5 Ways to Explore Beautiful Aquitaine, France
by Angie Picardo
Aquitaine is one of France’s beloved areas for tourism. It has long stretches of coastal landscapes, including many beaches, along the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side of the region, the mountainous terrain of the Pyrenees. Located in the southwestern part of France, it is also rife with history. At one time Aquitaine was called Gallia Aquitania and was a province of the Roman Empire. This period dates back to 27 BC. By 507 AD, the Franks had taken over rule.
Here is a short list of some noteworthy things to see and do when visiting this fabulous region of France.
1. Visit Prehistoric Sites
Prehistoric people left many symbols and artifacts, including cave paintings, in the Period region just north of Aquitaine. Artifacts dating back tens of thousands of years have been documented here. These sites are very fragile and are protected in order to preserve and study them. The site at Régourdou has a Neanderthal tomb, a museum and live bears. A 45 minute guided talk is available that is a great resource for education about the area.
At La Roque-St-Christophe, there is a prehistoric cave village set in a limestone cliff. This site is believed to have been first inhabited 55,000 years ago. It is located within the town of Peyzac-le-Moustier.
Grottes de Font-de-Gaume et des Combarelles has over 200 prehistoric paintings in more than one color. This cave is open to the public.
Visiting any of these prehistoric sites requires some scheduling as many are only open certain months out of the year.
2. Food and Wine Tours
Perigord is world-famous for its best known commodity: foie gras,which is made from the livers of geese or ducks. The truffles are also highly prized.
Bergerac in the Dordogne is famous for its wine, unsurprisingly called Bergerac. Within Bergerac, there about 1,000 wine growers.
Monbazillac is a sweet white wine grown in Perigord, and it too is named for the area where it is grown, which is located on the Dordogne River.
3. Visit Coastal Beaches.
This region boast 250 kilometers of white sandy beaches along the Atlantic Coast. From the Médoc to the Bay of Arcachon, Landes and the Basque, it’s easy to find an uncrowded bit of shoreline for a day of sitting in the sun. Or take advantage of the boating and surfing available.
4. Enjoy the Mountains.
If you like the mountains, there is a beautiful seven mile train ride that climbs up approximately 2,000 meters in the Pyrenees National Park to an alpine lake at Artouste. There are also many walking and hiking trails to spectacular vistas.
5. Camping and The Outdoors
Perigord is naturally beautiful. The Dordogne River is popular in summer months for swimming, canoeing, kayaking fishing, rowing, rafting and general lounging.
At the coast, it is possible to camp and visit the many small villages at various sites. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Les Acacais is a quiet site near a great beach, with washing machines and a supermarket just one mile away. The small towns of Bayonne and Dax are also close by.
- Ilbarritz is near Barritz, which is the surf capital of France. It has an outdoor pool with slides and is near very pleasant beaches. During the high season there is a free bus to Biarritz. There are also washing machines and Wi-Fi.
- Le Saint Martin is located near a huge beach and the small village of Moliets-Plage. A heated indoor pool, Wi-Fi, sea fishing and a forest are some of the attractive amenities.
This list is a tiny sample of the scores of beach campsites available.
There are many more things to enjoy when visiting as Aquitaine abounds with enjoyable activities, cultural experiences and scenery for visitors. I hope you get to visit sometime soon!
Angie Picardo is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, a Francophile and lover of macaroons. She’s currently staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance and travel site dedicated to helping people get the most from their money, whether it’s planning the next trip abroad or choosing between prepaid tuition and college savings plans.