Southwest France offers splendid natural landscapes, wild places, a rich architectural, gastronomic and human heritage, as well as numerous prehistoric sites. In this 16-stage Collection, you visit ornate caves with parietal cave art.
Your journey starts in the Rhone Valley, passes through the Ardèche Gorges, crosses the Cevennes Mountains, explores the regions of Lot and Dordogne and heads south to the peaks of the Pyrenees. From there, you travel east along the massif through the regions of Ariege and Aude before ending your journey in Perpignan, the Catalan capital of France.
This Collection is for both cycle tourers and bikepackers. The stages vary from 26 to 136 kilometres (16 to 84.5 mi) in length. Per day, you average 78 kilometres (48 mi). The route is challenging when it crosses the Cevennes mountains from stages 2 to 4. There’s a lot of climbing. However, thanks to the diverse landscapes, the rides are still wonderful. There are numerous gastronomic specialties and local produce to try on the way too.
These circular routes take you to different places each day. For example, you discover cave art in Chauvet and Lascaux, and explore impressive but unknown places such as Pech Merle, Cougnac, Gargas and Tautavel.
Although some sections are more remote than others, you’ll always find something to eat and drink along the routes so you don’t need to carry much food.
The arrival and departure cities of Pont-Saint-Esprit and Perpignan are well served by public transport, especially rail. Regional trains carry bicycles free of charge and have a dedicated carriage for them.
I recommend picking up a copy of the Pocket Guide to Prehistoric France by Philippe Boitel. The book will help you to deepen your understanding. At the end of your adventure, you finish close to the Mediterranean Sea – don’t forget to take full advantage of this!
Please note that the sites and museums along the way mostly charge entry fees. They’re usually open from mid-April to mid-November and are all easily accessible by bicycle.
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Last updated: September 25, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The Chauvet cave, whose parietal paintings date back to 38,000 years ago, is one of the four most important prehistoric sites in the world. This discovery, which dates from 1994, called into question everything we knew about art. You will visit an exceptional replica of cave paintings.
The itinerary for…
For this second stage, your day will be punctuated by remarkable sites.
The departure takes place from the unmissable Pont-d'Arc. The real Chauvet cave is very close (few people know it).
Today's destination is in the heart of the Cévennes National Park in the town of Florac. Shortly before arrival you…
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
A very beautiful day awaits you. You will first follow the magnificent Gorges du Tarn to meet two emblematic villages: Castelbouc and Sainte-Énimie.
I advise you to stop there for a break and why not for a swim in the invigorating waters of the river.
A magnificent but difficult climb will take you to…
From Millau and its highest viaduct in the world - a feat of modern technology - to Sainte-Cécile d'Albi cathedral, splendor of Gothic architecture, the imposing buildings are impressive.
Between the two towns you continue to follow the Tarn valley between typical villages and natural curiosities such…
The prehistoric site that you will visit today is very old since it is the Bruniquel cave occupied by Neanderthals over 100,000 years ago. A unique structure was found inside the cavity made of stalactites cut and arranged in an arc.
This relatively short stage will allow you to take a well-deserved break…
You will spend a full day in the Lot department, starting with a stop at Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, followed by a surprising waterfall around thirty kilometers.
I encourage you to stop at the village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, which is on the list of the most beautiful villages in France.
This place is simply…
You leave the Lot today to arrive in the department of France which has the greatest concentration of prehistoric works: the Dordogne.
Sarlat is one of the most beautiful towns in the region and it is also your base for this evening. Medieval city par excellence which deserves to be known and explored…
Step eight is short. Many discoveries will be in your path today; starting with the meticulously well-made replica of the Lascaux cave located in the village of Montignac at the start of the Vézère valley and also known by its nickname "Valley of Man".
The new "Lascaux 4" building is well integrated into…
A fairly short and easy stage to get to your next destination: the city of Bergerac.
The departure is given at the entrance of the cave of Font-de-Gaume at the exit of the village. To visit this decorated cave and its parietal paintings, you must book by phone, if possible a week before if you come to…
Today we are leaving the Dordogne to join Eauze in the Gers, passing through the Lot-et-Garonne department.
The magnificent Château Bridoire in the heart of the Monbazillac vineyards stands in your way. This beautiful fifteenth century building is worth the trip.
I recommend a lunch stop halfway along…
The Pyrenean relief becomes clearer as you descend to the south. Tonight you will be at the foot of the mountains. In the village of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.
Exceptional site, a prehistoric visit is required at the end of the route. This is the Grotte de Gargas located in the town of Aventignan and…
Today's stage is relatively short with very little difference in height and will allow you to recover from your efforts. The route follows the Gers at first and goes around the hills of the Pyrenean foothills that you can see in the distance.
The route uses cycle paths on numerous occasions. You will…
This is one of my favorite stops! We go from surprise to surprise around every bend.
First good surprise: after leaving Tarascon you will drive almost immediately on an old railway line transformed into a cycle path.
You will then embark on a departmental road without traffic which arrives in an enchanting…
Your departure instead of the cave of Niaux which I strongly encourage you to visit.
This prehistoric landmark has a gigantic porch and a breathtaking view of the valley.
During the visit, the guide will lend you lamps to move through the cave because "the Salon Noir", the part of the cave which contains…
A day rich in discoveries. You leave from Espéraza in the direction of Rennes-le-château and Bugarach. These two towns bear the mark of a rich history with a few secrets: the Cathar treasure for one and an enigmatic mountain for the other.
To get to Tautavel, I chose to take you through the narrow, deep…
You only have twenty-six kilometers left to reach the city center of Perpignan and conclude this journey. The route ends at the train station in the capital of French Catalonia. From Perpignan - a large and well-connected city - you can easily get to your next destination. There are also Bus lines nearby…
Bike Touring Collection by Fred Urrutia
Bike Touring Collection by Tourspain
Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore
Bike Touring Collection by Amy