All rights reserved ;2001-2008
Last bike trip May 1998
Visit by car 2012
Directions to bicycle the Dordogne River, France
Organize your own cycle itinerary, or join a commercial bike tour.
Nature of the Ride: The Dordogne River area, also known as Black Perigord (Périgord Noir), comprises bucolic rivers with nearby cliffs or hills covered with dark oaks that don't lose their leaves (whence the name "Black"), orchards, wheat and tobacco fields, medieval towns and villages, and caves decorated by prehistoric artists. The region is also famous for its food, which includes the delicacies of black truffles and foie gras.
Bikers can limit their routings to the almost flat river valleys for the easiest riding, but visits to medieval Sarlat-le-Canéda**, Rocamadour***, and the Gouffre de Padriac*** all require substantial climbs. Cycling is on highways, with light to moderate traffic.
Please refer to Bicycle Touring in Europe for important background on touring styles, transportation, bike types, rentals, maps, information sources, traffic ratings, packing, and security and safety tips. Refer to this page for information on French pronunciation, French bicycle nomenclature, and French road signs. Star symbols in the text show ratings given by the Michelin green guide books, which the author likes and uses. Three stars mean worth a journey; two, worth a detour; and one, interesting.
When to Go: Winters are cold and summers are very hot. The best months to visit by bike, then, are May, early June, September, and early October. Rain is infrequent.
Attractions: The languid river valleys of the Dordogne and Vézère provide pleasant, relaxed riding with long views of hills, cliffs and, occasionally, perched towns. Riding in the hills, with their oaks, also is pleasant to the eye.
The three wondrous sights of the region are the prehistoric caves**, Rocamadour***, and Sarlat**. While you will want to visit the "exact copy" of the Lascaux Grotto (the original grotto has been closed to visitors) rated two stars by Michelin, the author prefers to see caverns which preserve original art. The Font-de-Gaume* grotto is particularly impressive, but requires advance reservations (telephone number 05 53 06 86 00), as the number of visitors per day is restricted. There are several other impressive grottoes nearby Les Eyzies**.
Sarlat-le-Caneda**, is a medieval town that is incredibly well preserved, and quite handsome—arguably the most beautiful town in France. Visit by night, as well as by day. The food market, which is quite impressive, is Saturday mornings from 8:30 until 1.
Rocamadour*** is a religious town perched on a cliff, famous as a pilgrimage, for church art, and for its fabulous views. The present buildings date from the 17th century, replacing structures destroyed during religious wars. Consider staying for one night. Rocamadour's region of the Dordogne River area is in the province of Lot.
The Grouffre Padriac,*** a cave, also in the Lot province, is visited on foot and by boat. Although one of the best caverns in Western Europe, it is substantially less interesting than many caves found in the USA.
Hotels throughout the region range from modest to very chic, and there are restaurants with one and two Michelin stars.
The itinerary below mentions many other towns and natural features worth visiting.
How to bike it: Organize the trip yourself, take an organized self-guided tour, or chose among many tour groups with varied itineraries and degrees of luxury.