Nouvelle-Aquitaine: The favourites of Salt in our Hair

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Visiting Nouvelle-Aquitaine was like having five different holidays rolled into one. The region’s diversity is spectacular; we drove through country roads, mountains, stunning French villages, and discovered the epic landscapes of the Atlantic Coast. Below you’ll find the best moments of our trip.

On our journey, we saw how the region focuses on the environment and sustainability, which we took advantage of - using the endless cycle paths, and (pretty awesome) electric transport options like a tuktuk and quad! Best of all, was the mouthwatering delights, from local cheeses to delicious wines specific to each part of the region.

Kayaking on the Dordogne River

Floating with the current down the enormous Dordogne River is the best way to understand the nature that makes Nouvelle-Aquitaine so spectacular. We paddled by kayak past tall cliffs, postcard-worthy villages, and hilltop castles.

Best of all, during the summer, the water levels can be quite low. This means you can jump out of the kayak easily and explore what lies on the banks of the river! We absolutely loved exploring the section of the Dordogne River, named ‘The Valley of Castles’. Kayaking down this section will allow you to see the castles Beynac, Castlenaud, Fayrac, and Marqueyssac from the water.

Tip: Stop for lunch along the river in the medieval village of Beynac. It's so beautiful it was used as the setting for the world-famous movie ‘Chocolat’

The island Ile de Ré

Welcome to the eco-paradise of Ile de Re! This was such a beautiful natural surprise to find on the west coast of France. Known as the jewel of the Atlantic, it’s no surprise that the people of Ile de Re are working to protect the amazing wildlife, flora, and fauna.

We spent our days cycling and paddleboarding among the luscious network of salt marshes, strolling hand in hand amongst the romantic streets of the villages, and eating at traditional bakeries.

As foodies, this was also one of the greatest parts of our trip. The island is home to stunning vineyards with ecological wines, as well as oyster farms and salt marshes. Here, you can learn about the ancient methods that families still use, passed down through generations. What really matters most on Ile de Re is respecting the nature of the island.

Discovering Sarlat Village

Jump right into the pages of a Harry Potter book in Sarlat! Every corner of this village will charm and delight, with its gorgeous brown-tiled roofs and evening gas-lit streets. In fact, Sarlat has the highest amount of historical buildings per square foot in the whole of France!

Not only is it a pleasure to walk around and explore, but we also enjoyed the gastronomical experiences. The region is known for its production of the delicacies of truffle, walnuts, and Bergerac wine. The incredible markets reflect this, allowing visitors to sample and buy all this unique local produce.

We were especially blown away learning about the famous truffle from the ‘Perigord’ named the ‘Black Diamond’: one of the most desired ingredients by gourmet chefs worldwide.

Note: Sarlat can get busy in high season, but it’s still worth visiting as the architecture is truly magical!

The island Ile d'Aix

Who would ever believe you could find a Caribbean feeling in France?! Despite only being 20 minutes away from Rochefort, this island is a world away when it comes to its scenery. Approach the island by boat, and see blue waters, tropical plant life, and white sand beaches.

The desert island vibe is even more real when you see that Ile d’Aix is traffic-free! Because of this, cycle paths are covering the whole island so that you can explore to your heart's content. We cycled a couple of hours and stopped at every beautiful beach and cove!

Tip: We wished we could have watched the sun go down over this magical island, but unfortunately we had to take the last ferry back to the mainland. It’s possible to stay overnight if you book in advance for a guesthouse or camp spot.

Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

On reaching Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, we instantly saw why this village is on the list of the most pretty villages in France. White-stone houses, with wooden balconies and hanging flowers, stretch uphill from the banks of the River Dronne. We learned that it used to be an important site for pilgrims, who stopped here on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

They would visit the underground Monolithic church of St-Jean, an impressive worship site carved into the rock to a depth of 20m! The sheer size of this spiritual spot is mind-blowing and best seen from the viewing platform inside the church itself.

Camping in Aubeterre

Visiting Aubeterre was also an amazing opportunity for us to feel at one with nature, as the river banks are the perfect place to camp. We stayed at a ‘Nomad Tent’, which was such a fun and different accommodation than we’re normally used to! It’s run by a lovely family, who live on the farm and focus on what really matters: growing their own food and taking care of animals in an environmentally friendly way. Falling asleep to the sounds of nature was one of our most calming and beautiful experiences in Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Les Jardins de Marqueyssac

As photographers, Les Jardins de Marqueyssac was a photography heaven! This Italian-inspired garden with the morning dew was the perfect accompaniment to the panoramic views you can see from the height of the gardens (Marqueyssac lies on top of a rocky hill). Just to add even more magic to the experience: the pathways swirl around the chateau that sits in the center.
This stunning part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine is tucked away, so it’s the perfect hidden gem to discover on your trip to the region!

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