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Helpful Guide to the Unforgettable South West Region of France

While France has many beautiful places that can offer a brilliant holiday getaway, the South West region is particularly alluring since not only is it wonderfully picturesque with its many medieval villages and stunning beaches, it is also a key wine producing area.
Bordering the Atlantic Ocean rather that the Mediterranean, the South West of France offers breath-taking views, not least the rolling countryside and the magnificent Pyrenees Mountains along with the numerous rivers that flow from it.
The following guide will give you an overview of some unmissable places to stay at when planning a holiday in this lovely part of France.

Must-See Places to Visit in Aquitane
Situated on the border with Spain, Aquitaine is one of the 27 regions of France. It is composed of 5 French departments, namely Dordogne, Gironde, Lot/Tarn et Garonne, Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques.
In addition to the unforgettable places and activities which are listed, there is an inexhaustible wealth of additional marvels to uncover in Aquitaine – this is merely a sample of some of the prettiest areas to keep in mind: .Luxury holiday villas in France

Gironde
The largest department in metropolitan France, Gironde benefits from a gentle climate and includes the famous Bordeaux wine region. It runs along the Atlantic coastline, River Gironde and the Bay of Arcachon (a key destination for oyster enthusiasts).

Cap Ferret is a must-see destination – this stunning location with sandy beaches is a protected hinterland, allowing you to sail, walk or cycle alongside the Atlantic Ocean and Bassin d’Arcachon with traditional oyster beds.

Other activities in this picturesque area include the popular ‘Bordeaux a vélo’ (Bordeaux by bike) trail which lets you conveniently explore the entire fabulous and the numerous French vineyard tours where you can sample some of the most delicious wine in the world.

Dordogne
Named after the great Dordogne river that runs through it, this lovely locale is nestled between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees. The area offers a wealth of captivating castles, chateaux, churches and cave fortresses which have been carefully preserved from centuries past. In addition, there are a number of charming villages in the area where you can sample some wonderful market stall foods and eateries.

Some key destinations include the mediaeval presqu’ile city of Cahors, the capital of the Lot, with superb architecture, cobbled streets and regional market. Then there is Bergerac which offers some of the finest wines in the Bordeaux region, picturesque Sarlat which many say is one of the most alluring towns in South West France, and Périgueux which is currently the seat of a Roman Catholic diocese and site of the stunning Saint-Front cathedral.

Lot/Tarn et Garonne
Located slightly further inland, the French departments of Lot/Tarn et (and) Garonne were named after the three main rivers that run through the large area. This destination boasts a wealth of mouth-watering local attractions, including rare yet utterly delicious truffles.

Further key places to visit while staying in the area are the Chateau of Gramont (a mediaeval castle dating from 1535) and the outstanding Roque Saint-Christophe Fort et Cite Troglodytiques, a stunning cliff city built in the Middle Ages.

Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Named after the formidable Pyrenees mountain range and Atlantic Ocean, this border province of France gets added flavour from having cultural links with Spain. The area also has a varied climate, allowing for brilliant winter skiing and excellent summer surfing.

Biarritz is often ranked one of the primary places to visit in the area because of  the pristine beaches, renowned surf and excellent golf courses. Also do not miss the world renowned Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, located 150km across the French/Spanish border.

Must-See Places to Visit in Gascony
Although there is much debate over the size of territory that Gascony covers, most definitions put the area east and south of Bordeaux. The Romans originally called the region Aquitania, from the Latin word ‘aqua’ (meaning water) because of the many rivers flowing through it from the Pyrenees.

While there are numerous lovely places to visit in Gascony, this guide will take a look at one particularly quaint locale:

Le Gers
Classified as a department which was created during the French Revolution and situated in the Midi-Pyrénées region about midway between Toulouse and Lourdes, this charming destination was named after the Gers River which flows through it.

The Gers is characterised by picturesque villages and beautiful rolling countryside, with the Pyrenees mountain range to the south. It has a relatively small and friendly population, making it the perfect place for a relaxing getaway free from crowds.

Other must-see excursions would be the religiously significant town of Lourdes, plus the town of Auch (historical capital of Gascony) which features massive stone steps leading from the river Gers up past the statue of D'Artagnan (the fabled fourth musketeer) to a magnificent cathedral complete with ornate choir stalls that are reputed to be the finest in all of France. In the summer, the entire Gascony region also hosts a number of excellent music festivals, such as Classical in Auch, Tempo Latino in Vic-Fezensac and Jazz at Marciac.

The Gers culture is largely agricultural, with great importance placed on gastronomical specialties such as delectable wild mushrooms, the famous Armagnac brandy, Côtes de Gascogne (superb white wine is produced in this district) and Floc de Gascogne (a regional aperitif).

Conclusion

In this guide we have looked at some of the most charming destinations in the South West of France. There are so many captivating sights and gastronomical delights to be had in this area that you could spend a memorable holiday uncovering every gem, or alternatively simply soaking in the beautiful views as you relax with a superb glass of wine or brandy.


For further details of our recommended rental properties please select a French region:

 

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