The Dordogne is a land of contrasts, that now comes color-coded: your guide will be able to fill you in on the Périgord Noir (Black Périgord), and the Périgord Vert (Green Périgord), Périgord Blanc (White Périgord) and Périgord Pourpre (Purple Périgord).
The Périgord Vert to the north of the département
This term first appears in the 19th century and refers to its lush vegetation! Encompassing the Périgord-Limousin Regional Park and crisscrossed by several rivers, this is a land of lush landscapes, rich in flora and fauna. But in Dordogne the built heritage is never far away. Castles are everywhere, 1001 in the region, so the saying goes. From Bourdeilles and the superb view from the top of its medieval keep to the Renaissance jewel that is Puyguilhem castle, you will be transported back to the time of the troubadours!
Brantôme, the "Venice of Périgord", and Saint-Jean-de-Côle, ranked among "the most beautiful villages of France" will win you over with their bucolic charm. And what about the famous domed romanesque churches of Ribérac, Boschaud Abbey's romantic ruins, mills… If we add in the Villars caves and the numerous walks and water excursions, with or without your kayak, you start to get the idea, this is the ideal spot to… go green!
The southern border: the Périgord Blanc
The name dates from the 18th century and refers to the region's chalky soil. The capital is Périgueux, whose rich history dates back to Roman times. The Vésona tower, the Mars gate and what remains of the ancient amphitheater are must-sees along with the gallo-roman museum and the Bouquet villa.
The Périgord Blanc boasts numerous castles, such as the castles of Château l'évêque, des Bories, Rastignac, and Hautefort and also abbeys such as Chancelade and Tourtoirac. We are not short of legendary figures either from Saint Front who slew the dragon of the Vesona tower to Jacquou le Croquant, star of Eugène le Roy's literary work, and not forgetting Antoine de Tounnens, the adventurer who become the only king of Patagonia in the 19th century!
To gastronomy, found throughout the Périgord, and to Sorge… the black truffle capital with its own dedicated museum, and to Vergt which has to settle with hosting the garriguette strawberry! To the west, the Double forest and the Landes border the Gironde region and offer walkers wilder natural habitats. Fear not, the vagabonds and beggars that formerly roamed these lands are now long gone. So you are safe…
And now to wine, with the Périgord Pourpre
And its 13 AOCs, the most famous of which are Monbazillac and Pécharmant.
Crossed by the Dordogne from east to west, Bergerac, Ville et Pays d'Art et d'Histoire, flourished in the medieval period when this region was home to important ports. Ideally situated on the trade route to Bordeaux, Bergerac was a hub for inland shipping and boasts a shipping museum today. Finally, we're sad to say that the only link between Bergerac and a certain Cyrano is the name. He never set foot in the town! Home to numerous castles including Montaigne (where the famous author of the Essays was born), Lanquais, Monbazillac, Montreal, Bannes, etc., this is also Bastide Périgord the most famous of which are Eymet and Monpazier. Cadouin abbey, which once was home to a piece of cloth said to be part of Christ's shroud, and Saint-Avit Senieur church, both offer visitors more spiritual excursions. This land, though, has known "heresy" in the past, as it was home to numerous calvinists during the wars of religion.
Let's finish in style with the Périgord Noir!
The color, first mentioned in the 18th century, refers to the dark foliage of its holm oak trees! Sarlat, birthplace of French poet la Boétie, with its sumptuous town houses of the 14th to 18th centuries). A town, loyal to the King, on the border with Plantagenêt lands, surrounded by feudal lords of everchanging allegiances and fortified castles at Beynac, Castelnaud, Fayrac, Commarques, Carlux, Fénelon, etc., this town has had an eventful past. The Renaissance brought renewal and a plethora of new castles built by the younger members of grand aristocratic families or by the bourgeoisie just before the dark period of the wars of religion.
Imagination and knowledge also bring us further back in time, back to the time of the hunter-gatherers, who decorated the Lascaux caves, etched those of La Madeleine, l'Abri Pataud, Cap Blanc, the cave of the hundred mammoths depicting prehistoric fauna. All along the famous "valley of mankind" major sites are to be found, where Cro-magnon man has left his mark. In fact, the National Museum of Prehistory is to be found in Eyzies-de-Tayac. Périgord Noir's strength is that it also offers a wide selection of churches and villages full of charm! If you add in typical rural markets, the caves of Proumeyssac and its cathedral of crystal, the Gardens of Eyrignac and Marqueyssac, boat trips in traditional gabarres or modern kayaks, you begin to understand the international success of this destination!