10 Dec 10 fun activities to do with the kids
Are you looking for a way to share some quality time with your family and leave with great memories in your suitcases?
If you’re looking for a destination for your next family vacation, look no further, the Dordogne Valley is for you!
There are hundreds of ways to enjoy the beautiful weather, learn and have fun with cultural activities, admire the beautiful countryside and savor the many local products, all the while keeping your little monsters happy as well.
Canoeing, medieval castles and tales of brave knights, the magical world of underground caves and their prehistoric mysteries, acrobranch parks or animal parks… Just choose your next adventure! You’ll find everything you need to return home with suitcases full of memories!
Here is our selection of the 10 best activities to do with your children, with something to please everyone. So what will be your next adventure?
1. Cool your feet in the water
On hot summer days, kids love to jump into the water to cool off. In the Dordogne Valley, there are many ways to jump in the water: lakes with sandy beaches, waterfalls or pebble beaches along the rivers … There is a place for every desire. Here is a small selection of the best spots to get wet.
Reservoir lakes. In addition to their role in energy production, dams and their lakes are great places for water sports enthusiasts. They offer supervised bathing areas (in July-August), fishing, inflatable games for children and nautical bases with sailing, windsurfing, canoe and kayak rental, water skiing, jet skiing, pedal boats and fishing boats. Boat trips on the lakes are also organized to help you discover the history and role of dams and the surrounding flora and fauna. The lakes of Bort-les-Orgues and Triouzoune in Neuvic are two of the ten reservoir lakes in the Dordogne Valley.
Good to know
The European “Blue Flag” label is a good tool for recognizing safe and secure swimming areas. This label rewards municipalities committed to the sustainable management of their bathing areas regarding water, waste, environment and environmental education. In addition to good water quality, the “Blue Flag” label guarantees the presence of a number of services, such as a restaurant, toilets and playgrounds for children at the swimming sites. In the Dordogne Valley, there are 12 beaches with the Blue Flag label on the Dordogne river basin.
Lac du Causse, Lissac-sur-Couze is a lake of 84 hectares and a popular spot for locals and visitors. Only 25 minutes from Brive-la-Gaillarde (about 13 km), this is an ideal place for a morning jog, a Sunday afternoon stroll, or simply taking the time to relax and refresh your spirit. In July and August, swimming is supervised and games for children are installed. The nautical base is open all year (except during the Christmas holidays) and offers windsurfing, Optimist, centerboarder, canoe-kayak, stand-up paddle, surf-bike, rowing and pedal boating. In addition to water activities, a mountain bike center and a golf course are available.
You’ll find more information on the Lac website (only in French): http://caussecorrezien.fr/
If you prefer the wild part of the river, opt for the beaches along the rivers and streams. When the weather is hot and the sun is high, and you’re returning from a bike ride, a jog or a hike, or just feel a need to cool down, why not enjoy a dip the clear waters of the river? It’s 480 kms offer many spots to relax. If you are concerned with safety, prefer the supervised bathing areas. Their water quality is regularly monitored, they are supervised in the summer months (July-August) and have services for swimmers (toilets, food, information point).
Water parks are an alternative to reservoirs lakes and dams. The Quercyland water park in Souillac, the Willow water park in Bétaille or the Aqua Parc in Bergerac are open every day in the summer (July and August) for a dip in the pools, a ride on the slides or some airborne fun on trampolines and bouncy castles.
2. Experience the magic of a canoe trip on the river
Going down the river by canoe is a must-have experience when you spend a holiday in the Dordogne Valley. On board your boat, you discover majestic sites that are even more impressive seen from below, along with landscapes that are visible only from the river.
To make sure you get the most out of this activity, choose your route based on your fitness level and motivation.
If you are a novice or want to embark with your children, choose the half-day courses, about ten kilometers and 1.5 to 2 hours long.
Routes such as Gluges or Saint-Sozy to Pinsac; Argentat to Brivezac; Carsac to Vitrac or Vitrac to Castelnaud-la-Chapelle will take you through natural landscapes that are still wild, and from which emerge, at the turn of a meander, the medieval and Renaissance castles that still watch over the river. You’ll be enthralled without moving a muscle!
Are you an experienced rower and your kids are old enough to go it alone? In this case, you can opt for a longer expedition of one or more days. Several types of itineraries are available depending on your desires.
The route from Argentat-sur-Dordogne to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne (22 km, 4 to 5 hours) will lead nature lovers through wooded hills and small rapids, just to spice the descent up a little. The Vayrac-Pinsac route (27 km, around 5 hours) will take you along imposing cliffs topped with magnificent castles, such as Belcastel and La Treyne.
Are you fond of beautiful stone architecture and heritage? Opt for the Saint-Julien-de-Lampon route in Beynac (29 km, about 6 hours). It will take you on the path of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” and the medieval castles that for which the Dordogne Valley is famous, such as Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and Beynac.
The Vézère River is an alternative to the Dordogne when the temperatures are high and the canoes begin to abound. On the route of the 3 castles, from Thonac to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil (26 km, 5 hours), you’ll discover limestone cliffs that were occupied by our prehistoric human ancestors, as well as impressive rock shelters, such as La Roque Saint-Christophe and the Maison Forte de Reignac (a fortified manor), which were still inhabited in the Middle Ages!
It’s important to note that canoeing is not allowed for children under 7 or non-swimmers.
3. Imagine you’re a knight or a medieval princess!
What child has never dreamed of being a knight? These valiant horsemen whose conduct was dictated by the code of chivalry and who would have given their lives for honor have left their mark in history. In the Dordogne Valley, you are in a land of chivalry. Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Beynac, Castelnau-Bretenoux, Val, and more. All these castles were the homes of kings and queens, dukes and viscounts. They knew the opulence of holidays but also the harshness of wars and sieges. Benefit from your stay to take your children into the corridors of these fortified castles that keep all their impressive character. During school holidays, many of them organize activities with guided tours in costumes, archery sessions or even medieval games. Here is a small selection of must-see castles that will please your children.
Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. This is the place to go if you want to learn more about the art of war in the Middle Ages. This impressive 12th-century castle keeps 250 swords, armor and war artifacts, as well as life-sized catapults in the gardens.
Hautefort is a castle full of treasures. Transformed over time, it is a Renaissance castle that has still his its surprising fortifications, underground rooms and secret passages. It has served as a backdrop for many films and we can participate in a “cinema” tour that takes us behind the scenes of the movie, “The death of Louis XIV,” directed by Albert Serra in 2016. Test your acting skills by replaying a scene from this famous film! Children’s workshops are held on the theme of castles every Wednesday in July and August. Nocturnal visits in costume are also offered in summer.
The Towers of Merle are one of the least known jewels of the Dordogne Valley. These two medieval towers seem to emerge out of nowhere and proudly enthrone a peak overlooking the Maronne River. This is a perfect destination for your knights and princesses in the making to live a great adventure! In the summer, watching sword fighting shows is a great way to spend the afternoon.
Very close to Saint-Julien-aux-Bois, Les Fermes du Moyen-Age is a faithful reproduction of a 15th-century hamlet with farm animals, thatched houses and a medieval kitchen garden.
It’s also possible to travel back to the time of the knights by visiting the many medieval villages of the valley, called “bastides.” In summer, their alleys come alive with the rhythm of medieval festivals where we can see troubadours and soldiers in armor and try our hand at traditional medieval games. The “Médiévales” of Rocamadour and Monpazier are two must-see festivals.
4. Travel through time in the shoes of an archaeologist or palaeontologist
In the Dordogne Valley, we can easily go back to the time of fortified castles, but what if we continued the journey a little, or a lot!, further, into Prehistoric times? In the Dordogne Valley, and more precisely, along the Vézère Valley, there are 147 prehistoric sites, including 25 decorated caves. Fifteen of these are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Discover the rock shelters and caves adorned with rock paintings and engravings and awaken the adventurous archaeologist that lies dormant in you. You’ll soon be an expert on the first humans that arrived in the valley more than 200,000 years ago!
Lascaux IV and its Interpretation Center of Parietal Art, in Montignac, is a fun and modern museum dedicated to the stunning art of the famous decorated cave and the history of anthropology and archaeology. You are first guided in a life-size replica of the cave, where you’ll be moved by walls adorned with masterpieces of impressive dimensions, created 20,000 years ago! The large black cow is 2.20 meters long! In “the shelter,” you plunge into the heart of the Ice Age landscapes and meet the prehistoric animals. The “cinema” links Lascaux with other prehistoric sites around the world, while the “workshop” dissects the main works of the cave to reveal their secrets and invite you to contemplate their meanings. Virtual tour headsets, an interactive exhibition on the history of anthropology-archaeology as a science and an exhibition space that links rock art and contemporary art complete the visit. Quite a program!
Would you like a little preview? It’s here.
Another iconic and fascinating site, the cave of Pech Merle in Cabrerets offers an hour-long visit in a place full of stories, the oldest of which date back to 29,000 years! Unlike Lascaux, Pech Merle is authentic, which means that you’ll walk in the very footsteps of our ancestors, and even see a couple of those ancient footprints! There are 1 km of galleries, including seven rooms with concretions, engravings and paintings, including the famous “dotted horses.” To preserve this jewel of cave art, the visits take place in groups of 25 people with a limit of 700 visitors per day in July. Reservation recommended!
5. Meet European and exotic animals in animal parks
They are all sweet, sometimes amazing, and always endearing. A visit to a wildlife park is a must-do activity with the family.
Don’t miss the Gramat Animal Park, located 15 km from the Gouffre de Padirac. With more than 150 different species to see, the Gramat Wildlife Park is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon or a day. With its vast enclosures, shady grounds and picnic area, the whole family can have a great time in the different areas of the park: petting zoo, domestic species, bears, wolves, monkeys, buffalo and more. The park is also devoted to the protection of several endangered species.
Located just 10 km from Sarlat-la-Canéda, the Calviac Zoological Reserve is another quality park. It’s home to more than 200 animals from four geographical areas: Europe, Madagascar, South America and Oceania. The site is entirely wooded, and we travel through its different universes along a fun and educational path of 1.5 km to discover the most exotic animals: marmosets, wolverines, bees in their hives, maned wolves, squirrels, etc. As a zoo, the site participates in the conservation of species through programs of reproduction and the reintroduction of species into their natural habitats. At the end of the visit, we can vote for the program we want to support.
If you like to walk in wooded areas dotted with superb viewpoints over a limestone valley, the Monkey Forest in Rocamadour will please you. The site is home to about 150 Barbary macaques, a species from the mountains of the Moroccan Atlas, in a forest of 20 hectares. Visitors can approach monkeys and feed them popcorn. With many picnic tables and beautiful views of Rocamadour and the Alzou Valley, this shaded park is a great option for a family outing.
The Ecoparc of Rock Eagles (Le Rocher des Aigles) in Rocamadour is entirely dedicated to the conservation of diurnal and nocturnal raptors. This is the perfect place to become an expert on eagles, condors, vultures and hawks, as well as cockatoos, macaws and other parrots! The guides are passionate about their work and know how to convey their love and their knowledge of the animals. Two shows are organized every day. The first is a presentation of diurnal raptors and parrots that fly freely over the valley before returning to the park. The second is a more intimate presentation of nocturnal species. The only downside is that the visits are currently presented in French only.
Do you prefer fish to birds? No problem, the Black Périgord Aquarium in Le Bugue will show you a selection of fish—freshwater ones at that! With 66 pools spread over more than 4,000 m², it is the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe. Who would’ve thought there are more than 6,000 species of fish living in unsalted waters? From carp to catfish to sturgeon, this is the perfect place to discover the species that populate our rivers and ponds. Since 2014, the Alligator Park, a space dedicated to reptiles has been added. Shows with reptiles and fish feeding enliven the visit. It’s enough to either scare you, or make you feel like Crocodile Dundee!
The Château de Arnac-Pompadour, with its gardens and royal stables, is another interesting site to visit with your children. This ancient medieval fortress owes its current name to one of its former owners. Can you guess who it is? Yes, it is indeed the Marquise de Pompadour, the favorite of King Louis XV. The guided tour includes the castle, its gardens and the famous stables where you can see the horses and ponies, and sometimes their owners and riders. A small museum presents the trades related to the equestrian world, as well as various models of horse-drawn carriages. The tour is offered in the high season (July and August). During the rest of the year, the tour is free and accompanied by an audio guide. In summer, dressage and equestrian acrobatics shows are also organized by the artists in residence at the Château.
6. Swing like Tarzan at treetop parks and Via Ferrata trails
If you like daring adventures at soaring heights, bring your children for an acrobranch course or a Via Ferrata!
Several acrobranch parks offer routes through the trees at 1 to more than 10 meters high. The Monkey Forest in Sarlat, the Squirrel Forest in Calviac, Quercyland in Souillac and the Rocamadour Adventure all offer courses adapted to the ages of the children and the desired level of difficulty. Securely moored with a safety harness, you move from tree to tree along a trail made of monkey bridges, ropes, zip lines, slacklines, surfboards and suspended mountain bikes. An activity to awaken your inner Tarzan!
If you prefer cliff adventures, choose the Via Ferrata in Argentat or the gardens of Marqueyssac. You’ll be able to admire a superb view of the Dordogne Valley. Attached along the cliff at one hundred meters above the river, this climbing-hiking combo is a great way to entertain children. It is open to everyone with a sufficient fitness level, over eight years old, and more than 4.2 feet tall. You’ll need the safety equipment provided, including ropes and helmets.
For these activities, make sure you have a pair of sneakers in your bag and shorts or pants (in other words, don’t wear a dress!)
7. Go on a treasure hunt with geocaching and Tèrra Aventura
Have you heard of Geocaching? This type of treasure hunt has many followers and the Dordogne Valley is one of them!
On an unusual walk, you can follow the edge of the river, visit a village and learn its history and anecdotes.
Simply download the free smartphone application “Tèrra Aventura” or bring a road map and a GPS to embark on an adventure. You can choose your route depending on your desires: cities, villages, forests, natural sites, etc. The routes range from 1 to 14 km and can be practiced on foot, bike, stroller or car. Some routes are also accessible to people with reduced mobility.
Each circuit is associated with a Poï’z. These little characters with a colorful personality populate the worlds of Tèrra Aventura and are there to help you in your quest for the Grail. At the end of the course, you win a virtual badge to collect.
A total of 14 courses are available in the Dordogne Valley, and there are more throughout the south-west of France. This activity can be practiced all year long. You’ll become addicted!
8. Play Charles Darwin and discover the species that populate the Dordogne Valley
Have you already visited our “Most Beautiful Villages of France?” Tasted all our local products and enjoyed the pleasure of the river? You still have a lot to do!
Like visiting a Protected Nature Area (Espace Naturel Sensible), for example, also called an ENS. The ENS are protected areas composed of vulnerable species.
The Marais du Brézou near Tulle, the Marais de Groléjac or the Marais de Bonnefont are spaces designed for you to discover the plants and animals that populate these wetlands, including orchids, dragonflies, frogs, fish, otters, butterflies and more.
The ENS are visited free of charge by following a path of wooden footbridges to discover huts and observation points, guided by explanatory panels. A nice family outing to be sure!
9. Awaken your inner gourmandize
We can never say it enough but France is synonomous with Gourmandize. The Dordogne Valley is a paradise for lovers of gourmet food. Make the most of your stay by treating yourself and your children.
Have you always dreamed of being Charlie in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but you don’t dare confess it to your children? At the Bovetti Chocolate Museum in Terrasson-Lavilledieu, you can share your love of cocoa with your little monsters. Prefer a more hands-on approach? In summer, cooking classes are organized in the atelier of the Eric Lamy chocolate factory in Brive, and you can leave with your creations!
Do you prefer savory foods? Opt for a visit to the La Borie d’Imbert farm in Rocamadour, which produces the AOP cheese of the same name. In addition to visiting the farm, you can see a presentation of the breeding and local farm production professions, and enjoyu a free tasting. Your children will enjoy petting the cute little goats. Don’t hesitate to have a look in their producers’ shop to stock up on locally made products.
If you come in the autumn, enjoy a hike on a beautiful Indian summer day to collect chestnuts or pick cepe mushrooms. Once home, your kids will love helping you cook what they’ve gathered!
10. Jump into the boots of Indiana Jones and explore the underground world
There’s no better way to take shelter from the heat or rain than to take children on an underground tour to explore the mysterious world of caves and chasms. In these underground cathedrals, you can imagine yourself in the universe of Tolkien, and you may not even be surprised to see an orc emerge in one of the galleries!
The Gouffre de Padirac, in the Lot, is the largest and most famous of all with a boat trip on a subterranean turquoise river.
The Gouffre de la Fage, in Noailles near Brive-la-Gaillarde, is smaller but it offers a more intimate visit that leads you to the discovery of concretions, those scintillating geological formations of which stalactites and stalagmites are the most famous.
The many stalactites and stalagmites that dot the walls of the Gouffre de Proumeyssac, near Sarlat, have earned it the nickname of “Crystal Cathedral.” A marvel not to be missed, which you can access by an aerial basket!
There are many smaller but equally mesmerizing caves to explore as well, with intricate and strangely-shaped concretions. The Grotte de Maxange and its tiny concretions that remind you of lace or the Grottes de Lacave with its little train, are just a couple among many more.
If you’d like to add some stunning and mysterious prehistoric art into the mix, the Cougnac Caves and Rouffignac Cave are fabulous choices, along with the famous Font de Gaume, and many others.
For the more adventurous, learning speleology with a guide is an exciting and unforgettable experience for children from 5 years old.
11. A dog sled ride with children
We offer you a small bonus in this “top 10” with an eleventh fun activity to do with the family: a dog-sled ride!
Let’s not forget that the Dordogne Valley is above all a valley with a river and springs. Those of the Dordogne River are located at Puy-de-Sancy, a mountain of the Massif-Central in the French region of Auvergne. If you live in Corrèze or the Lot, the mountains are 2 to 2.5 hours away by car, while from Sarlat it takes between 2.5 and 3 hours.
Good to know, you can also go to the Lioran station by train in about 2 hours from the station of Saint-Denis-near-Martel in the Lot, which is an hour from Sarlat.
A Great North atmosphere guaranteed! The magical adventure of dog sledding immerses you in the skin of a musher during a journey through the forests and mountains of Auvergne. As a preview before the sled ride, the musher will present his dogs and the rules of living and operation of a pack. And then you’re off for a ride guided by your musher, and you can even try your own hand at driving the team. In the middle of the wilderness, in immense white expanses, only the sound of the sled and the dogs will accompany you. For a true feeling of escape, this is an activity to share with your family and give your children a taste of polar adventure.
Are you coming to the Dordogne Valley in summer? No worries, dogs like to run in then too. Discover cani-hiking, a walk with a dog tied to your waist, and test the cani-scooter, a scooter pulled by one or two dogs.