Tuesday, 5 July 2011 12:00 AM
Exploring the beautiful Dordogne region of France is rewarding for so many reasons. Its charming vistas, wonderful wines and exquisite cuisine combine to make cycling holidays here a real experience for your senses. As well as picturesque landscapes and taste bud-tickling treats, the region is home to fascinating historical sites.
For these reasons, the Dordogne makes for particularly fabulous cycling holidays in France. You can explore independently, pedalling between hotels with your luggage transported by your tour operator, who will also supply everything you need to navigate your way through the local landscape.
Cycling independently is a great way to see the best of this region, giving you several route options on some days, as well as allowing you the freedom to travel at your own pace and take little detours.
And to put the finishing touch on gastronomic cycling holidays here, you can get a real taste of the region with especially sumptuous evening meals, prepared with the calibre of local cooking in mind. Some of the region's most famous ingredients include fois gras and truffles.
Your adventure will begin in the busy town of Souillac, which is known for its striking Benedictine abbey, among other attractions. Cycling to Sarlat, you'll be able to choose between two different routes.
The gentler of the two takes you along the Dordogne Valley - a route coloured with the possibility of a delicious lunch at the Chateau de Fenelon. Stopping here, you may also have the opportunity to see its wonderful collection of artefacts from the 15th to 18th centuries.
Alternatively, you could head out over the river, winding your way through Carlux and woodland to St Nathalene, a tiny village, before arriving at Sarlat.
You'll have a day to explore this former regional capital that's renowned for its delightful mix of architectural styles, which can be found in the Vieux Quartier - or old quarter.
Cycling to Les Eyzies next, you'll once again have a few options when it comes to trails to take. Visitors can opt to cycle through the Perigord Nord, or pedal to the Dordogne river stopping off at the fortified castle at Beynac.
Whichever route you choose, another wonderful gastronomic opportunity will be afoot when you arrive in St Cyprien - a lively destination excellent for long, indulgent lunches.
After enjoying a re-energising meal, you can head out on two wheels once more past the cave village the Roc de Cazelle and on to Les Eyzies, the prehistoric capital.
This is an absolute haven of fascinating prehistoric sights, featuring limestone cliffs pitted with ancient caves. You can choose to cycle to the Abri du Cap Blanc, the location of the sole frieze of prehistoric sculptures currently available for public viewing.
From Les Eyzies, you'll cycle on to Montignac via the River Vezere, visiting the oldest caves to be found in western Europe - La Roque St Christophe - en route. Arriving at your destination, you'll enjoy yet another gastronomic treat at your hotel in this pretty little medieval village.
Home to a wonderful ruined chateau, Montignac is a delight to explore and here you can also visit one of the top prehistoric sites in Europe, the Lascaux II caves, which house a staggering collection of ancient paintings.
The next day, you can begin the ride back to your first destination - Souillac. Along the way you will travel through gorgeous small villages, such as St-Amand-de-Coly, and have the chance to take fascinating detours before arriving in Souillac to conclude your gastronomic adventure.