Bicycle touring in France along the Dordogne and Lot Rivers is popular with Europeans bicycle touring on their way to other regions.
For Canadians and Americans the area makes a great two or three week cycle vacation. This is a very hilly region and you can expect to use your low gears daily.
Bicycle Touring in France, Lot River Valley
We started in Toulouse and took the train although it can be an easy one day bicycle tour to Cahors to the north. Pick up lunch items at the market in Cahors and and see the ancient Pont Valentre (bridge) before heading to the quiet and very narrow roads in the hills just south of the town.
As you bicycle tour along the River Lot you will pass through ancient tunnels along the roads and fields of sunflowers. Spending a night or two in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, a village built on the side of a hill with cobblestone streets and stone houses and hotels to match is a must. Rick Steves, the PBS TV host states, “beg, borrow or steal a night in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and he has my total agreement. Our hotel was an old stone building with 10 rooms, each with a patio overlooking the town and valley below. We stayed 2 nights taking a day ride along the north side of the Lot River on our free day which included a one of a kind outdoor exhibit run.
Continue along the south side of the River Lot valley passing houses built right into the stone cliffs until reaching Figeac. In the past the Tour de France has passed through this town and even during our visit we met many cyclists.
Traveling from the Lot to the Dordogne Rivers
Continue bicycle touring in France by cycling to Rocamadour across the Gramat Causse which is a hilly and rocky region populated by sheep and low trees. Rocamadour is a religious center built into the cliff on the side of a deep ravine. A great village to base yourself for a few days for some hiking, a visit to the Gouffre de Parirac caves or a day bicycle tour to nearby medieval Carennac, considered by many to be the prettiest town in France. We noticed some hot air balloons rising about the town as well.
Leaving Rocamadour you again cycle through hilly terrain before reaching the Dordogne River. Continue past walnut plantations until reaching the bicycle path which goes from the river into Sarlat. Schedule your visit to include the Saturday market covering several blocks which is well worth a visit, as is the cathedral.
Bicycle Touring in France, Dordogne Region
Next and a little to the north is Montignac, home of some prehistoric caves paintings, a popular attraction. Continuing the theme loop south and follow the river to La Roque St. Christophe, home of some ancient cliff dwellings, well worth a visit. A great place to stop your bicycle touring for the night is in Les Eyzies just down the river a bit further.
Your journey then takes you to Cadouin, where there is a bicycle museum including many exhibits from the early days of the Tour de France. There were not too many restaurants in this town so we ended up with Pizza, yest Pizza in France.
Castles from the 100 Years War
You are bicycle touring again through stands of walnut trees, some even dropping on the road and our helmets as we cycled by on our way to Monpazier with its arcades down the main street and Belves, built on a hillside and a good lunch spot. Besides local foie gras and wine, you will find walnuts in salads, desserts and many dishes.
Then its on to Beynac during your bicycle touring in France, where part of the movie Chocolat was filmed. High above the town is a French castle with dungeons. A short cycle down the road and away from the river you have a steep ascent before coming to the English Castelnaud with an impressive museum of combat from the middle ages, catapults and great views looking back at the French castle. If you look the other way you see the vineyards covering the slopes.
Nearby, and up an impressive hill, is the town of Domme. Back down the hill you can continue your cycle touring westward to Bordeaux or cycle to the nearby town of Souillac to take the train back to Toulouse.
There are few signed bicycle routes in France so take along a copy of Cycle Touring in France: Eight selected cycle tours which includes the Dordogne area, I am glad I did as we made our own arrangements but there are guided bicycle tours of the region available as well. And for other European cycling routes click the link.
Bicycle touring in France, particularly the Dordogne region with quiet roads stopping to enjoy the wonderful food and wine is a joy!