Tucked inside the Dordogne region of southwestern France is a delightful area known as Périgord. With unspoiled nature, magical historic sites and pulse-quickening climbs, it offers the perfect ambiance for a moderate to challenging cycling vacation or a multi-sport vacation with cycling, hiking and canoeing adventures.
Packed with gently flowing streams and rivers, its quiet country roads meander past prehistoric caves, medieval and Renaissance chateaux, Romanesque churches, and postcard-perfect water mills. And the food and wine are phenomenal too!
The Four Colors of Périgord
So distinct are the four areas of Périgord, they are designated and known by their different colors.
In the north, the terrain of the Périgord Vert (Green Périgord) is an undulating carpet of lush, green forests. Along the River Dronne, is the Périgord-Limousin Nature Reserve, a veritable treasure trove of greenery.
In the heartland is Périgord Blanc (White Périgord) so called for the chalky limestone found in the surrounding hills, which the Romans used to make their forts. Here, where the rivers Isle and Auzère run through stretches of rolling grassland, is the region’s capital Périgueux, famous for its domed cathedral and ancient ruins.
Périgord Poupre (Purple Périgord) is given its color from the renowned grapes that flourish in the area surrounding Bergerac, offering the world some of France’s finest vintages. It’s such an ideal climate and atmosphere, Périgord Poupre is also known as “Dordogneshire,” due to the number of British expats who have made the cozy towns their new homes.
Centered around the beautiful medieval towns of Sarlat in the southwest corner of Dordogne, Périgord Noir (Black Périgord) is known for their precious, prized — and exorbitantly priced — black truffles, which are ceremoniously unearthed in November. The area is also world-famous for its dark, deep prehistoric caves filled with mysterious grottos and painted walls. A must see.
Périgord Noir is exquisite cycling territory. The rolling countryside is hilly, and in some parts, nearly mountainous, and coveted by cyclists wanting a bit more of a challenge on a bike trip. The Dordogne Classic self-guided bike trip runs from Bergerac to Belvès (via Sarlat), and the Dordogne Best Of self-guided bike trip starts in Tremolat and detours through Rocamadour, one of the most visited places of France, first as a pilgrimage destination, but also because of its beautiful village built on a cliff side.
If you are in the mood for a Multi-Sport Tour, Périgord Noir offers so many choices. Canoe the calm waters near Les Eyzies, visit limestone grottos, climb ropes courses, zip-line over treetops and hike through an adventure park in Sarlat. No matter what you do, be sure to save enough energy for dinner!
The Gastronomy and Wines of Perigord
The Périgord is also world-renowned for its gastronomy including local delicacies like foie gras, black truffles, walnuts (which have been awarded their own AOC label), and strawberries.
The wines of Périgord are hypnotic. Tinted deep rich red to purple with tart and savory notes of currant and black plum. Thirteen of the regional wines are AOC and they are produced from top grape varieties that are neighbors to the “grands crus classés” of Bordeaux.
So, taking a vacation in the Dordogne is not all about sport. It’s combining cycling, canoeing and hiking with the art de vivre! So be sure to take time for a wine tasting — or a riverside picnic with a bottle and a selection of local gourmet tastes — it will be a moment you’ll treasure forever.