Activities in Quercy – Périgord

Activities in Quercy – Périgord

From the Dordogne and Vézère valleys through to the Célé and Lot valleys, discover a magnificent and authentic region and live an unforgettable experience!

The Quercy and Périgord areas hold many treasures including exceptional fauna and flora, remarkable historical, cultural and gastronomic heritage and spectacular natural resources.

Taste the sweetness of life as you stroll through picturesque little towns sat on a cliff side, relive History by visiting prehistoric caves and medieval villages, admire the majesty of nature as you enter the bowels of the earth and taste local specialities as you criss-cross the markets in the region!

In the footsteps of Cro-Magnon Man, following the Compostela pilgrimage trail, come and visit these magnificent sites that will make your stay with us an unforgettable memory.

© The Vézère Valley by Akim Benbrahim

What’s on in Quercy – Périgord

Cahors, its vineyards and the Valentré bridge

Cahors, its vineyards and the Valentré bridge

Beautifully lodged in one of the many meanders of the Lot river that forms a peninsula, the capital of the Lot department (and formerly capital of Quercy) is an absolute must-see whose origins date back to Gallo-Roman times. The amphitheatre and Roman baths remains to tell but a few are still there to prove the existence of Cahors at the time of ancient Rome. In the Middle Ages, Cahors became a rich and prosperous town; a stroll in the historic center will unveil the treasures of the period such as the Saint-Etienne Cathedral and the Pont Valentré. The latter is a showpiece as it has become the symbol of the town over the centuries. The first stone of the building was laid in 1308 and the construction took almost 70 years until its completion in 1378. The Pont Valentré was intended as a fortification to defend the city. With its 3 towers and arches preceded by acute starlings, it is a wonderful example of medieval defense architecture and is now classified as a Historic Monument and has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 in the context of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela. Legend has it that the architect, unable to overcome his work, resorted to making a pact with the Devil in person in order to complete the bridge.

The magnificent doors on rue Nationale and rue du Château du Roi are reminiscent of the classical and Renaissance era of the city. After strolling through the picturesque streets and feasting your eyes upon the charm of the 25 secret gardens scattered throughout the city, do not miss an opportunity to take a break and enjoy a glass of Cahors wine on a terrace! The Cahors region has an exceptional vineyard thanks to its emblematic grape variety: Malbec. The Cahors vineyard is one of the oldest in Europe and owes its location to the Romans. Spread across some 45 towns, the vineyard now totals 4,200 hectares and its reputation goes far beyond the borders of the country. Cahors wines have the French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) label and are exclusively red wines (they go deliciously with local products such as truffles, ceps and game meat).

Photo credit: Cahors by Cahors Tourist Office

Discover Cahors

Gourdon and the Bouriane region

Gourdon and the Bouriane region

Come and fall under the charm of the Bouriane region, a land of red and ochre soils, verdant forests and valleys, and prehistoric men, located between the Quercy and Périgord provinces. Follow the small winding roads that reveal beautiful medieval villages perched on cliffs, typical chestnut groves (chestnut tree being the region’s emblem), green meadows and many vestiges of ancient times such as prehistoric caves, dolmen and small bastide towns.

A stay in the Bouriane region is also an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of St James the Great, for the legendary pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela goes through the Bouriane region and Gourdon, its capital! Take the chance to discover this remarkable medieval village where traces of the Middle Ages are still easily noticeable. Gourdon has such a wealthy heritage that it has been ranked among “the most beautiful detours in France”.

Enjoy a spectacular 360 ° view of the Bouriane and Périgord rolling hills from the esplanade where the old castle and its ramparts used to sit. Stroll through the narrow streets and feel the soul of the place. Take a look at the astounding half-timbered houses, the Cavaignac House (XVIII), the Saint-Pierre Church (classified as historical monument), the Hôtel de Ville (former consular house from the 12th century) and the Seneschal House. And if by chance you go to Gourdon early in August, do not miss Les Médiévales de Gourdon, a must-see event in the region for over 20 years, which brings the city back to the time of knights and troubadours.

Gourdon has more in store for you! Leaving the maze of cobbled streets, discover its theme gardens: Zig-Zag Gardens, Sénéchal Gardens or Jardin des Contes de Fées (Fairytale Gardens) welcome you for a delightful saunter.

Finally, how not to mention the gastronomic wealth of Gourdon and its region! There is no better way to appreciate it than strolling about the aisles of the local markets. In Gourdon, you can delight your senses on Tuesday and Saturday mornings (and Thursday mornings in the summer) thanks to the many local products on the stalls. An opportunity to taste delicious specialties such as Perigord truffles, ceps, foie gras, duck confit and duck breast, gigot of Causse, cabécous (goat cheese), chestnuts, walnut cake, honey, all accompanied by a good Cahors wine!

Photo credit: Aerial view of Gourdon by Michel Bernard

Discover Gourdon and its region

Rocamadour and the Natural Park of Causses du Quercy

Rocamadour and the Natural Park of Causses du Quercy

Real architectural wonderwork, Rocamadour never stops to amaze those who enter the lair of its stones. Clinging to the cliff at 150 meters high, this village carved out into the rock face overlooks the canyon where the Alzou river winds. Its vertiginous construction is organized in 3 levels dating from its medieval time and reflecting the 3 orders of society. Already sparking interest in the twelfth century, Rocamadour attracted many visitors well beyond the borders including Henry II of England, Blanche of Castile, Saint Dominic, etc. The city became a place of pilgrimage and remarkable religious buildings sprouted up, among which the Basilica of Saint-Sauveur and the crypt Saint-Amadour with its relics, both classified UNESCO world heritage sites, as well as 7 chapels including the Notre-Dame chapel which houses a Black Madonna that has been venerated for over a thousand years and where is also still stuck Durendal, Roland’s famous sword. To access it : a monumental staircase of 216 steps. According to custom, it used to be climbed on one knee after having strode along the only tortuous street of the village, the indeed rue de la Couronnerie. If pilgrims are no longer as frequently encountered, nearly 1.5 million onlookers cross the porte du Figuier at the entrance of the village each year, making the citadel of the Faith one of the most visited sites in France. Finally, like a crown sitting on these sanctuaries, the castle built at the top of the rock reveals from its ramparts an extraordinary panorama on the Natural Park of Causses du Quercy, which surrounds it.

Classified as a UNESCO Global Geopark since May 2017, this park offers adventurers an exceptional area of discovery with its lush flora and fauna, oak forests, rocky limestone plateaus, gorges, green valleys and natural meadows dotted with dolmens, old mills and small bridges. Whether walking or cycling through the limestone barrens covered with dry lawns or sailing or canoeing on the river, the Natural Park of Causses du Quercy promises breathtaking outings for everyone! But that’s not all: at the heart of the park is also the best sky in France! It is one of the best preserved areas from light pollution in the country, also called “the black triangle of Quercy” because of its shape. A good reason to aim for the stars!

Photo credit: Rocamadour by John McLinden

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Saint-Cirq Lapopie, the Lot and Célé valleys

Saint-Cirq Lapopie, the Lot and Célé valleys

The Saint-Cirq Lapopie village is one of those medieval gems you must absolutely visit! Perched on a cliff overlooking the Lot river, its remarkable charm makes it undisputably one of the key sites of the Lot Valley. Saint-Cirq Lapopie boasts 13 historical monuments and has been ranked among the “most beautiful villages in France” (it was also voted “favorite village of the French” in 2012). Strolling through the picturesque alleys abounding in flowers, feast your eyes upon the architectural beauty and elegance, a true vestige of the Middle Ages: craftsmen shops, old houses and fortified doors are as many preserved features from the medieval time during which Saint -Cirq Lapopie was shared between several feudal dynasties. At the base of the rock, mills, dams, ports, locks and towpath give evidence of a boating activity that flourished. Many artists, fascinated by the many charms of the place, found in Saint-Cirq Lapopie a real source of inspiration, allowing them to give free rein to their imagination. André Breton even chose to take up residence there. Today, Saint-Cirq Lapopie can legitimately claim its reputation as a village of artists. Eleven of them are actually settled permanently: an opportunity to meet them during a visit that will delight all your senses!

The Lot river, a tributary of the Garonne, winds just below this medieval gem and down to other wonders such as Rocamadour, Cahors, Figeac, Puy-l’Eveque, to name but a few. In Quercy, the Lot valley is famous for its vineyards, notably the Cahors vineyard. All these jewels being hidden along its meanders, a boat cruise is the perfect opportunity to discover them.

The Célé tributary on the right bank of the Lot flows peacefully along rock faces creating stupendous sites and landscapes. Small villages nestled in the cliffs (among them Espagnac Sainte-Eulalie, Marcilhac-sur-Cele and Sauliac-sur-Cele), troglodyte dwellings sheltered in the rock, mysterious caves decorated with prehistoric engravings, but also an amazing wildlife and a resplendent plant life offering striking color contrasts. Do not be fooled by the sluggish look of this river: its name comes from the Latin celer which means “fast” and in the summer, it can indeed be quite lively. For those who are fond of water sports such as canoeing, the Célé is ideal. You can also swim and avail of the large network of underground tunnels to go underground diving!

Photo credit: Saint-Cirq Lapopie by Bernard Blanc

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Located in the heart of the Black Perigord, Sarlat-la-Canéda is a jewel in the crown of medieval architecture, with exceptional historical monuments. The city holds the European record of classified monuments per square meter. With its yellow stone buildings topped with slate roofs, Sarlat has a unique charm and a historical wealth that is reflected in its small, vibrant cobbled streets. Just like the rest of Southwest France, Sarlat is a town where life is good. World renowned for its gastronomy, the town has plenty of tasty regional specialties to offer such as foie gras and confit, but also truffles, ceps, walnuts, chestnuts, strawberries or honey. It is even easier to discover these local products as the rhythm of life in town has been closely tied to the succession of markets since the Middle Ages. And nowadays, market day is still a real institution! Every Wednesday and Saturday, the streets and squares in the town turn into a gigantic gastronomy Hall of Fame! So gourmets and gluttons alike will undoubtedly relish strolling between the colourful stalls from which emanate delicious aromas!

Photo credit: Sarlat by Jean-Marie Clausse

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The Cougnac caves

The Cougnac caves

Live a timeless experience just 3 kilometres away from Gourdon, in the small neighbouring village of Payrignac where an extraordinary site awaits: the Cougnac caves. Less famous than the ones in Dordogne, the famous Lascaux Caves, the Cougnac caves yet hold some real treasures, both geological and prehistoric! The two caves were discovered in 1949 and 1952 and, in the darkness of these sanctuaries, a distant past dating back to thousands of years before our era was then brought to light. The caves first open up on countless stalactites, forming a mesmerizing frozen rain exposed to the public gaze. Then some original rock drawings, left by our prehistoric ancestors, will make you live an enchanting experience. The emotion you will feel when contemplating the craftsmanship in these animal figures, geometric signs and other handprints dating back to around 20,000 years BC is sure to carry you away!

For more information about opening times, as well as entrance fares and practical information, visit the official website of the Cougnac Caves by clicking on the button below.

Photo credit:

Discover the Cougnac caves

The Dordogne Valley, its caves and castles

The Dordogne Valley, its caves and castles

With its prehistoric caves that bear testament to the presence of the first men thousands of years ago, the Dordogne Valley can be considered one of the cradles of humanity. The best known are undoubtedly the Lascaux Caves, with the original one, closed to the public since 1963, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In order to admire the masterpieces achieved at the time of Cro-Magnon Man, Lascaux II, III and IV respectively opened their doors in 1983, 2012 and 2016 and show visitors magnificent reproductions of the wonders of the Lascaux Cave.

The Pech Merle Cave is also worth a visit, being one of the few caves still open to the public where you can admire the original paintings, dating back around 25,000 years ago. The Prehistoric Cave of Wonders located in Rocamadour also offers a fantastic journey through the ages, with its rock paintings dating back more than 20,000 years ago.

The Dordogne Valley is also famous for its castles and will delight all old stone buildings enthusiasts. Do not miss the legendary places such as Château de Castelnau-Bretenoux and Château de Montal in the Lot department, as well as Château de Beynac, Château de Castelnaud and Château des Milandes, known to have been Joséphine Baker’s property, in the Dordogne department.

One cannot present the Dordogne Valley without referring to its magnificent villages and among them the medieval town of Rocamadour, La Roque-Gageac and its barges, Saint-Céré or indeed “the little Venice of the Lot”, Martel called “The City of 7 Towers”, Souillac and its 7 viaducts, not forgetting Collonges-la-Rouge and Curemonte in Corrèze, as well as Autoire, Carennac and Louressac in the Lot, which rank among five of the “most beautiful villages of France”.

And last but not least, how not to mention the richness of the landscapes, the idyllic setting and the preserved nature that the Dordogne river offers, the only one in France to be classified World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO!

Photo credit: The Dordogne Valley by Dordogne Valley Tourist Office

Discover the Dordogne Valley

The Gouffre de Padirac

The Gouffre de Padirac

Located in the heart of the Dordogne Valley, the Gouffre de Padirac, the largest in Europe, is a must-see in the region. Iconic geological curiosity, this gigantic natural cave with a diameter of 35 meters plunges 75 meters below the surface of the limestone plateau and opens access to the bowels of the Earth! Legend has it that Satan would have made the abyss appear by stamping the ground open as a test put forward to Saint-Martin. Saint-Martin and his mule then had to jump over the obstacle with such extraordinary energy that it left hoof prints forever marked in the rock. The furious devil is meant to have returned to the underworld through the gaping hole left behind him. Today, visitors can follow its footsteps and gape at the beauty of the underground scenery. Before embarking on this otherworldly experience, nothing suggests that at the bottom, 103 meters underground, the Padirac River peacefully flows on a network of 42 km galleries. Discovered and explored for the first time in 1889 by the speleologist Edouard-Alfred Martel, only one kilometer of these galleries is open to the public but the visit is no less impressive. The tour begins on a boat leading to the translucent waters of Rain Lake. Here, majestically, the Grande Pendeloque or Great chandelier, a giant stalactite, awaits the visitor amazed by its height of 60 meters. The adventure then continues on foot to the Lac des Gours through to the Hall of the Great Dome, whose striking vault rises to 94 meters above the heads and reveals a multitude of limestone concretions and wonderful sculptures that nature has been moulding for millions of years.

Photo credit: The Gouffre de Padirac by Alexandre Dolique

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The Vézère Valley and the Lascaux caves

The Vézère Valley and the Lascaux caves

The Vézère is a river that springs in the Massif Central but only in the heart of the Dordogne, in Black Périgord, where it winds in between the limestone cliffs topped by oak and chestnut tree forests, does it lend its name to a valley which roughly extends across thirty kilometres. If the Vézère valley is home to many picturesque villages and 675 kilometres of marked trails through stunning landscapes, it owes its world reputation to its innumerable prehistoric treasures. In total, no less than 147 archeological sites including 37 caves and ornate shelters and 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites are grouped in this absolute shrine of prehistoric art, bearing testament to a more than 400,000 year-old human occupation. Each of them is of exceptional interest from an ethnological, anthropological and aesthetic point of view, making the Vézère Valley one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe. The most famous prehistorians have studied and carried out excavations there, uncovering hundreds of thousands of artistic, lithic and bone remains, not to mention the discovery of the famous Cro-Magnon man in Les Eyzies de Tayac-Sireuil, since appointed world capital of prehistory.

Considered as one of the most remarkable sites of the Vézère Valley, the Lascaux cave was accidentally found by 4 teenagers from Montignac in 1940. Later dubbed “Sistine Chapel of the parietal art”, its 235 meters of walls are ornate with nearly 1900 animal figures. The ingenuity of the techniques, the precision of the observation, the variety of shades and the liveliness of the finish make them some astonishing masterpieces which have marked the history of knowledge of parietal art in the Upper Paleolithic time. Divided into 7 galleries (the Hall of the Bulls, the Axial Gallery, the Passage, the Nave, the Chamber of Felines, the Apse and the Shaft), the Lascaux cave has been closed to the public since 1963 in order to preserve all of this priceless treasure. An exact reproduction of the Hall of the Bulls and the Axial Gallery, Lascaux II, was nevertheless opened in 1983 just 200 meters away from the site to allow the 250,000 annual visitors to contemplate about 90% of the striking paintings and engravings of Lascaux. While Lascaux III is a touring copy, Lascaux IV, or international centre for cave art, reveals since 2016 an integral facsimile reproduction put back in context and explained thoroughly in order not to miss anything of this 18 000 year-old wealth.

Photo credit: Lascaux by Claude Vallette

Discover the Vézère Valley Discover the Lascaux caves