I prefer the Dordogne Region of France for bicycle touring instead of the more popular Provence or the Chateaux Country which are also good. When riding through the Dordogne River and nearby Lot River region in southern France expect to see prehistoric caves, castles, walnut plantations and enjoy great wines besides the scenic countryside along the rivers.
The area is popular with Europeans cyclists on their way to other regions. For Canadians and Americans France is always popular and this area makes a great two or three week bicycle touring journey. As this is a very hilly region and you can expect to use your low gears often.
I started at the Toulouse train station and headed north to Cahors to begin my cycling tour. There is a great market in town where you can pick up lunch and the historic bridge in all the postcards is located nearby. Then head north along a gentle hill and east out of town along the Lot River with some wonderful scenery along the narrow road which at times are tunnels, but don’t worry as there is little traffic. I loved the sunflowers growing along the route as I made my way to to Saint-Cirq-Lapopoie where you must spend a night or two. This town is built on the side of a mountain and has cobblestone streets filled with restaurants and shops. You can do some local rides from this point as well.
Then continue you cycling through the Lot River until you get to a major climb and descent into Figeac. This hill and area is often part of the famous Tour de France. We stayed at a hotel in the center of town that catered mostly to cyclists. Leaving town head north and uphill to the Gramat Causse which is a fairly fair and rocky section a first before reaching a series of several steep hills.
We stayed in Rocamadour for a few days as it makes for a great base for a few days. The town itself is built on the side of a cliff with outstanding views of the valley and sometimes the hot air balloons rising from the valley floor. Nearby are pretty towns and some caves at Gouffre de Parirace, all within an easy day cycle.
Continue your bicycle tour before arriving at the Dordogne River. As you cycle along the route near the river except to see plenty of walnut plantations some of which you may find in your salad or dessert that evening. There is a paved bike path to take you from the Dordogne River to the rebuilt Salat, where the main street is open to pedestrians only. Besides plenty of shops and restaurants there is a huge market on certain days of the week that you must visit with everything from candles to cheese available.
We wanted to see the prehistoric caves so we headed north to Montignac over gentel hills. Here you can see the cave painting and nearby at La Roque St. Christophe it is worthwhile to stop to visit the cliff dwellings from prehistoric times as well. We spent the night in Les Eyzies at the Mill which is also used by some of the guided bike tours too.
In the small town of Cadouin there is a bicycle museum filled with items from the early days of cycling including the Tour de France so we visited the museum and spent the night although pizza was on the menu as there were few restaurants.Continue east through Belves and Monpazier to Beynac which makes a good base for a few days. You can walk to the French castle in town and cycle to the nearby English castle from the 100 years war which requires a bit of a climb. Do not leave out this castle as it is also has many exhibits from medieval times and and birds of prey show.
Besides the many vineyards which are great to cycle through head over to the town of Domme for a visit, yes it does require another uphill climb which is worth the effort. We then continued to Souillac to take the train to our next destination in France.
You will require several sets of bike clothing along with a touring bike and you are set to ride. When bicycle touring in the Dordogne Region of France expect some a lot of up and down cycling, great food, better wine, castles, history and scenery that makes it all worthwhile.