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Trip to the Dordogne in October

Together with another couple, we are taking a river cruise that begins in Bordeaux and ends there on October 6. We plan to rent a car after the cruise and spend a few days in the Dordogne, and are starting to plan that part of the trip. I’ve read that canoe trips are popular, but don’t know if it would be too late in the year for that; I’ve also read that while there are lots of places to bike, it can get hilly, which wouldn’t work for all of us. We are interested in seeing some caves, especially Font de Gaume, if we are able to get up early enough to get tickets, since I’ve read that reservations are no longer possible. We would like to go to some markets, and I have a list of their days in the various towns.

Any suggestions about how to plan are most welcome, including the must-sees, and places to stay. Does it make sense to stay in one place, or divide between two to avoid backtracking? Is a bigger town like Sarlat better to have places to walk after dinner? It seems that parking is more difficult there. I speak a little French, and will try to review it before our trip.

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
1444 posts

I stayed at La Tour de Cause B&B about 2 minutes south of Beynac. It's run by a couple of chefs.

There are several thematic tour companies who will wisk you away for a half-day or day and drive you around the areas to see sites of historical or gastronomic interest. Some include tickets and tour guides. I found it valuable even though I had a car sicne they knew the area really well.

Depending on how much time you have, you could easily spend 3-4 days in the Dordogne area and then relocate to the Lot river valley for another 3-4 days.

Posted by
1667 posts

We spent a week in the Dordogne and divided our stays between 2 nights in Brantome and 4 nights in Sarlat. Brantome is further north of Sarlat; we enjoyed it very much and it was very quiet in May. I don't think the Brantome area is considered the highlights, but we enjoyed its beauty and peace and tranquility. Especially enjoyed a leisurely drive along the Dronne River exploring small villages.

Sarlat is a great place to stay. We did a lot of sightseeing from Sarlat during the day, but it was very nice being there in the evenings for dinner and walking around. Our hotel (Villa Des Consuls) did provide parking at a parking garage that was about a 5 - 10 minute walk from the hotel.

For caves, we loved Gouffre de Padirac, Grotte de Rouffignac, and Peche Merle. These were probably our favorites. Also saw Grotte du Grand Roc and La Rogue St. Christophe. We did a cruise on the Dordogne River on a river barge with Gabarres Norbert. Also really liked Beynac Castle, a medieval fortress with very few furnishings and had a more primitive feel. I also recommend visiting Marqueyssac Gardens.

We also visited Chateau de Hautefort and Lascaux II on our drive from Brantome to Sarlat.

Posted by
8240 posts

We have done a week in the Dordogne twice, once in May in Lemieul and once in September in Cadouin. Each time we got an apartment and based there. The caves: Lascaux II or IV, Roffignac, Font du Gaume are all must sees. The archeology museum at Les Eyzies is excellent; our ancestors had great taste in their choice of settlement -- this whole area is gorgeous and back then filled with wild asparagus, fruit, nuts, fish and game. The Abris St. Christoph is interesting. There are several chateaux including Milandes where Josephine Baker lived with her collection of adopted kids and lovely gardens including Marqueyssac. The Abbey at Cadouin which is on the pilgrimage route to Spain is well worth a stop. Canoeing above Le Roque Gageac for a few hours is stunning. There are many lovely small towns and country walks. Here is one we did not long ago as well as a visit to a wonderful old chateau ruin:
This is just such a gorgeous part of the country; we can no longer drive and not being able to revisit this region is one of the disappointments of that fact. Probably my favorite part of France -- and the food is fabulous.

Posted by
16894 posts

I stayed in Beynac at that time last October and found only one or two restaurants open each evening, but it was enough. Tourist info office and little trinket shops closed (no big deal). But if you wanted someplace livelier, then choose Sarlat, or if you wanted someplace more rural, you should be fine with advance booking. Paid parking was wide open in the central lots in Sarlat on a non-market day, but market day there is a great experience.

We got up early and got into Font de Gaume with no problem on October 1, a Monday. On that particular day, arriving later also would have worked, but there's no guarantee, since even a small group can tip the balance, and weekends are probably busier. At the same office, you can also reserve the Abri du Cap Blanc, just down the road, and we enjoyed that too, significantly different style (carving vs painting, residential shelter vs mysterious cave).