Bike Across France
The National Geographic Traveler Award-Winning Addition to our “Bike Across” Collection
It’s time to discover a new world! The three regions of France, Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillion in the southwest rival the best of Italy for its storied history, castles, lush green scenery, stone villages, excellent wines, ancient art, prehistoric sites, generous people, and hearty provincial cuisine. Explore it with us on this deliciously offbeat itinerary.
On this bike across journey we cycle along country lanes and discover that every trail reveals a fantastic scene from traditional France: timeless villages of golden stone, hilltop castles shining like visions from a medieval tale, and towering oak forests where a knight on a white horse might not look out of place. The full cultural immersion in this corner of France is facilitated by the amazing enchanting towns visited and included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, like Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux area and Albi and Carcassonne. Bergerac zone and Sarlat represent another great surprise if you have never been in the area called “Perigord,” situated in the Dordogne Departement.
Art, History and Scenery Collide in this Ultimate Bicycle Tour
The list of activities range from two wine tastings, a canoe ride on the Dordogne river, a visit to the Museum of Toulouse Lautrec in Albi and the guided visits of Castelnaud Castle, prehistoric site of Cap Blanc in Dordogne and historic center and fortress of Carcassonne.
This tour has been beautifully tailored to peel back the layers of history, while savoring the gastronomy and the French life style in the southwest, all from the vantage point of our saddle to really feel immersed in the nature, looking for the right rhythm to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience in this unforgettable corner of Europe. Allez, allez les cyclistes!
- Discover five UNESCO World Heritage sites: Saint Emilion, Vezere Valley, Albi, Carcassonne fortress and Canal du Midi
- Truly discover the road less traveled in three regions: Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillion
- Enjoy the cultural differences of Gironde, Dordogne, Lot, Tarn et Garonne, Tarn and Aude
- Savor the wines of four major wine areas: Bordeaux, Bergerac, Cahors, Gaillac
- Learn about prehistoric sites of Cap Blanc and Medieval Castelnaud Castle in Dordogne
- Visit the historical town of Carcassonne and the museum of Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi
- Discovering local fresh produce at the market in Sarlat
- Tranquil canoe ride on the Dordogne river
Day by Day
Saint-Emilion warm up ride
Today we meet in the lobby of our hotel at 12:30 pm for introductions and a light lunch followed by a ride through the country farmlands and vineyards. Our route takes us through nearby villages and gives a good overview of the local terrain and ambiance. The Ancient Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion is an outstanding example of a historic vineyard landscape that has remained intact and active. In the evening, settle into our beautiful hotel and sample one of the superb reds of the area.
Our ride unfolds along famous vineyards and quiet landscapes and ends near Bergerac, a gem of well preserved historical homes and churches. The local appellation wines are among the top rated in the whole Bordeaux area, such as “Pecharmant” which in the local Occitan dialect means “nice hill.” Surely we we'll not miss a sip of this noble nectar during dinner.
Sarlat and Cap Blanc
Upon entering the heart of Périgord Noir, a region famous for its wealth of walnut trees and truffles, you will undoubtedly marvel at its natural splendor, as well as that of the castles which dot it. Today we’ll be riding in the Vézère Valley, one of the UNESCO Sites of this area. To help us on our journey into the past we will meet with local guide Bart for a visit to Cap Blanc, the only site of prehistoric sculpture that is still open to the public. Our final destination today is Sarlat-la-Caneda, the charming capital of Périgord Noir and a perfect example of a well preserved Medieval town.
Vitrac: Canoe trip
Sarlat is also famous for the local market held weekly on Wendesday and Saturday: on this tour we have been able to set dates (for the most part) that coincide with the market. Today we have also a beautiful and tranquil canoe trip down the Dordogne River to see all that the region has to offer. Lunch will be a Ciclismo picnic on the banks of the river in the imposing shadow of Castelnaud castle. After lunch we climb up the hill for a guided tour of the castle itself which will give us an insight into the historical significance it holds. Before dinner there will be more time for relaxation, more visiting or simply a nap!
Chateau de Mercues
If it is market day why not taking a stroll in town and live like a local for an hour or so? Today's ride will lead us onto the Quercy region. This area is known for its authenticity. Still basically undiscovered by the public at large, this region is also known as "the land of fairy-tales" thanks to its exquisite, picturesque spots, beautiful architectural buildings and authentic farmhouses with hundreds of stone walls. Our ride ends near the town of Cahors, in the beautiful Chateau de Mercues. Before dinner we’ll enjoy a wine tasting and visit to the Chateau’s cellar to discover more the robust and full-bodied Cahors wine, featuring the Malbec grape widely grown here.
The route we will take winds its way through well-kept countryside, beautiful farmlands, and pastures of the area. The Tarn River winds its way through a quite area as we head towards the historic town of Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the ancient capital of the Cathars. Albi is also home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in France and the Pont Vieux, a 1000-year-old bridge that is still in use today.
In the morning we will have a chance to enjoy some free time in town visiting the museum of Toulouse Lautrec, or the huge cathedral in the center, explore the narrow alleys in the oldest part of town, or take great shots of the Pont View on the river Tarn. A late morning ride today winds its way through a variety of settings, from dense forests to granite cliffs to pastures in the quiet and pristine Park of Haut Languedoc.
On todays’ ride we discover the forest of the black Mount on a spectacular 6-mile climb with a 4-6% average grade, followed by a breathtaking view of the Pyrenees in the distance en route to our final destination: the town of Carcassonne. Founded by the Visigothsin in the 5th century on the village previously fortified by Romans, this quaint town features a fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, and was added to the UNESCO list in 1997.
Loop to Limoux
Enjoy a final parade through the countryside of the enchanting Languedoc-Rouissillion region, heading towards the small town of Limoux. Immerse yourself in the quiet remote atmosphere of the southwest of France and don’t miss to enjoy the view of the Canal du Midi which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This masterpiece was built in the 17th century to serve as a shortcut between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, connecting the Canal de Garonne to the canal du Midi which goes from Toulouse to the Mediterranean, passing by Carcassonne.
After breakfast, we have a 5 minute group shuttle around 9 am to the Carcassonne train station to make your next connections or to extend your stay in the area.
- Carbon bike rental equipped with Garmin Edge Touring GPS
- Informative tour leaders throughout the program
- Ciclismo jersey and water bottle
- Shuttle at the end of the tour
On The Tour
- Van support
- 3 guided visits: prehistoric site of Cap Blanc, Castelnaud Castle and the historical town of Carcassonne
- Canoe ride on the Dordogne river
- 2 wine tastings
Accommodations & Meals
- All accommodations
- All breakfasts
- 2 lunches
- 7 dinners
Here’s a sampling of some of the amazing places you’ll stay on your journey.
For a full listing, request a detailed itinerary!
Surrounded by a 3-acre park, the Hotel Grand Barrail is a 4-star property that includes a full-service spa, steam room and sauna, as well as a seasonal outdoor pool.
View their website
Chateau de Mercues
Feel like a queen and a king for a day at the Chateau de Mercues and enjoy the elegant and noble atmosphere of this historical building.
View their website
Hotel du Chateau
The 4-star Hotel du Chateau will feel like home with a heated pool, outdoor jacuzzi, and panoramic bar.
View their website