France: Dordogne Castles, Caves and Wines
12 Day Inn Tour
Castles by the dozens. Fortified medieval villages with cobbled streets and charming houses. Vineyards where the most prized French wines are born. Truffle-laden forests and open-air markets abundant with local duck, walnuts and foie gras. Limestone cliffs filled with caves and prehistoric art. All nestled along an unspoiled river valley that we call Dordogne.
Dining in France is an experience in itself but can run late into the evening. With two-night stays in each village, we've designed this tour with that in mind. We’ll feast together one evening and then you’re free to partake on your own the second evening. Join us for this soulfully curated journey through history, architecture, geography and gastronomy. Vive la Dordogne!
Rolling hills with a couple longer climbs and some flat sections. Moderate cycling level. More leisurely level with an e-bike.
11 nights lodging, 11 breakfasts, 9 picnic lunches weather permitting, 5 dinners including wine and beer, snacks, van support, luggage transfer, hybrid or road rental bicycle, detailed cue sheets and GPS files, and trained bilingual guides.
Road or hybrid bike is included. E-bike is $350.
Accommodations are subject to minor changes.
Fly round-trip to Bordeaux, France or to Paris and take the train to Bordeaux. At the end of the tour, we will take you to the train station so you can take the train to Bordeaux or Paris for your flight home.
DAY 1: Arrive in Bordeaux, a port city cherished for its green spaces and late afternoon apéritifs that are de rigueur at cafés, bistros and restaurants. Our bike fitting and orientation is at 5:00pm, so you’ll have time to stroll the Place de la Bourse on the Garonne River, shop Rue de Catherine or visit the City of Wine museum. Then we will have our first dinner together. 0 miles.
DAY 2: Come to breakfast dressed to ride, as we bid adieu to Bordeaux via bike path and say bonjour to Entre-Deux-Mers, a wine-growing region between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. We’ll take a break to explore the Abbey of La Sauve-Majeure. Even in ruins, this 11th century monk house pulses with beauty and serenity.
We’ll spend the next two nights in Cadillac, where you can learn about its connection to the esteemed American car as you visit its wine houses. 30 miles ±1613'.
DAY 3: This is a day of days for wine lovers, as we embark on a loop ride through truly hallowed terroir, passing by Chateau d’Yquem. The finish of this famous Sauternes dessert wine is said to “spread out like the tail of a peacock.”
More vineyards and color surround Château Malromé, where the Post-Impressionist painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec frequently visited. We’ll have a chance to see some of his vibrant interpretations of Parisian nightlife here. 32 miles ±1348'.
DAY 4: Pedaling along the river, we’ll stop at Château Rauzan, a 13th century castle erected on a giant rock. Our day’s destination is Saint-Émilion, originally an 8th century mecca for those seeking blessings from a cave-dwelling monk. Today the vineyards surrounding this UNESCO World Heritage Site are considered some of the best on the planet.
We will spend the next two nights in Saint-Émilion, so you’ll have time to visit its monolith underground church, climb the King’s Keep that leads to sweeping vineyard vistas, and relish the macaron cookies which, according to legend, were first baked here by Ursuline nuns in the 17th century. 39 miles +1879'/-1650'
DAY 5: Let’s call it a leisurely morning before we roll out on the bikes to a private tour of Château Siaurac, an iconic estate vineyard that also boasts French- and English-style gardens, woods and an orangery. We’ll picnic here before cycling back to Saint-Émilion. 17 miles ±741'.
DAY 6: Continuing along the Dordogne River, we’ll make our way to Bergerac, a town noted for its half-timbered buildings, tobacco museum, and beautiful churches. We’ll be sure to take a break inside the Église Notre-Dame to marvel at its stunning stained glass windows. 42 miles +1171'/-1305'.
DAY 7: We’ll continue our delicious study of Bordeaux wineries and vineyards with an easygoing circular route that takes us past Château Monbazillac, whose sweet white wine is equally delicious alongside local foie gras or an apple tart. Two lesser known wineries -- Château de Sanxet (which also boasts a car museum) and Château de Fagé -- are also along our route. We’ll spend a second night in Bergerac. 22 miles ±902'.
DAY 8: If this corner of France doesn’t seem pretty and historic enough, today’s ride is going to make it even prettier and downright prehistoric. We’ll follow the lazy Dordogne River to a village that always gets top billing in the country’s municipal beauty contests. Limeuil’s honey-hued homes, narrow winding streets and arched bridges could be your favorite postcard-perfect photo opp. To boot, there’s a refreshing swimming hole too.
We end the day in La Vallée de l’Homme, where there are more than 150 Paleolithic sites, full of cave paintings thought to be more than a million years old. 41 miles +1948'/-1856'.
DAY 9: Today’s loop ride will take you far, far back in time, past medieval manor houses carved out of rock faces, troglodyte villages, and other types of ancient dwellings built into limestone cliffs. The Abri de la Madeleine is a shelter carved out from an overhanging cliff. Many treasures have been found here, including a carving of a bison licking an insect bite. 18 miles 1584'.
DAY 10: Today, we will wind our way to Sarlat-la-Canéda, a town sprung from a 9th century Benedictine. Along the way, we’ll see more spectacular examples of architecture relying on nature for form and function.
Given the amount of conflict through the region with the Norman Invasion and the Hundred Years’ War, settlers built into hillsides or along the river to defend and protect themselves. La Roque-Gageac, one of our way-stops, is carved out of a rocky cliff face that butts up to the water.
Once in Sarlat, there will be sightseeing time for the Saint Marie Church Covered Market (where truffles and foie gras abound), the Gardens of Eyrignac Manor (22 generations’ worth of topiary art), and Manoir de Gisson (home to 17th century bourgeoisie). 30 miles +2709'/-2453.
DAY 11: Our final ride of the tour is a loop starting and ending in Sarlat that includes visits to two castles that could not be more different. Château de Castelnaud-la-Chappelle contains an elaborate collection of medieval warfare (beware the spikey tomahawks!) while Château des Milandes has a carefree, Renaissance ambiance and a magnificent garden. Milandes is where cabaret diva Josephine Baker lived half of her life and raised her 12 adopted children.
We’ll savor and seal the memories at our celebratory dinner tonight! 26 miles ±1804'.
DAY 12: You’re free to take the train back to Bordeaux or Paris for your flight home or elsewhere in Europe. Au revoir! 0 miles.