There is nothing better than paddling your own canoe and floating down a river that is so clear you can see down to the bottom, and so inviting on a hot summer day that you can pull in on a beach and dive into the refreshing clean waters. Along the length of the Dordogne, from Argentat-sur-Dordogne to Beynac-et-Cazenac and just a little further downstream, there are numerous opportunities to indulge yourself, your friends and family in this delightful activity.
Depending on your ability, you can choose between varying route lengths, making it a half day or day trip. The most sportive ones can also hire a canoe for several days and explore a good chunk of the river, stopping off in campsites overnight.
Upstream, the river is wilder, running through gorges and dramatic empty landscapes. Further down, as you head for the meanders of the Dordogne department, you pass through the land of châteaus and can admire many of the most famous castles from a different angle. Marqueyssac, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and Beynac are all close together and can be viewed on a trip in a single afternoon.
Private motor boats are not allowed on the river, which means the peace of your journey is never interrupted by the noise and pollution of speedboats.
Other rivers in the Dordogne Valley also offer canoe trips. On the Vézère River, you can paddle past major prehistoric sites, such as La Madeleine, and beautiful villages, such as Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère.
You can also enjoy the countryside on the Dronne River up to Brantome.
For those who prefer not to pilot their own vessel, you can have a trip on a replica of a traditional gabare, the boats which traded on the river in the 18th and 19th centuries, taking wood downstream for use in the wine and barrel-making industries.
Guides will explain the history of the areas you pass by and tell tales of the intrepid boatmen whose journeys downstream were often fraught with danger.
They will also point out the local fauna and flora as you pass by. If you are lucky you may see a kingfisher, gleaming turquoise as it flashes along the bank, or a kite wheeling high above.
A tidal bore – ‘mascaret’ – is a spectacular natural phenomenon which only occurs in about sixty places in the world. One is formed at the confluence of the rivers Garonne and the Dordogne when the incoming tide from the sea moves upstream for 3,000 metres until it comes to the Ile Cazaux where the river narrows and the resulting force of water forms a wave. It happens twice a day, so 730 times a year and around 50 of those are noticeably high and attract surfers, canoeists and spectators.
Would you like to discover the stunning architecture, quaint villages and peaceful natural landscapes of Bordeaux and its wine country from a new and enchanting angle?
Get off the beaten path and onto…the river! A wide variety of river cruises are offered along the Dordogne River, lasting from 2 hours to 7 days.
From the river, you’ll have captivating views of picturesque cities, villages, and chateaus, which you can stop to visit if you like.
You can also bask in the tranquil natural environment along the way and observe the changing landscapes as you cruise through the estuary. Knowledgeable guides will tell you about the diverse wildlife and the history of human settlements and commerce along the river banks, as well as the ancient and modern fishing techniques used.
Just a short distance from Bordeaux, you can visit the 13th century English bastide of Libourne and its lively port. And if good wine is your pleasure, let’s not forget this is the heart of wine country! Several cruises invite you to disembark for tastings at prestigious chateaus.
The charming medieval town of Saint Emilion is a must-see, for its architecture, and for its vineyards that have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first ever in the world!
You can embark on small boats or larger ships, or even reserve a private cruise tailored to your interests or special event.
You can dine on board, tasting Lamprey if you like, or even take a cooking class. Or you can just relax and enjoy the visual feast of your river view!
What could be more refreshing on a hot summer day than water skiing? Many of the beautiful lakes in the Dordogne Valley offer this activity.
And for an extra shot of adrenaline, you might want to try wakeboarding! A great source of thrills and fun, this sport was developed from a combination of water skiing, snowboarding and surfing techniques. The wakeboard is often towed by a motorboat, but can also be towed by cable systems, often including fun installations for jumping and tricks.
The Tiki Wake Park on Seilhac Lake offers the largest bi-pulley system in France.
At the ‘Base Nautique’ in Trémolat, you can water ski and wakeboard on the Dordogne River with the Ski Club Dordogne, and they even offer “baby ski” lessons, starting at 3 years-old!
All of these ski areas offer lessons for skiers of all levels.
When many think of skiing in France, the Alps and Pyrenees mountains come to mind, but did you know you can ski right here in the Dordogne Valley?
Near the source of the Dordogne River, at the foot of the Puy de Sancy in the Massif Central, the family winter-sports resort of Le Mont-Dore is a great place for both downhill and cross-country skiing. It boasts 84 km of downhill slopes and 250 km of cross-country trails for all types and levels of skiers, including Freeriders. You can even try airboarding!
Lessons are available, along with many fun activities for children.
There is plenty of lodging nearby, and you’ll find all the modern shops and facilities you need as well.
After a day on the slopes or trails, you can wind down in the warm and lively village of Le Mont-Dore. In addition to its many cafés and restaurants, it hosts a variety of concerts and other events. Along with the nearby town of La Bourboule, it is also a famous thermal spa-town known for its charming Belle Époque architecture.
©Laurent MoynatADRT Corrèze
©Laurent MoynatADRT Corrèze
© Pays de Bergerac-Joffrey Revoy
The 'mascaret', tidal bore in english, in Saint-Pardon in the Dordogne Valley in the South West of France