Europe Bicycle Touring
All rights reserved ;2001-2008
Last bike trip May 1998
Visit by car 2012

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By David May

Directions to bicycle the Dordogne River, France

Organize your own cycle itinerary, or join a commercial bike tour.

Rating: Excellent

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.

sheep Dordogne ValleyPlease 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.

dordogne valleyThe 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.



Organizing the trip yourself:

To print itinerary, select the text below, and choose print selection.

Please follow this link for an explanation of the author's traffic ratings.

Distance and Time: 190 miles (310 kilometers), shorter and longer variants; 5 to 9 days.

Difficulty: The primary itinerary below has many hills, but these can be avoided by staying within the Dordogne and Vézère valleys, as discussed in the alternates.

Self organized starting and ending point: Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, village accessible by trains carrying assembled bicycles from Paris in about 6 hours via Limoges and Périgueux. Additionally there are trains carrying assembled bicycles to Bordeaux, but from Bordeaux to Paris, bikes must be checked separately as baggage, or carried disassembled in a box. Or a housse may be used on the TGV to Bordeaux. Other possible ending points are mentioned in the itinerary. (Please see the discussion of transporting your bicycle on this Site.

Maps: Michelin 1:200,000 scale maps or equivalent .


Day 1: Arrive from Paris by train or bus in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, Museum National de Préhistoire** - One hotel has a ** restaurant, another a * restaurant, and most hotels have swimming pools.

Day 2: Les Eyzies, Grotte de Font-de-Gaume* ( reserve several days in advance (telephone number 05 53 06 86 00), ranked as ** by the author), again Les Eyzies, Grotte du Grand Roc*, Grotte de Lascaux**(a copy of the original grotto which is closed), Montignac (31 kilometers, one château hotel with one star restaurant, other hotels), or stay in Le Lardin-St-Lazare (additional 9 kilometers).

Day 3: Montignac, (detour - hilly narrow road to church of St.-Amand de Coly*), D704 to Sarlat-le-Canéda** (32 kilometers, many hotels). (An alternative, flatter, itinerary, part of which is normally used for the final leg of this circuit is: Montignac, Les Eyzies, Campagne, St. Cyprien, Beynac-et-Cazenac**, night at la Roque-Gageac** - 35 kilometers or Domme *- 36 kilometers, hotel with *restaurant); next day to Sarlat** -29 kilometers.)

Day 4: Sarlat-le-Canéda, D704, D64A, Cingle de Montfort, Carsac, cross Dordogne, D50, Julien de Lampon, D248, D141, Payrac, Rocamadour*** (54 kilometers). Alternative route, if planning to take the train from Gramat: Sarlat, D704, D704A, Rouffillac, Souillac**(29 kilometers, hotels), Belcastel, D247, Rocamadour*** (many hotels, 58 kilometers).

Day 5: Rocamadour, Alvignac, Gouffre de Padriac*** (** at most in author's mind), Castlenau**, St-Cere (about 35 kilometers). (Alternatives: go from the Gouffre de Padriac directly to Souillac**(75 kilometers total) or return to Paris by train from Gramat - 12 kilometers.).

Day 6: St-Cere to Souillac** to Roque-Gageac** or to Domme* (about 77 kilometers); or stop in Souillac (44 kilometers;) or on or return to Paris by train from Gramat (24 kilometers).

Day 7: Return to Paris by train from Souillac**, or bike from Souillac to Roque-Gageac or Domme (which adds an extra day); or bike from Roque-Gageac** or Domme* (hotel with * restaurant) to Bayac-et-Cazenac**,and by river (53 kilometers), or over hills (28 kilometers) to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac*.

Day 8: Return by train to Paris from Les Eyzies*.

Note: It is only a days ride from Rocamadour to the Lot Valley on the Compostela Pilgrimage Route.

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