husband and I did a cycling trip through Andalucia in 2013, starting in Granada through the countryside to Ronda. Driving also possible though, of course. It was idyllic. The little hill towns (White Villages) are cute, the food is excellent (esp if you like pork prepared 10 million ways), and there's lots of pretty scenery - olives, cork trees, river gorges galore. You've got the mix of Spanish, Moorish, and Jewish peoples and their histories. The Alhambra in Granada was amazing, and worth going even though it's definitely the most visited site in the region. Outside Antequera, check out El Torcal, a beautiful nature park with karst rock formations. We did a guided hike and loved it. The Gorge of the Gaitanes near El Chorro also offers rock climbing and the Caminito del Rey path built into the side of the gorge cliffs originally for workers at the hydroelectric damns. The other towns we visited that were great included Alhama de Granada and Ardales.