Lever de soleil sur la vallée de la DordogneLever de soleil sur la vallée de la Dordogne
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Rocamadour - Dordogne Valley

"La Rivière Espérance"

An exceptional heritage and nature, charming villages, caves and proud castles... just look up, it's all there !

Novelists and film-makers have given the Dordogne river the name “la Rivère Espérance” (River of Hope) because it carries within it a healing vitality making it into a connecting thread full of promises. As you go from Sousceyrac, a little town nestling on the edge of the Massif Central, down to Souillac on the outskirts of Perigord, the road plays leap-frog with the river with fabulous views and places suddenly opening up before you.

After Sousceyrac, Bretenoux, an attractive 13th century bastide, has its neat little streets to offer. Then you can explore the imposing castle of Castelnau, and also the charming town of Saint Céré, overlooked by the Tours Saint Laurent which are home to the Jean Lurçat Museum with its flamboyant tapestries.

Rocamadour the vertical village

Overlooking the Alzou canyon, the medieval village of Rocamadour is a marvellous balacing act.

The first shock comes from the place itself : a tiny village with a world-wide reputation ! Built in successive levels on the side of the cliff, it hangs 120 meters above a canyon where the Alzou flows. Its houses, roofs and churches seem to be part of the rock itself.

What genius conceived Rocamadour and built it? Maybe you’ll find out when you come here. Already during Middle Age, Rocamadour was fancied by everyone. During the 12th century, pilgrims were wandering through Europe to come pray in the city. The village housed the relics of Saint-Amadour (a famous hermit who sought solitude in Rocamadour). It was also the much-venerated sanctuary of the Black Virgin.

Amazing villages

The next stops of your trip must be at Autoire with its marvelous waterfall, Loubressac with its breathtaking viewpoint and of course Carennac and its priory. Following up the road you’ll find yourself admiring Montvalent and its defense tower. Your path will lead you through Gluges, where Edith Piaf used to recollect, and Creysse with its little port on the river come into view.

You’re not far from Martel, the “Town with 7 towers” and its walnut-oil mill. Then soon after you come across the caves ofLacave. Then Souillac comes into view, once a major centre of river trade on the Dordogne. The jewel of Souillac’s heritage is its splendid Romanesque abbey church with its three domes. The Museum of Automata will also delight you !

A river classified by Unesco

The Dordogne is the only river in France to be listed as a World Biosphere Reserve.

Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions in order to reconcile the preservation of biodiversity with sustainable use of the territory. They are ‘Science for Sustainability support sites’ – special places for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understand and manage changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity.