5 Reasons to Cycle Dordogne
Located toward the southwest corner of France, Dordogne is known worldwide for its beautiful countryside, mild weather and medieval villages packed with ancient castles. In fact, there are over a thousand castles in this region alone; lending a historical and mysterious feel to the entire area. Cyclists consider Dordogne one of the nicest places to ride because it provides a lovely combination of natural beauty, with the Dordogne River running right through the town, and ancient history virtually untouched by the hand of time. And although there are many reasons why Dordogne should be on any cyclist’s to-do list, below are five of the most compelling.
The Aquitaine Region
Bustling with culture, outdoor activities, beautiful scenery and delicious cuisine, the Aquitaine region, encompassing Dordogne, is the perfect spot to relax and get away from it all. The Dordogne department is located within reach of the Region’s Atlantic coastline that extends to the Spanish border. The hills and valleys offer ideal terrain for riders to conquer, and the wine in this region, specifically in the town of Bordeaux, is a great place to enjoy some of the delicious locally produced wine.
Visitors to Dordogne certainly have their pick of castles to explore, however, two in particular stand out from the rest. The Château de Beynac is the best-preserved castle in the region. Erected in the Middle Ages, this amazing structure is perched high atop a limestone cliff above the Dordogne River. The Château de Castelnaud is also an incredible structure, a medieval fortress overlooking the Dordogne River.
The Dordogne region boasts hundreds of caves, many of which are open to the public. The two types of commonly found caves in this area are those that are known for their prehistoric paintings and those that are sought out for the incredible rock formations they contain. The beauty of nature literally surrounds you as you explore these ancient cavernous openings, formed over thousands and thousands of years.
One of the most picturesque towns in the region, the visitor is awestruck by the impossible cliffside construction of this historic town. The buildings of Rocamadour (from ròca, cliff, and sant Amador) rise in stages up to the side of a cliff on the right bank of the Alzou River, which here runs between rocky walls 400 ft. in height. Flights of steps ascend from the lower town to the churches, a group of massive buildings half-way up the cliff. The chief church among them is the pilgrimage church of Notre Dame, rebuilt in its present configuration from 1479.
Dordogne is made up of many small towns and villages, each of them with their own unique charm. Tours of the following are available to visitors as well.
- Bergerac is one of the largest towns in the region and is located on the north bank of the Dordogne River. The highlight of this town is a visit to what’s referred to as “old town”, which is home to quaint boutiques and the pick of fine dining. There are also beautiful old mansions to explore and museums to visit.
- The town of Sarlat is centrally located and is perhaps the most famous town in the region. With brilliant architecture and cozy little streets perfect for a leisurely bike ride, visitors will quickly learn why so many people choose this town as their travel destination.
- The town of La Roque Gageac is uniquely located on the north bank of the Dordogne River, backed by steep cliffs and is easily described as “picture perfect” as far as villages are concerned. One of the most interesting sights to see here is the troglodyte fort, which sits high atop a cliff 40 meters above the town. Take a stroll through one of the many exotic gardens and enjoy the rustic feel of a town virtually unchanged in 300 years.
- Located in the center of the Vézere Valley, Les Eyzies is surrounded by over a hundred prehistoric sites and dozens of caves filled with ancient paintings. It is also home to the Musee National de Prehistoire and the Musee de l’Abri Pataud, two museums full of fascinating prehistoric artifacts, most of which were discovered in the surrounding countryside.
Dordogne is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in France. Tourists and travelers, particularly those who enjoy cycling, enjoy the quaint atmosphere, breathtaking landscapes and rich history that surrounds this region. Visitors to Dordogne are sure to leave with experiences and memories to last a lifetime!