Medieval France: The Lot Valley

Country Walks, Prehistoric Caves, and Magnificent Chateaux


There’s 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, and a savory cuisine flavored with truffles and wild mushrooms. In this deeply French realm, we hike along the tranquil Lot River and across pilgrim paths between spectacular hilltop villages. We also explore the prehistoric Pech Merle cave, filled with extraordinary rock paintings, and sample the delicious wares of local wineries and small farms. 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 / Estaing

Our trails lead through picturesque stone-built 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.

Le Moulin de Conques
Conques, France
Days 1 to 3 (3 nights)
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, then across the dramatic gorge of the Alzou River for spectacular views of cliff-perched Rocamadour, a pilgrim destination since 1166.

Hotel Le Grezalide
Grezes, France
Days 4 to 5 (2 nights)
Day 6
Pech Merle Cave / Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

At Pech Merle, one of the few prehistoric caves where the original 25,000-year-old paintings are on view, we take in a treasury of vivid rock art as mammoths, bison, and dappled horses gallop across the cave walls. Later, we’ll hike a riverside trail to Saint-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.

Chateau de Mercues
Mercues-Cahors, France
Days 6 to 8 (3 nights)
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 château welcomes us for a visit. In sunny Cahors, we explore the lively open-air market and enjoy scenes of French country life. 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.

Chateau de Mercues
Mercues-Cahors, France
Days 6 to 8 (3 nights)



Hike on pilgrim trails and secret paths between villages perched on cliffs above the Lot 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, from chestnuts to foie gras, tasty Cahors wines


Length: 9 days
Cost From: $6895  
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 as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=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)