Starting in Bergerac and ending in La Rochelle, this itinerary begins with medieval villages and fairytale chateaus, before taking in calming nature, countryside producers, comic book culture, Hollywood movie locations, and the sweeping Atlantic coast.
Use it as a helpful guide to shape your own route or to simply get a flavour of some of the experiences available in the southwest of France!
DAY ONE: MONPAZIER
Begin by stepping back in time.
Aéroport Bergerac Dordogne-Perigord is an ideal startpoint to start your Nouvelle-Aquitaine trip, with lots of flights arriving from the UK and Europe.
The first stop is the perfectly preserved medieval village of Monpazier. Founded by the English king Edward I in 1284, it's famous for its medieval square and 'bastide' layout (a specific type of 13th century urban planning).
Due to its architecture and historical importance, Monpazier was a key filming location for 'The Last Duel' of Ridley Scott. The village is also one of ten of 'Les Plus Beaux Villages de France' found within the Dordogne-Perigord region.
💙 Driving: It's about an hour's drive to Monpazier from Bergerac airport, but as it's through such pretty countryside and villages, such as Couze et Saint-Front and Beaumont-du-Périgord, we'd recommend stretching this out a little if the sun is shining.
💙 Accommodation: The 19th century Château Hotel Edward 1er. A short walk from the square, owners Isabelle & Michel combine tradition with comfort, luxury, wellness, and really excellent food.
DAY TWO: BEYNAC, DOMME, AND CHÂTEAU DE FÉNELON
A slow breakfast and quick final walk around Monpazier (or the other way round if you prefer!), and it's time to set off deeper into the Dordogne Valley. One of the most famous parts of France amongst travellers, the Dordogne (better known to the French as Périgord) is home to gorgeous villages, fascinating history, and a raft of experiences in summer like hot-air ballooning, kayaking, and cycling.
For our road trip, we started off in Beynac to walk the pretty cobblestone streets and climb up to Château de Beynac, the imposing castle which overlooks the river.
After lunch, it's a scenic drive to Domme and Château de Fénelon. The hilltop village of Domme - the third and final of 'Les Plus Beaux Village de France' trio we'll visit in the Dordogne - enjoys perhaps the best view out over the valley and the river, whilst those who make the time to go underground will find a remarkable and accessible network of caves spanning several kilometres.
Château de Fénelon, which has featured in several films including The Last Duel, has been of strategic importance from the 15th century, and one can quickly appreciate the reasons behind this from the 360° views across the Dordogne from its walls. Within, there's all manner of important historical objects and pieces on display, so it's a real curiosity cabinet of a place and it's still inhabited as a private family home too!
💙 Driving: You'll be in and out of the car quite a bit today, but most of the journeys are relatively short and scenic.
💙 Tip: In this itinerary, it would be possible to spend several days in and around each place we visited in Nouvelle-Aquitaine - whether you're in full relax mode or in the mood to explore - so don't feel that you only need one day or night in each place. Slow travel is always the best way!
💙 Accommodation: Overlooking the Dordogne valley, Florence & Nathalie artfully converted a dilapidated 19th century barn into the sensitively modernised home & guesthouse called Hors-Série en Périgord, complete with their very own art gallery! If you can, try and arrive in time for the stunning sunset from their private deck and pool.
Find more travel inspiration & information for the Dordogne Valley Castles in this article.
DAY THREE: GREEN PÉRIGORD, BRANTÔME & BOURDEILLES
The day starts with a long drive from 'Black Perigord' in the southeast corner to 'Green Perigord' in the north. Via postcard scenes of fields of nuts, grain, and livestock and several more pleasant villages, it's one you won't want to rush through!
Along the way, there’s plenty opportunity to stop off at several of the small, hyper-local producers you'll see signposted on the roadside; we took a little detour to visit the saffron fields and shop of Jardins gourmands de la Tourouge. Established by Caroline & Ludovic a few years ago, they plant and pick the flowers required to create the delicate, highly-valued spice. Visitors can stop by to sample and buy a number of the saffron-laced treats they create - from cakes to jams and liqueurs - as well as a number of items from other small-scale producers in the region.
Afterwards, continue on to Brantôme, the Venice of the Périgord. A pleasant and photogenic small town with a blend of the medieval and renaissance architecture - as well as touches of quintessential Gallic flair - it's a good spot to have lunch, a coffee in the sun, and a wander by the water's edge.
The final stop today is little Bourdeilles. The village in the Dronne valley doesn't feature on the 'Les Plus Beaux Villages de France' list, but that omission only underlines just how much competition there is and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s embarrassment of riches! It does however make it an excellent slightly 'under the radar' choice if you're looking to experience an insight into village life in this part of France.
💙 Driving: There's quite a few hours of scenic driving today, with scope for detours down little farm lanes and stop-offs in villages or by scenes that catch your eye. It's about 2.5 hours from your accommodation to Brantôme, and then 15 minutes from the town to your accommodation in Bourdeilles
💙 Tip: Consider a stop at Les Jardins Tranquilles, a 12-acre park and gardens just outside of Brantôme.
💙 Accommodation: Château des Sénéchaux, a grand, lovingly restored 15th century château with fairytale towers, stories to tell, and excellent views. It's run by Kay & David, an English couple who bought it in 2011, and have created a very memorable setting to lay your head for the night
DAY FOUR: ANGOULÊME
Perched upon a hilltop looking down on the Charente river, the small city was personally chosen by cult film director Wes Anderson as the filming location for 'The French Dispatch'. This was a big seal of approval for us, and will be for many others, but Angoulême has drawn in visitors for decades due to its status as the comic book capital of Europe.
Whilst exploring the city, you'll see large-scale murals and small-scale street art of famous characters whilst the comic book museum (La Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image) will bring the art form to life for newbies, and enthral those who are already passionate about it.
We recommend dinner at Le Saint André, whilst the healthy student population here means you won't be short of options for drinks in the evening and a bit of a different atmosphere from the first half of this itinerary.
💙 Driving: It's a 1-hour drive to Angoulême from Bourdeilles, and then you can simply explore the city on foot!
💙 Tips: There are two large annual events in Angoulême to take note of: the Comic Book Festival in January, as well as the Circuit des Ramparts race held in September.
💙 Accommodation: We stayed at Hotel du Palais, a quirky, colourful hotel in an excellent central location.
Find more travel inspiration & must-do things on a visit to Angoulême in this article
And find our full article on Angoulême here
DAY FIVE: ANGOULÊME & MARAIS POITEVIN
After a morning and some of the early afternoon in the city - perhaps with a stop at the covered market, taking the in the views from the ramparts, or to tick off any final works of street art on your list - jump in the car and drive north-west to Marais Poitevin, France's second-largest wetlands and a Natural Regional Park.
As you'll pass through the gorgeous vineyards of Cognac en-route, it's not a bad idea to consider adding a stop or a half-day here as it's literally on the way.
However you segment the day, we highly recommend that you don't miss sunset and the thousands of birds flying at the Bay of Aiguillon !
💙 Driving: It's 2+ hours from Angoulême to the Marais Poitevin.
💙 Accommodation: A night at A l’ombre du Figuier, a beautifully converted stables which is homely and comfortable.
Find more travel inspiration & information for Marais Poitevin in this article
DAY SIX: MARAIS POITEVIN & LA ROCHELLE
There are a number of ways to experience the tranquility and contrasting landscapes of the Marais Poitevin - with lots of bicycle and walking trails - but heading out on a little flat boat from the locks at Bazoin is what we were recommended. With hundreds of kilometres of man-made canals criss-crossing the region, paddling along them under a canopy of trees and birdsong is certainly a peaceful, pleasant experience.
Afterward, a long lunch at nearby Les Étangs de Julie is a great option.
Once you're ready to leave nature behind, hop in the car for the short drive into La Rochelle.
The historic Atlantic-facing city, the epicentre of France's trade with the new world, is a great choice for a standalone city break. Incredibly bicycle-friendly, it's a good opportunity to rent two wheels to explore the coastline and streets, or to head out on one of several popular boat trips.
💙 Driving: It's about 20 minutes from the flat, open countryside of the wetlands to the city, so you won't need to plan too far in advance. In La Rochelle, you won't need your car to get around (unless you plan on visiting the Atlantic islands too).
💙 Tips: La Rochelle's foodie reputation is growing, so it's highly recommended to book your table in advance for dinner, especially on the weekends.
💙 Accommodation: Résidence des Indes, a treasure chest of a townhouse across several stories, tells stories of discovery and global connection in every nook and cranny. Created by Mr & Mrs Sabatier this is a bold, colourful living museum, tea room and guesthouse in their third-generation family home with Indian and French design brought together.
Find more travel inspiration + information in the Along Dusty Roads guide to La Rochelle
DAY SEVEN: LA ROCHELLE
The final day of our own road trip in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the end of yours! La Rochelle is the jumping off point for a trio of nearby islands - Ré, Aix, and Oléron - which are home to wild beaches, villages, and vineyards, so you may wish to make those your own next stop.
Alternatively, take the chance to get to know the city a little better with a morning at the busy Vieux Marché de La Rochelle, where local produce sellers spill out from the iron-wrought 18th century building and into the square outside. Climb the two towers of La Vieux Port for the best views over the city and historical context of its development or simply relax and indulge in retail therapy on Rue Saint-Nicolas and stock up on a few bottles of Pineau des Charentes to take home!
💙 Driving: La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport, with is several UK and European connections is about a 30-minute drive from the city center, so you don't have to stress about your departure.
Planning: Find more travel inspiration & information for La Rochelle & Islands destination here
You can also reed our article on La Rochelle here