Visiting some of the 34 most beautiful villages in Nouvelle-Aquitaine is really the perfect way to get to know the region. All you need to do now is choose which one to start with!
I strongly recommend those in well-known Black Perigord, as they're so close together along the Dordogne you can visit them all in a weekend, spending a half-day in each: Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castelnaud-la-Chapelle built around two enemy castles, La Roque-Gageac, at the foot of a cliff, and Domme, built on rock and overlooking the valley.
Like many others, I absolutely adore the two neighbouring villages of Sare and Aïnhoa in the Basque Country for their colours – red, white and green of the half-timbered houses, their rolling countryside in the Pyrenean foothills close to the Spanish border: they are also ideally place for getting out and about on foot or on the Rhune Railway.
As this is where my heart is, I have a slight weakness for the villages of Lot-et-Garonne. All three are very close together (less than 40km between them). Walking through their pretty streets is like opening a storybook telling the tale of how fortified towns sprung up in the 12th and 13th centuries when Aquitaine was in the hands of the English. Rendez-vous in Pujols, Tournon d’Agenais, Penne d'Agenais, Monflanquin and Villeréal, and perhaps Monpazier (in the Dordogne) if you really want to get into the history.
As old castles and forts have always been a favourite of mine, I need to mention Brouage in Charente-Maritime in the marshlands between Rochefort and the île d'Oléron; from turret to bastion the parapet walk all around town will take you past no fewer than 19 watch towers and following in the footsteps of Vauban.
Let's not forget the extremely scenic and well-preserved Navarrenx in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, first bastioned town in France, with its 1657m of ramparts, gunpowder magazine and arsenal.
For the inquisitive, I recommend, Aubeterre-sur-Dronne in Charente, with its astonishing underground church; Talmont-sur-Gironde, a peninsula bastide on the estuary edge in Charente-Maritime; Angles-sur-l’Anglin, in the Vienne with its artists past and present, from the Roc aux Sorciers sculpted frieze to today's thread embroiderers; and lastly, Collonges-la-Rouge in Corrèze for the beautiful red sandstone houses that give the town its name.
And just to be sure you don't miss anything: you might like to know that the Île de Ré has added to its charm factor with two "Most Beautiful Village in France", that I could also have mentioned a string of "Most Beautiful Village in France" in southern Corrèze (in addition to Collonges-la-Rouge, Turenne and Curemonte) and that many villages missing from this list are well-worth the detour!