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This ideal route to do by car takes you through the most beautiful north of the department of Lot, next to the river Dordogne.
Before adding to any confusion, let us clarify that this river that runs through one of the most wonderful inland areas of France crosses several French departments, including the department of Dordogne (area of the famous Black Périgord), the Lot, or Corréze, among others. The Dordogne valley is 483 kilometres long and is therefore organised into several sections at tourist level.
If you want to see the post about the stretch of the Dordogne valley by the Black Perigord, I advise you to see the route I did through villages of the Dordogne-Perigord. In this post I will concentrate on my tour and recommendations for the Dordogne River Valley area in the department of Lot (which I did on my second trip to the area). By the way, there is also a beautiful valley nearby, a route that accompanies the river Lot (which is further south), the same river that gives name to the department. This nearby route that I also made has another post: route following the most beautiful villages by the valley of the Lot.
In Autoire, one of the good reasons to make this route (Images *Matías Callone)
What do you expect to see on the Dordogne River in the Lot part? This region in addition to being calmer tourist that the valley in the part of the Perigord, is still crowded while we enter towards the east (the exception would be two inescapable points of the route as they are Rocamadour and the cave of Padirac). In my experience it was a real box of surprises and beauties, precisely because knowing less about the place, expectations are tempered, and what we find is a wonder that surpasses us: villages with a lot of charm, several of them members of the association of the most beautiful villages of France (Les plus beaux Villages de France), imposing castles, nature in a precious setting, history and heritage. The section of the Dordogne river through the department of Lot runs between Souillac (near the Perigord) and Sousceyrac. But the towns and places to see, are not only on the bank of the river, but also have to make some detours exploring the north of the department of Lot. It is worth knowing that the Dordogne River is classified by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve.
A photo from the air in Carennac, one of the most beautiful villages in France that is part of the route
My essentials in the Dordogne Valley in Lot (the points of my route) are also those that I mark as essential and that I recommend to visit:
(note: do not forget that the following route could be the continuation of the route through Dordogne Perigord which is linked in the second paragraph)
1. Rocamadour > 2. Gouffre de Padirac > 3. Autoire > 4. Loubressac > 5. Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux > 6. Carennac
The route (and the extra suggestions you’ll see below) are all indicated on the map:
Estimated time for the route by 6 points of the Dordogne Valley – Lot : we are talking about a journey of 49 kilometers, which is nothing, and yet my recommendation is to devote at least three days to cover it. Especially places like the Grotto of Padirac require at least three hours between arrival, waiting to enter, and the tour. In addition there are towns like Rocamadour that are very nice to stay a few hours not only walking its streets, but also enjoying its shops or restaurants.
Impressions of the route. Just as Rocamadour will be the most “crowded” town on the route (especially if we go in summer is a world of people), other towns are beautiful and much quieter. This is the case of Autoire, or the small Loubressac, or even the castle of Castelnau-Bretenoux. The three villages classified as the most beautiful in France on this route are: Autoire, Loubressac and Carennac. They’re all small and you could say we could walk them in just an hour. However, in Carennac, you can also enjoy the visit to the museum (free) with some regional history. Or in Rocamadour to visit the churches, abbey as well as to go up to the viewpoints, all activities that can extend us in the visit.
Reasons to visit each point of the route:
Rocamadour. This town is as famous as it is impressive: it is literally attached to a cliff. You can see all the details and my photos of Rocamadour in this post
2. Gouffre de Padirac. I don’t have photos of this grotto, because they don’t allow you to take photos on the guided tour. It was discovered at the end of the 19th century near Gramat and today it is one of the main attractions of the Lot. It is an underground river that today can be visited in a stretch. And I assure you that walking there is very impressive (even in a stretch you navigate this subterranean river): you pass through illuminated subterranean vaults. The most curious thing is that the chasm through which you enter the caves was inhabited until the end of the sixteenth century. The cave is at a depth of 103 meters, and is descended either by stairs, or by elevators after paying the corresponding entrance. My recommendation is that if you go in summer and high season or book a day before on the web, or go very early because there are places and waits. When booking the previous day via web we will be assigned a schedule and thus avoid the wait. ( Official website of Gouffre de Padirac)
3. Autoire. A village with few tourists compared to the previous points. And yet it’s a real beauty on a small scale. I leave you linked my post and photos of Autoire. (It is another of the villages of the association of the most beautiful of France)
Autoire is one of the most beautiful little villages on the route.
4. Loubressac. On this route, Loubressac is the second village to form part of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France association. Small, compact and beautiful.
5. Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux. This castle is in the commune of Prudhomat (and should not be confused when looking for it on the map with the village of Bretenoux, which by the way is also beautiful and very close). This is one of the most impressive castles in the region, a historical monument classified since 1862 as such. To approach him from the road is already worth seeing him so imposing. You can walk the old village around the castle and also visit it (I leave you the link to the official website of the castle of Castelnay-Bretenoux).
6. Carennac. Although we were travelling through the Dordogne Valley in Lot, we still saw little and nothing of the Dordogne river. This town is on the banks of the river, so it will be an opportunity to enjoy that wild landscape next to the water. And above all, the possibility of walking through a beautiful village. It is also a member of the association of the most beautiful in France.
Recommended time to do the route: although the kilometers are very few, to do the itinerary that I recommend (with six unmissable points) I would say that it is necessary to dedicate no less than three days and two nights. Now, if we already programmed to do as much the valley of the Dordogne in the Perigord as in Lot, the route would extend it to at least one week. And if we add to that all the extras I mention below in Lot, plus all the extras indicated in the route by the Dordogne-Perigord, we would already be talking about at least ten days.
Where to stay in the Lot part. I’m going to name some of the villages that I think are the most beautiful for lodging and base. Since the distances are very small in this region and route (although there is much to see), it is a good idea to base it on one of the villages. The most beautiful to my impression to make night would be Rocamadour, Autoire and Carennac. The most animated of them and with more shops and options is Rocamadour. I leave you the links where you can look for accommodation and offers in each: Accommodation in Rocamadour / Accommodation in Autoire / Accommodation in Carennac.
More towns and suggested places in Dordogne-Lot. Although I couldn’t get to know them for the time being, I’m going to add recommendations that you should think about if you have more days (or want to see more worthwhile sites in this beautiful region). For example, the villages of Montvalent, Cornac, Bretenoux, or Gluges (small and charming next to a cliff), are also included in the map (although not in the route that appears in the map that only concentrates on the essential ones), as well as Creysse (with its small port on the river). Also suggested small towns such as Martel (the seven towers), or Souillac, with an important heritage that includes a Roman abbey. Another option is to visit more caves such as Lacave (a network of Jurassic limestone caves).
For example, and to give you an idea, this would be one of the suggested “extra” towns I recommend visiting (Cornac).
Finally, in this table I leave you recommendations of services and discounts that I also use in my travels in France.
PLAN – PRICE
Recommendations and discounts for France
Book your flight to France here
Hotels at very good prices in France here (take advantage of the discounted prices)
Rent a car in France here up to 15% less
Find organized tours and excursions in France here (in Spanish)
Take out your travel insurance for France here
Organize your own trip in France
*All images belong to Matías Callone.
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