Dordogne is a department in the southwest of France that’s home to some of the most impressive history, magnificent architecture, and delicious cuisine in the entire country. Located between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees mountains, the Dordogne is one of the most popular destinations for French and foreign tourists alike. Here you’ll find the guide to how to get to Dordogne, by car, train, or plane.
As the Dordogne is one of the biggest departments in France, there are different ways to get to different parts of this region. That means that you should first decide where in Dordogne you want to base yourself.
The four different parts of the Dordogne department
The Dordogne is still sometimes referred to as the Périgord, the name of the former county covering the same area. The department is divided into four parts, named by color after each one’s resource.
Périgord Noir (black), named for the dark oak forests rich soil, and the decadent truffles found there, is where most of the stunning villages of Dordogne are located. The northern part of Dordogne is called Périgord Vert (green).
Périgord Pourpre is the unofficial name of southwestern Dordogne, with its capital being Bergerac. Purple Périgord is the second-largest wine region in Nouvelle Aquitaine, after Bordeaux, and so the color of the grapes is where it draws its name from.
Périgord Blanc (white) is located in the center of the department and the name comes from the white, chalky stones used in building the houses.
If you’re planning a trip to France and want to visit Dordogne, you’re probably wondering about the best way to get there and to get around. Look no further. This guide will tell you how to get around in Dordogne, France by car and by train.
Do you need a car in Dordogne, France?
If at all possible, rent a car. It’s the easiest and most practical way to get around. The small villages are so old, they were built before cars, and therefore you usually have to park outside of the town center and walk. The roads connecting the towns of the Périgord are in perfect condition and very easy to travel by car. Many must-see spots like ancient castles, prehistoric caves, and famous gardens are only accessible by car.
In many small towns, even when train stations exist, most of them serve one line only so if you have a tight schedule with many places to visit, having a car will give you the much-needed flexibility.
Here’s a site I always use to get the best deals for car rentals.
Having said that, if you come in summer between July and August, there are usually more public transport options available for the season. Even in the off-season, you can still enjoy Dordogne without a car if you don’t have another option.
How do you get around the Dordogne without a car?
If you decide to travel to Dordogne by public transport, the location of your accommodation is crucial. There are a few central towns in the department that have train stations with fairly regular trains coming from other central cities such as Bordeaux. Check out this map with train lines in the region to get an idea of the best places to stay.
These are the three towns I recommended staying in case you decide to use public transport to get to Dordogne.
Sarlat-la-Canéda, one of Dordogne’s most famous and beautiful towns, is a great place to stay because it’s got a train line and is easily accessible from Bordeaux. There are plenty of hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses, and holiday apartments. Once there, you can walk everywhere in town.
There are many day trips from Sarlat to visit beautiful castles, gardens, caves, beaches on the river, and stunning villages. Many aren’t accessible by public transport but as Sarlat is quite close to everything you can either rent a bike or cycle to some of the highlights of Perigord Noir.
Staying in Bergerac is another good choice if you want to travel to Dordogne without a car. It’s one of the central and liveliest towns in Dordogne and it’s accessible by train from Bordeaux and Sarlat. The train D33 goes from Sarlat to Bordeaux and stops on the way in Bergerac and other places like Saint-Cyprien Lalinde and Saint Emilion. Here’s a good website to buy train tickets online.
However, if you want to see as much as possible without a car, and also without any fuss or stress, book a tour! It’s the easiest way to get to see the most interesting attractions in Dordogne.
There’s a wonderful tour from Sarlat that will allow you to visit some of the most beautiful villages in the region and on the way you can taste local delicacies, stop for stunning photos, and get to know more about the history of this storied region of France.
There’s also this tour that will get you to the Lascaux caves if you’re interested in discovering the prehistoric importance of this part of France.
Périgord airports – Can I fly to Dordogne?
The largest international airport in the area is in Bordeaux. If you land there, you can either rent a car at the airport or take a train to Dordogne. To make things easy for travelers, there’s a shuttle directly from the airport to the train station in Bordeaux.
However, going through Bordeaux is not the only way to get to Dordogne by plane. There are a few smaller airports nearer to Dorodgne’s main cities.
Bergerac is one of the main airports in Dordogne. It’s about 75km from Sarlat and a short drive from many stunning villages and towns in Dordogne. The main flights include London, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Brussels, Porto, Madeira, Rotterdam, and Montenegro.
Another airport is located in Brive – a small market town on the border of the Dordogne and Lot departments. It’s closer to Sarlat and the Eastern side of Dordogne. The main flights include Nice, Paris, London, Ajaccio, Porto, and Brussels.
Limoges is another airport you can fly to. It’s situated much further north, about 150km from Sarlat, and the main flights include Lyon, Marrakech, London, Bristol, Leeds, and Manchester.
Last but not least, Toulouse, the largest city in the Grand sud-ouest, also has an international airport and it’s located further south but not too far from Dordogne. Regular flights include Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Birmingham, London, Bologna, Bristol, Brussels, Casablanca, Dakar, Djerba, Doha, Dublin, Edinburgh, Florence, Frankfurt, and many many more.]
I have plenty of other articles about the Dordogne you may find useful when planning your trip, so be sure to check them out!
What to do in Bergerac
What to do, see and eat in Sarlat
The most beautiful villages to visit in Dordogne
The best castles (chateaux) to visit in Dordogne
The most beautiful gardens in Dordogne
The best things to do with kids in Dordogne
The most beautiful villages in Purple Perigord
The best places to do Kayaking on the Dordogne River
A day trip to Eymet, a beautiful village in Dordogne.
*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂