Renaissance castles, medieval villages, and the exceptional wines of Bordeaux and the Loire await on this 10-day trip to France. Your vacation begins with a sunset hot-air balloon flight and a three-night stay in a luxury 17th-century manor house, perfectly placed for vineyard trips and the châteaux of the Loire. The 5-star theme continues with private transfers to Bordeaux and Sarlat to visit Saint-Émilion's renowned vineyards, a truffle hunt in the Dordogne, and iconic Arcachon Bay oysters.


  • Discover the Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley on a private tour
  • Immerse yourself in Bordeaux's wine culture with an in-depth private city tour
  • Sip sparkling whites and elegant, dry chenin blanc in the Vouvray Appellation
  • See the incredible Plus Beaux Villages de France on a tour of the Dordogne

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paris, Transfer to Amboise, Visit Le Château Clos Lucé Amboise
Day 2 Loire Valley Châteaux Tour, Hot-Air Balloon Flight Amboise
Day 3 Château de Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau & Vouvray Vineyards  Amboise
Day 4 Transfer to Bordeaux, Wine in the City Tour Bordeaux
Day 5 Day Trip to Arcachon Bay & Pilat Sand Dune Bordeaux
Day 6 Guided E-Bike Tour & Tasting in Saint-Émilion's Vineyards  Bordeaux
Day 7 Transfer to Sarlat, Visit the Marqueyssac Gardens Sarlat
Day 8 Tour the Villages of Dordogne, La Roque-Gageac & Beynac Sarlat
Day 9 Visit the Ancient Lascaux Caves, Truffle Hunt & Tasting Sarlat
Day 10 Transfer to Bordeaux, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paris, Transfer to Amboise, Visit Le Château du Clos Lucé

Expect cozy, antique furnishings at your Amboise hotel (photo courtesy of Hôtel Le Clos d'Amboise)

Welcome to France! Upon arrival at the airport in Paris, you'll meet your private driver and transfer 2.5 hours southwest to the Loire Valley. Your destination is Amboise, a charming town in the center of the scenic Loire region that's ideally placed for wine tasting and vineyard trips. Perched along the southern bank of the Loire River, the town is also home to some of the country's most impressive châteaux, including the flamboyant Château Royal d'Amboise, a favorite retreat of French kings.

Your own retreat for the next three nights is the gorgeous Hôtel Le Clos d'Amboise, a converted 17th-century manor house, beautifully refurbished to retain the château's authentic character and blend history, style, and comfort. Settle in and go for a dip in the hotel's swimming pool, nestled among rose bushes and cedars, or unwind in the hotel's sauna to soothe away any post-flight aches. 

When ready, head out for a self-guided tour of the nearby Le Château du Clos Lucé. Just a few minutes stroll from your hotel, you'll walk in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the final years of his life in the beautifully preserved 15th-century mansion. Discover the château's royal history and underground passageways and stroll the manicured gardens, which bring to life some of da Vinci's creations in the most whimsical of settings. 

Day 2: Loire Valley Châteaux Tour, Hot-Air Balloon Flight

Chambord castle
Explore the river setting of Château de Chenonceau, the most visited castle after Versailles

Spend today visiting the Loire Valley's famously beautiful châteaux and taking in-depth private tours of two of the most renowned castles in the area. Your first stop is Château de Chenonceau, France's most visited historical monument after Versailles. Originally built in the 12th century, the castle was rebuilt in the 1500s and houses a rich collection of ornate art and fine 16th-century furniture. Don't miss the gorgeously manicured gardens, named after Catherine de Médici and Diane de Poitiers, who both lived at the château.

Next is Château Chambord, a wonderful Renaissance castle dating back to the early 16th century. Take the double helix staircase to see the royal apartments of François I and Louis XIV and continue up to the terraces, where views of the surrounding landscape offer a glimpse into the charmed lives of the castle's royals. Afterward, you'll finish your tour with a stunning hot-air balloon ride that takes you high over the valley for a birds-eye view of the châteaux as the sun starts to set. 

Day 3: Château de Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau & Vouvray Vineyards 

Sip and taste wines made from chenin blanc grapes on today's tour of the Vouvray Appellation wine estates

Continue your exploration of the Loire's châteaux this morning with a visit to Azay-le-Rideau, a gorgeous Renaissance castle built on an island on the Indre River. Its straight staircase, a rarity in the 16th century, was one of the first to be built in the region. Tour the inside of the castle with your guide, who'll share insights into the château's history (it enjoyed the patronage of King François I) before heading outside to see the gardens and the famous water mirror. 

After lunch, make your way to Château de Villandry, another Renaissance masterpiece modified during the 18th century. Probably most famous for its incredible gardens, your guide will share the story of how Joachim Carvallo, who took over the castle in the early 20th century, recreated the Renaissance garden to restore Villandry to its former glory. Highlights include the flower beds, ornamental kitchen garden, maze, classical water garden, and the lake. 

Plan your trip to France
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
You'll round out your day in the Loire with a trip to Vouvray, an appellation well-known for its chenin blanc vines that produce elegant, dry, sweet, and sparkling white wines. Learn all about the area's winemaking with stops at two Vouvray Appellation wine estates. At both, you'll tour the cellars, understand how to taste wine like a pro, identify the different aromas, and, of course, have plenty of opportunities to try the wines yourself. 

Day 4: Transfer to Bordeaux, Wine in the City Tour

Discover the heritage of Bordeaux wines during a tour of the region's namesake city 

You're off to Bordeaux! World famous for its wine (both the region and its namesake city), you'll find plenty of opportunities for exceptional wine tasting here, but the city is worth a look in its own right. Vibrant and dynamic, thanks in part to its university student population, Bordeaux is full of beautifully restored 18th-century buildings, and an astonishing 50 percent of the town is UNESCO-listed. Meet your driver in the morning, and in just under four hours, you'll arrive at your city center hotel, Le Boutique Hotel & Spa, occupying a great location in the historic Old Town.

The hotel's owners, Christophe and his daughter Anaïs San José, have stylishly revamped the former 18th-century mansion and combined classic stone features and old parquet floors with furniture and design objects from the greatest designers such as Philippe Starck, Kartell, and Eichholtz.

After a refresh, explore the city and region's wine heritage with a private three-hour tour perfect for wine and history enthusiasts. You'll start with visits to Place de la Bourse and Le Musée du Vin et du Négoce for explanations of French wine classifications and the history of the region's wines. Sample a few varieties in the museum's tasting room, then head outside to stroll the Chartrons neighborhood, known for the last 400 years as the wine merchants' district. Your tour finishes at one of the area's renowned wine bars for nibbles and another tasting. 

Day 5: Day Trip to Arcachon Bay & Pilat Sand Dune

Dune du Pilat, Europe's largest sand dune, rises to an astonishing 351 feet (107 m)

Your destination today is Arcachon Bay, a one-hour drive southwest of Bordeaux. Known for its fine sandy beaches, mild climate, and town dotted with Belle Époque architecture, it makes a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Bordeaux. Meet your driver for the transfer to the bay, a landlocked sea area, where you'll find rows of sheds that belong to the oyster farmers who have helped make this area famous to French oyster aficionados. Start your day by the sea with a tasting of Banc d'Arguin oysters, washed down with a glass of the local white.

You'll have plenty of time to explore the bay before lunch, and gourmands will be delighted with the selection of seafood restaurants that line the shore. In the afternoon, you'll head out to the small town of Pyla-sur-Mer to see Arcachon's famous Dune du Pilat. Rising to 351 feet (107 m), Europe's largest sand dune was formed over 4,000 years ago. 

It's a little effort to reach the top of the dune, but a staircase, put in place during the summer months, makes it more accessible. After 170 steps, you'll be rewarded with incredible sweeping views of the Bay and the dual views of the pine forest and Atlantic Ocean. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to your hotel, where Bordeaux's bustling bars, restaurants, and nightlife await.

Day 6: Guided E-Bike Tour & Tasting in Saint-Émilion's Vineyards 

Amid the wine tasting, you'll have time to explore Saint-Émilion's medieval architecture and churches

Just over an hour east of Bordeaux lies the village of Saint-Émilion and its world-famous vineyards and châteaux,, home to some of the country's most prestigious wines, such as Petrus and Château Cheval Blanc. The eponymous town is also a destination in its own right—a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with medieval monuments and churches. Today, you'll spend the day with a small group on e-bikes, cycling the gorgeous countryside and combining vineyard stops along the way.

Start the day with a transfer to Saint-Émilion and spend a leisurely morning cycling through the appellations, pausing to tour your first vineyard and château. After a visit to the cellar, where you'll hear about the traditional wine methods used here, you'll enjoy a delicious picnic lunch in the estate's gorgeous gardens, accompanied by a selection of different wines. Cycle back to the village, and you'll put the bikes aside to stroll Saint-Émilion on foot, admiring its medieval architecture, quaint cobbled streets, and incredible hilltop views.

You've one last château in store before heading back to Bordeaux, and this time, it's a classified "Growth Château." Situated on the outskirts of the village, you'll learn about the winemaking process from vine to bottle and finish wine-tasting the estate's exemplary wines. You'll be dropped back at your hotel in the early evening, where the night is yours to enjoy your last night in Bordeaux at leisure. 

Day 7: Transfer to Sarlat, Visit the Marqueyssac Gardens

Look out over the medieval beauty of Sarlat (photo courtesy of Plaza Madeleine Hotel & Spa)

Today, you'll take a private transfer 2.5 hours east to Sarlat-la-Canéda (Sarlat), one of Dordogne's most enchanting towns and a favorite of film directors for its historic medieval beauty. While the tangle of honey-colored buildings, alleyways, and secret squares make Sarlat a beautiful destination in its own right, the town is also well-positioned for exploring the Vézère Valley.

Your driver will drop you off at your accommodation, the boutique Plaza Madeleine Hotel & Spa. With a fabulous location in the center of the Old Town, the hotel combines excellent proximity to the city's listed monuments, boutiques, and restaurants with super facilities, including a heated pool with terrace and sun loungers, and a spa area with a sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi. 

After a refresh and a bite to eat, it's time to visit one of the area's gems. The Marqueyssac Gardens are a 15-minute drive away and listed as one of the country's National Historic Monuments. Spend a leisurely couple of hours strolling the romantic gardens, filled with boxwoods, rockeries, and wonderful panoramic views of the valley and surrounding châteaux from its elevated position. You'll return to Sarlat in the late afternoon, just in time to relax in the spa, before heading out to eat at one of the city's excellent restaurants. Specialties here include foie gras, duck confit, and oysters.

Day 8: Tour the Villages of Dordogne, La Roque-Gageac & Beynac

Villages of Dordogne - La Roque Gageac and Beynac
The beautiful village of La Roque-Gageac, situated along the banks of the Dordogne

This morning, you'll explore the picturesque castles and historic villages along the Dordogne River with a full-day private tour of the area. You'll start in Domme, a fortified medieval town that's one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages of France). Hear fascinating tales from your guide about the town's history, including the imprisonment of the Knights Templar during the Hundred Years' War. 

Continue to La Roque-Gageac and board a gabarre (a fat-bottomed traditional riverboat) for a peaceful cruise on the river at a leisurely pace to admire the beautiful châteaux that line the route. Disembark at Beynac, another of France's Plus Beaux Villages, and explore the town and its medieval castle, built in the 12th century by the barons of Beynac. After a full day of exploring, your driver will drop you at your hotel.

Day 9: Visit the Ancient Lascaux Caves, Truffle Hunt & Tasting

Lascaux Caves
Tour the atmospheric Lascaux IV Cave, dubbed the "Sistine Chapel of Prehistory"

Today's tours cover art and gastronomy, and you'll begin your day with a private transfer to the National Prehistory Museum in Les Eyzies de Tayac. The museum possesses the most extensive collection of prehistoric artifacts in the world, whose history will serve you well for your next excursion. You're off to the Lascaux Caves, whose extraordinary paintings date back 15,000 years. While the original caves are no longer open to the public, you'll embark on a tour of Lascaux IV, a perfect reproduction, with state-of-the-art immersive technology to bring it to life.

Gastronomy comes next with a transfer east to the region's famed truffle fields, where you'll join a private truffle hunt. Learn from a local expert how their dogs sniff out the precious tubers and discover the terroir, soil type, and climate truffles need to thrive. After a successful morning's hunting, you'll taste the aromatic truffles shaved over toasted French bread with olive oil, accompanied by a local sweet wine. Return to Sarlat in the early evening, ready for one last memorable dinner in France's gastronomic heartland.

Day 10: Transfer to Bordeaux, Depart

Leave France with lifelong memories and hopefully a bottle or two in your luggage!
It's time to say goodbye to France. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the airport in Bordeaux. Au revoir! 

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