1. Discover Sarlat la Caneda
The breathtaking town of Sarlat sits at the heart of the Dordogne Valley and it’s a must-see on your trip! It’s famous for its beautiful stone medieval buildings that make it feel like something straight out of a movie. In fact, it has the highest amount of historical buildings per square foot in the whole of France.
Wander around the town, stopping off at the bustling markets to try Sarlat’s delicacies: walnuts, truffles, and Bergerac Wine. Sarlat is known for its twice-weekly market (Wednesday and Saturday) where food producers come to sell their culinary delights, and on Saturday’s there are other treasures and trinkets on sale too. It’s no wonder that Sarlat is known as a gastronomical hub!
Sarlat by Night – Evening Gaslit Streets
Sarlat by day is wonderful, but Sarlat by night is an unforgettable experience! The streets come alive with a warm glow from the traditional gaslit lamps, making it feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Sit out on one of the many bistro terraces, eating delicious food under the romantic lighting; this is a really special experience while visiting the Dordogne in France.
2. Marqueyssac Gardens
The Marqueyssac, inspired by Italy, is the most stunning garden in the area. Everything is perfectly designed, with swirling box hedges and pathways that worm around the beautiful Chateau. Best of all, the gardens sit on top of a high rocky spur, providing some of the most spectacular views across the Dordogne Valley.
3. Canoe or Kayak on the Dordogne River
Canoeing on the Dordogne River is the perfect way to see the area and the nature that makes it so special. The huge river snakes through the Dordogne valley, passing limestone cliffs and medieval villages that sit on the shore. In the summer, the water levels get quite low, so you can easily leave the kayak and explore what lies beyond the river.
We rented ours from Canoës Butterfly. They suggest 4km to 25km routes down the river, which takes between 1 to 5 hours.
4. Eco Quad, Sarlat la Caneda
Exploring the lush Dordogne Valley via eco-quad is easily one of the most unique experiences in Sarlat, France! The eco quads have 4 wheels and run entirely on electricity. Driving is very different from a regular quad as it goes only 25km/h, and it keeps you horizontal no matter what you’re driving on. That way, you can go off-road to all the most beautiful places in the Dordogne Valley.
Best of all, it’s silent, peaceful, and doesn’t cause any harm to the environment. The quad is designed to adapt to any type of terrain, whether that’s sand or snow!
5. Visit Chateau des Milandes and its Gardens
Chateau des Milandes is a beautiful renaissance castle built in 1489 and was home to the French aristocratic Caumont family. However, it became known worldwide after it was bought by Josephine Baker: an icon from the roaring twenties.
Now, the castle is open to the public, as well as the beautiful gardens that are full of old oak trees and tulips. There is also a bird show; however, we believe that animals shouldn’t be involved in shows for tourists. Learn more about sustainable tourism here.
Opening hours: 9 AM – 8 PM in the summer months. Opening times differ during other seasons.
Entry fee: 12.50 EUR. This gives you access to the castle, and gardens, and includes an audio guide.
6. The Beautiful Village of Beynac, Dordogne
Known as one of the most beautiful villages in France, it’s no surprise that Beynac is the setting for many famous films, including Chocolat! The gorgeous yellow stone village and its impressive castle are located southwest of Sarlat and stretches uphill from the banks of the river to the clifftops.
Bring your camera and snap away at all the postcard-worthy streets with the blue shutters and climbing plants. Afterward, enjoy a picnic next to the water or choose one of the cute cafes that line the riverbanks (like here).
Chateau de Beynac
Sitting on top of a clifftop overlooking the village is the majestic Beynac Castle. Inside the Chateau you can see beautiful frescoes, ancient kitchens, and even a dungeon that has great views across the rooftops. However, the best thing of all is the incredible views, from the castle gardens, across the Dordogne Valley and the river 200m below.
Entry fee: 9.50 EUR
Opening times: 10 AM – 7 PM every day of the week.
7. Electric Bike on the Green Lane
Hire electric bikes and discover 50km of bike paths on what used to be old train tracks. Covered by old trees, you can cycle through the dappled sunlight enjoying the beautiful French countryside! As it’s a bike path, it’s completely traffic-free, and you can stop off for a picnic or a swim along the way.
8. Water Gardens
While you’re on your cycle, stop off at the Water Gardens: a beautiful aquatic park filled with water lilies and lotus flowers from all over the world. Wander through the gardens, cross Japanese bridges, and enjoy the 500 meters of walkways on the banks of the Dordogne River.
How to get there: If you’re not a fan of traveling on two wheels, you can drive to the park from Sarlat in under 20 minutes.
Entry fee: 8.50 EUR
9. Tropical Plant Village: La Roque Gageac
La Roque Gageac has to be one of France’s most unique and beautiful villages because it’s covered with tropical plants! Even better, it’s only 12 km from Sarlat, so it’s easy to visit on your trip through the Dordogne Valley. Here, you’ll discover stone cottages with brown-tiled rooftops sandwiched between a towering cliff face and the Dordogne River. Time seems to have stopped still here, and it’s the perfect place to absorb the old history.
One of the oldest buildings is the stunning 14th-century church that sits on the edge of town. This church is particularly special, as it’s surrounded by luscious tropical gardens filled with palm trees, cacti, banana trees, and bamboo! The gardens flourish as La Roque Gageac has a micro-climate, helped by the cliffs that protect the plants from harsh weather.
10. Try Truffle and Walnuts
Sarlat is famous for the truffle and walnuts found here! It’s particularly well known for the elusive ‘Perigord’s Black Diamond truffle’ – loved by Michelin star chefs from all over the world. To taste and buy, head to the famous truffle market in Sarlat.
Tip: You can also visit the walnut museum to learn all about the process from harvesting to pressing.
11. Visit the Dordogne River by Boat
Not into kayaking? Hop aboard a traditional boat to see the beauty of the Dordogne Valley from the river! The trip takes 50 minutes and covers the 6.5 km stretch of ‘the valley of the castles’. On the route, you’ll see Castle Beynac, Castlenaud, Fayrac, and Marqueyssac. It’s a good way to see the beauty of the area, and there are (audio) guides provided too. Trips run from April 03 to October 31 and cost 10.90 EUR per person.
The boat trip starts in La Roque Gageac, which is 20 minutes drive from Sarlat. If you don’t have a car, you can take the number 14 bus from Sarlat. This takes 55 minutes and costs 2 EUR.
Getting to Sarlat, France
Sarlat is off the beaten track (which is what makes it extra special!), so public transport can take quite a bit longer.
The option you have next to driving a car are:
By plane: The local airport is Bordeaux, where there are plenty of international and domestic flights. From here, you can take the train to Sarlat in 2.5 hours.
Getting Around Sarlat
Once you’re in Sarlat, you can walk around the town very easily. To get to other places within the Dordogne Valley, hiring a car will give you the most freedom. However, there are also public bus links between some of the popular towns.
Where to Stay
The Dordogne Valley is full of beautiful places to stay. Sarlat is a great place to base yourself to get to all the other sights in the area, and it has a great mix of mid-range guesthouses and luxury boutique hotels.
If you’re up for an adventure, the Dordogne Valley is great for camping, and there are plenty of campsites along the river. We stayed at Le Lys Dort in the center of Sarlat.
Where to Eat
Sarlat has a great variety of cafes and restaurants to enjoy lunch or dinner. If you are vegetarian, there are some good options listed below too.
- Le Bouchon (vegetarian options)
- La Couleuvrine (French, vegetarian options)
- La Romane (Italian)
When visiting Sarlat budget is to spend around 180 USD per day, including accommodation and activities. Average prices in the region are:
Best time to visit Sarlat
The best time to visit Sarlat and the Dordogne Valley are the late spring months, summer, or very early fall. The temperatures are beautifully mild, and it’s great for biking, walking, and seeing nature with all the summer & spring flowers. It’s also warm enough in the summer to enjoy wild swimming in the Dordogne River!