Perigord Noir Travel Guide

by Natalie Becci

Photos by @Déclic & DécolleText by Victor Santoni

Welcome to the verdant and mysterious land of the Périgord Noir,

where history, gastronomy, and spectacular scenery vie for the visitor’s affection.

France appears to be an ancient and unified nation, which is why it may surprise you to learn that many locals do not primarily identify simply as “French.”

Scratch the surface, and you will find that the cultural origins of any French person are not rooted in Paris and a universal Frenchness, but rather in one of the myriad Régions Naturelles Françaises (“French Natural Regions”). Before the French Revolution created a unified country, these territories defined les français; to this day, they continue to influence food, architecture, legends, and even the language. 

One of the most renowned and distinct of these regions is le Pays du Périgord Noir in Dordogne. Named after the dense oak forests that produce its world-famous truffles, this luscious rural land is archaeologically rich and full of medieval châteaux and villages.

Beynac-et-Cazevanne is one of many remarkable towns on France’s “Most Beautiful Villages” list. In fact, half of those on the list can be found in this area. The eponymous castle, a martial construct that sits majestically on a limestone cliff towering nearly 500 feet over the Dordogne River, is the ancestral home of the Beynac aristocratic line. The noble family had to sell their heirloom in the early 1960s to a philanthropic couple, who undertook a massive restoration project to revive its former glory. Today, this superb feudal fort is one of France’s best-preserved châteaux and a popular attraction for tourists, filmmakers, and history buffs alike. 

Venture beyond the drawbridge to discover throngs of sights and activities that emphasize that Man’s greatest achievements often pale in contrast to nature. Just after the bend of the castle-lined Dordogne River (one of Unesco’s biosphere reserves) is the Pays du Fénélon: hundreds of miles of hiking and biking paths dotted with vineyards, forts and climbing and kayaking options. 

If you are feeling adventurous, you could even follow in the path of local folk heroes such as Pierre Grellety, the leader of a popular revolution against the monarchy. His struggle culminated in triumph when he and his 200 croquants (Editor’s note: name given to rebellious French peasants during this period) defeated an army of 3,000 well-armed soldiers by using their knowledge of the densely wooded country. Who knows, you may get lucky and stumble upon some tuber melanosporum, or as the proud locals call it: la truffe — the one and only truffle in their eyes!

Pretty Villages

Beynac et Cazenac

Beynac et Cazenac is widely considered to be France’s most beautiful village. Home to the eponymous medieval château, it was once a center of the autonomous fiefdom of Périgord. The commune stretches majestically from the hill fort 500 feet above the river to the small harbor below.

Saint Amand de Coly

Saint Amand de Coly was founded by the followers of a hermit who came to evangelize the area. This little town is ensconced in a fertile valley watered by the Coly river and boasts an impressive Augustinian abbey and castle, both rebuilt during the 12th century. Visit primitive sites that seem frozen in time with cave paintings and other traces of prehistoric occupants.


Domme is marvelous to behold from a distance or up close. Perched atop a vertiginous cliff, its stunning panorama can be matched only by a morning view of the village itself, when its golden stones slowly emerge from a blanket of clouds.

La Roque Gageac

Another one of France’s breathtakingly scenic locations, La Roque Gageac is a medieval fishing village positioned at the foot of a cliff. It’s hard to resist lazing by the river in this troglodyte setting while marvelling at the feats of ingenuity and grit that brought this town to be.


Ranked as one of France’s prettiest communes, Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère is a typical example of ancient abodes found in Périgord – built of honey-colored stones and full of narrow streets that the locals call courédous. The hamlet lies under the famous Côte de Jor (“Hills of Jor”) with vineyards that produced wines served at many a king’s table.


Sarlat is distinguished by its palace and religious temples, an heirloom of its belonging to the church centuries ago. Proud of its origins as the territory’s capital, the ancient town hosts a famous market where the land’s producers of truffles, figs and duck compete for the visitors’ appetites. 

Things To Do

l'auberge de la truffe

14 rue Châteaureynaud, 24420 Sorges

Spend a whole weekend dedicated to the black diamond. Start with a delicious feast at the Truffle Inn, then follow the resident chefs through the local market before attending a cooking class to learn the industry’s secrets. Afterward, put these new skills to the test in your very own truffle hunt.

Château et Jardins des Milandes

24250 Castelnaud-la-Chapelle 

Home to various members of French upper-crust society since 1489, this renaissance château’s most famous owner, Josephine Baker, added art deco details when she modernized the interior to accommodate her 12 adopted children. Do not miss the stained-glass windows, the gardens and the bird sanctuary.

Les Jardins de Marqueyssac

24220 Vezac

Located on the grounds of a 17th-century château, these outstanding hanging gardens have spectacular views of the Dordogne River and its valley. Take your time exploring the miles of shaded paths that house over 150,000 pruned boxwoods. During high-season months, the walkways are candlelit by night with music and light shows.

Lascaux Caves

Avenue de Lascaux, 24290 Montignac

In 1940, a French boy famously stumbled upon these caves while looking for his runaway dog. After a few days of exploring their depths by flashlight with friends, he revealed his discovery to the world. Lascaux IV, an exact replica, was created in 2016 by conservationists to preserve the original paintings in what is dubbed the Sistine Chapel of cave art.

Maison Forte de Reignac

24620 Tursac

Built on the side of a cliff overlooking the Vézère valley during the 14th century, the Reignac stronghold is one of the most intriguing places to visit in the Périgord Noir.  It is one of the best-preserved hill castles in France with a beautiful museum that occupies several levels.

Sarlat's Traditional Market

Place de la Liberté, 24200 Sarlat-la-Canéda

To better grasp the depths of Périgord’s gastronomic history, visit Sarlat’s exceptional marché. Reserved for local producers but attracting patrons from far and wide, the market is dedicated to food on Wednesdays and artisans’ wares on Saturdays.

See The Countryside From Above

Tournepique, 24250 Castelnaud-la-Chapelle 

Take a ride in the sky with Thibault Carvès in one of his beautiful hot-air balloons. Soar over the picturesque landscape with once-in-a-lifetime views of the nearby châteaux, villages and, of course, the Dordogne River. Whether at sunrise or midday, this experience is unforgettable.

Sail The Dordogne

Gabarres Caminade, 24250 La Roque-Gageac

The best way to enjoy the many shoreline towns of the Dordogne River is in a traditional gabare (Editor’s note: a large, flat-bottomed boat typical of the area). Embark at La Roque Gageac for a journey through fields, orchards, vineyards and the tenebrous oak forests that gave the Périgord Noir its name.

Where To Stay

Chambre d'Hôtes la Licorne

Le Bourg, 24290 Valojoulx

La Licorne B&B is full of rustic, country appeal. This five-bedroom property is typical of the region’s 17th-century architecture. The salt-water pool is refreshing on warm summer days, and Isabelle’s home-cooked local treats are greatly comforting in winter.

Le Clos des Songes

Place de l’Eglise, 24290 Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère

Nestled on the charming church square in Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, this quaint little property has four double-rooms and a cozy courtyard for al fresco dining.

24220 Vézac

In the center of Périgord’s golden triangle which is formed by the three châteaux of Marqueyssac, Castelnaud, and Beynac, Le Manoir de la Malartrie has guest rooms and whole apartments available with views of the lovely town of la Roque Gageac.

24510 Trémolat

Le Vieux Logis was once a large tobacco plantation, complete with agricultural buildings and vast lands close to Trémolat. Its restaurant boasts a Michelin star, while the bistro provides a more relaxed atmosphere.

Domaine de Monrecour

Lieu-dit Monrecour, 24 220 Saint-Vincent de Cosse

An ideal base to discover the area, close to the most interesting spots, and a beautiful sight in its own right! This 4-star is in the middle of a 12-hectare park, has 31 rooms and 8 apartments, two swimming pools, and a restaurant. 

Where To Eat

La Belle Étoile

24250 La Roque Gageac


This charming restaurant, situated right along the river’s edge, specializes in local dishes and fully explores the extensive terroir of Dordogne. La Belle Étoile also has small rooms, should you wish to stay a little longer. Closedduring winter’s coldest months.

La Petite Tonnelle

Rue de la Balme, 24220 Beynac-et-Cazenac

The charming eatery blends perfectly with the cobbled-stone streets of the beautiful village of Beynac. Small and intimate, but with a beautiful wine list and fresh local products, this is a great family stop for a pick me up.

La Meynardie

24590 Salignac-Eyvigues

Adrien Soro opened his own shop in 2019 after years of mentorship from celebrated chef Joël Robuchon. The 17th-century périgourdine (“from Périgord”) farm provides an elegant setting to this Michelin-starred establishment.

Le Régent

6 place de la Liberté, 24200 Sarlat-la-Canéda
Le Régent

This classic no muss, no fuss French bistro in Sarlat is conveniently located on the main square. Enjoy a relaxed meal of local delicacies on the terrace and drink in the atmosphere of small-town France.

Le Tournepique

24250 Castelnaud-la-Chapelle

True Périgord food in an enchanting setting. Nestled at the foot of the village and its medieval castle, just above the Dordogne river, this rustic and authentic restaurant is a laid-back place, ideal for quiet contemplation after a generous meal.

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