Biking & Canoeing Down the Dordogne
The Dordogne’s rivers meander through countryside that’s among the most verdant and historic in France. This area is underpopulated but dotted with monuments, châteaux, 12th-century villages, and charming churches.
As you bike around, the rural character of the area unfolds before you. No château, hotel, or inn treats you disdainfully if you show up on two rather than four wheels. (Au contraire, the staff will probably offer advice on suitable bike routes.) If you’re ever in doubt about where your handlebars should lead you, know that you’ll rarely go wrong if your route parallels the riverbanks of the Lot, the Vézère, the Dordogne, or any of their tributaries. Architects and builders since the 11th century have added greatly to the visual allure of their watersides.
France’s national train service, SNCF, makes it easy to transport a bike on the nation’s railways. However, if you don’t want to bring your own wheels on the train, the region has plenty of rental shops. (Recommended rentals are in the sections on Périgueux and Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.)
Exploring the rivers by canoe is another option. Every summer, a flotilla of bathing-suited visitors can be seen paddling down the Dordogne; the Lot and the Vézère get less traffic and are also beautiful. The rivers tend to be shallow and lazy, perfect for a family outing.
Le Comité Départemental du Tourisme, 25 rue du Président Wilson in Périgueux (www.dordogne-perigord-tourisme.fr; tel. 05-53-35-50-24), provides information about all the towns in the département and will help you organize biking, hiking, kayaking, and canoeing trips. Two of the best outdoors outfitters are Canoë Loisir, Vitrac (www.canoes-loisirs.com; tel. 05-53-31-22-92 or 05-53-28-23-43) and Adventure Plein Air, St-Léon sur Vézère (www.canoevezere.com; tel. 05-53-50-67-71), or just head to the town of Brantôme, which has several places to pick up canoes.