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Dordogne & Provence (+Riviera?) Suggestions

My mother and I are planning a trip to France next year in April or May, and we have scheduled 7 days to cover the Dordogne and Provence (3.5 days in Dordogne, 3.5 days in Provence). We will have a car. I am struggling to narrow down the best sights and choose our home bases. Our main goal is to see picturesque villages/architecture/nature and learn about local history. What are your favorite "back door" scenic & historic destinations in these regions and what draws you to them?

We are also considering adding a day or two in the French Riviera in addition to the 7 days. We are looking to avoid large crowds on this trip, so the Riviera does not seem very appealing with that in mind. Are there any secluded and scenic areas of the riviera that are easily accessible with a car?

Posted by
4190 posts

If you have a day or two to add, add them to the Dordogne and to Provence. Driving between Dordogne and Provence takes a full day, so you really only have 3+3 days, which is a bit tight for both. 4+4 would be better!

I won't comment on Dordogne destinations, m'y knowledge of the area is not thorough enough.
For Provence, beyond the usual Avignon / Arles / St Rémy / Isle sur la Sorgue, I really like Uzès. Not technically in Provence, but similar vibe, with lots of elegant 17th century architecture, a great market and Pont du Gard and Nîmes very close by.

By the way, if you drive between Provence and Dordogne, you can either stick with the fastest route via Toulouse and perhaps briefly stop by Carcassonne on the way, or make a scenic drive out of it and go via the Cévennes, the Gorges de la Jonte (Meyrueis), Rodez (just as a waypoint), Rocamadour. About 7 hours vs 5.5 via Toulouse

Posted by
21317 posts

I agree with balso. I wouldn't want to split a week between the Dordogne and Provence.

I didn't have a car as I traveled through those areas, so I don't have a back door for you. I'd just warn that you need to allow enough time to get to the upper (religious) part of Rocamadour if you go there. The lower part of town is now a street full of cafes and shops selling tourist trinkets.

Posted by
3332 posts

On one visit to the Dordogne, we stayed in Castelnaud la Chapelle. We did excursions to Les Milandes, once owned by Josephine Baker and Chateau de Marqueysac, especially known for its gardens. The Dordogne is full of sites for viewing pre-historic art. Some require reservations. We have visited many and loved the experience. Les-Eyzies has a museum of prehistory.

Be careful about your dates. The area of the Riviera around the time of the Cannes Film Festival is inundated with tourists, and prices are at their highest. There is also a holiday (Ascension Day?) when schools in some countries have a long break. It’s a time when you’ll find more crowds.

Posted by
8512 posts

Actually April is when travel picks up again during the Easter spring breaks. You'll have families. Then May has three holidays: 1st, 8th, and 30th. People go on long weekends and the most closings will be on May 1st, especially in Nice.

Posted by
847 posts

I did a mother daughter trip to the Dordogne and Provence a few years ago and it was one of the best trips I've ever done. I would repeat it in a heartbeat. Stayed in Sarlat for the Dordogne and St Remy for Provence. I did go on to the Riviera but stayed inland (Vence) as it was July and didn't want to deal with the crowds on the coast. But I had more time than you do, I would skip the Riviera and add the time to Dordogne and Provence.

Here is the trip report I wrote on that trip. https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/photo-safari-to-the-south-of-france-the-italian-rivera-and-the-swiss-alps-990300/

If you want to see photos go to https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p233500526 and https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p892967915 (rather than the link in the trip report)