To the French, the Dordogne is a river. To the British, it is a much looser term, covering a vast area roughly equivalent to what the French call Périgord, which starts south of Limoges and includes the Vézère and Dordogne valleys. The Dordogne is also a département, with fixed boundaries that pay no heed to either definition. The central part of the département, around Périgueux and the River Isle, is known as Périgord Blanc, after the light, white colour of its rock outcrops; the southeastern half around Sarlat as Périgord Noir, said to be darker in aspect because of the preponderance of oak woods. To confuse matters further, the tourist authorities have added another two colours to the Périgord patchwork: Périgord Vert, the far north of the département, so called because of the green of its woods and pastureland; and Périgord Pourpre in the southwest, purple because it includes the wine-growing area around Bergerac.

This southern region is also known for its bastides – fortified towns – built during the turbulent medieval period when there was almost constant conflict between the French and English. In the reaches of the upper Dordogne, the colour scheme breaks down, but the villages and scenery in this less travelled backwater still rival anything the rest of the region has to offer.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there's only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the …

25 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge local_activity Special feature
Quiz: where should you go in France this summer?

Quiz: where should you go in France this summer?

France remains one of the most visited countries in the world – and it's easy to see why. From the bucolic charm of Provence to the metropolitan allure of Par…

14 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors help Quiz
7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, afforda…

14 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook