Country Walks, Prehistoric Caves, and Magnificent Chateaux

Overview

We’ve found a little gem tucked away in a tiny corner of southwest France—the Lot Valley, a secluded world of medieval cliff-top hamlets, Romanesque abbeys, open-air markets, ancient chateaux, robust red wines, and a savory cuisine flavored with truffles and wild mushrooms. On our enchanting exploration of this deeply French realm, our hikes bring you along the tranquil Lot River and across pilgrim paths between spectacular hilltop villages. You’ll also discover the Pech Merle prehistoric cave, filled with extraordinary rock art, and sample the delicious wares of local wineries and small farms, including tangy Cabécou goat cheese. Overnights are in hand-selected historic hotels, including the majestic 13th century Château de Mercuès overlooking the Lot River.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Rodez / Conques

Our hikes bring you through picturesque hamlets north of Rodez, to the hilltop village of Conques, whose 9th century abbey is a spectacular example of Romanesque architecture, and along a pilgrim path to medieval Estaing, officially listed as one of les plus beaux villages de France.

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Days 4-5
Célé Valley / Rocamadour

After exploring Figeac, a charming 15th century town with a perfectly preserved medieval center, we hike on an ancient path along the Célé River. Our next hike leads across the dramatic gorge of the Alzou River for spectacular views of cliff-perched Rocamadour, a pilgrim destination since 1166.

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Day 6
Pech Merle Cave / St. Cirq Lapopie

At Pech Merle, one of the few prehistoric caves where the original 25,000-year-old paintings are on view, take in a treasury of vivid rock art as mammoths, bison, and dappled horses gallop across the cave walls. Later, hike a riverside trail to St. Cirq Lapopie, with its steep cobbled streets and terraced gardens. Our hotel for the next three nights is the majestic 13th century Château de Mercuès near Cahors.

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Days 7-9
Château de Cénevières / Cahors

From the rock-perched village of Calvignac, we hike a forested path to the 13th century Château de Cénevières, where the lord of the chateau welcomes us for a visit. In sunny Cahors, explore the lively open-air market and enjoy scenes of daily life including beret-topped old men and housewives seeking out the freshest produce. A sumptuous wine-tasting in our hotel’s vaulted cellar is followed by our farewell dinner in its Michelin-starred restaurant. Depart on Day 9 via Toulouse.

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Highlights

Highlights

Hike on pilgrim trails and secret paths between villages perched on cliffs above the river
Discover the remarkable prehistoric cave paintings of Pech Merle
Hotels of character, from a restored mill to a 13th century château
Delicious regional cuisine of local products (tasty confit du canard!), famed Cahors wines

Details

Length: 9 days
Cost From: $5795  
Arrive: Rodez, France
Depart: Toulouse, France
Lodging: 8 nights charming inns and a restored château
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch and 1 dinner
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

A mix of easy to moderate walks and hikes, 2-4 hours a day, van support (for luggage or if you wish to skip a day's hike)

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