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Driving from Dordogne to Barcelona. Which route?

We can go via Carcassone, then along the coast (Collioure, Girona, etc.--we've been to both on separate trips). OR, we can go south at Toulouse, (through the Pyrenees, I guess), and Andorra. Thoughts from those familiar with the area? If we wanted to break up the 6 hour drive for stopping for a night, any suggestions for either of these routes? I'd thought of Carcassone for the more coastal route, but then read a 2015 blog post by Cameron Hewitt calling the town a big "meh." I'm not a big walker/hiker anyway, and I've seen my share of castles.

So other thoughts and suggestions?

Posted by
3648 posts

What time of year are you making the drive?

To clarify you just have one night between Dordogne and Barcelona?

Are you aware of the foreign car rental drop-off fees, typical in the hundreds of euros?

Posted by
1364 posts

A couple I know visited his folks second home in Albi and were amazed. The birth place of Toulouse Lautrec, the Museum of his works is here. His mother tried to gift the Louvre with these; but they didn't recognize his more contemporary genius. In homage to his works, artists make pilgrimages to the Artisan Pastellier of Didier Boinnard at 5 Rue Puech Berengular for the one of the most extensive range of Pastel Hues in the World. The are also farms that are involved in Pastel Production that are open to the public. This year Albi is on the 5th leg of the Tour de France Bike Race on Thursday 27 July 2023. UNESCO gave Albi the World Heritage Award for French Landscape.

Posted by
24935 posts

The capital of Andorra wasn't a great destination in 1972 and has deteriorated since then. The term "outlet mall" gets tossed around. The scenery in that area is certainly worth seeing, though. You can go to and zoom way in to see the most scenic roads highlighted in green. Slightly off the route that skirts Andorra-the-country to the west is La Seu d'Urgell. Puigcerda (poo cher DAH) is essentially right on that route. Both towns (not tiny) have attractive architecture. There are several old, small villages along highway N-260 between the two. Note that the Cerdanya Valley can be blisteringly hot in the summer. If you have a bit of extra time you could take the short detour northeast of Puigcerda to Llivia, an old Spanish town completely surrounded by France. The small towns in this area don't seem to get many tourists; I'm doubtful that they have much in the way of traditional sights--maybe an old church or two. Puigcerda does get visitors, as does La Seu d'Urgell.

If you need an earlier stop, I can recommend Foix.

On the other route you have Toulouse, a city of considerable size with lots of very attractive pink-brick architecture and quite a lot of sights. For both those reasons, it's not necessarily a great place for a quick stop, but I liked it a lot. I'd say it would be worth it if you could give the city at least six hours.

Albi, as previously mentioned, is also worthwhile, but it's off the direct route.

Beyond Carcassonne is Narbonne, to which I took a quick day trip a few years ago. It seemed like a promising place to spend a bit more time. Further south is Perpignan. It's a bit less polished-for-tourists than some other French cities, I'd say, but I liked it. The Palace of the Kings of Mallorca is worth a visit. I remember it as being basically unfurnished, but my memory has been known to fail me on points like that; I'm not a palace person.

Collioure is an attractive town. If you like modern art, I recommend the Museum of Modern Art. It's not large.

Posted by
123 posts

Replying to Carlos: Our time is flexible at this point. We will be traveling mid May to early June. We plan to stay about 2 weeks. We could allot more time between Dordogne and Barcelona. It's a six hour drive, and we'd prefer to break up the trip. On past trips to France, we've stayed in Colluire for a few days, and on a trip to Barcelona, we spent a few days exploring the towns to the North (Girona, Figueres, Cadeques). I'm more interested in the Spanish Civil War, (and the resistance fighters who crossed the mountains in their fight against fascism) than I am in churches and castles. One exception: the Sagrada Familia, which I'm looking forward to revisiting.


Posted by
3648 posts

Hi thanks for extra info, I ask about weather because some people will try to cross the Pyrenees too early in the spring and find some of the high mountain roads still snowed in. You should not have that problem in late May and into June.

If you go over the Pyrenees, I can recommend: Vielha or Foix or Puigcerdà as mid way stops

If you go along the coastline, I can recommend Carcassonne or Perpignan or Besalú as mid way stops

I commend you for your interest in the Spanish Civil War, unfortunately I don't think there are related sites in the Pyrenees. You would have to head more south west into the Aragon region for Civil War sites. If you have the flexibility for a multi day side trip you could follow the George Orwell route in the Aragon region. On the route you will find the very places that inspired his book Homage to Catalonia, like Monte Iranzo battleground, Tres Huegas bunkers, and the Santa Quiteria Hermitage.

You can read more about the route here:

Posted by
6104 posts

If you choose the coastal route, there is a small-but-poignant Spanish Civil War site in Argelès-sur-Mer: a cemetery (cimetière des Espagnols) for those who fell during the arduous journey or at the camp, and a stone commemorating the dire refugee camp that was set up on the beach, with barely any protection against the elements.
Further north, Rivesaltes refugee camp is a more developed memorial site, but it covers several eras since it was, umm... repurposed more than once.