This spectacular road-trip adventure through Western France provides a subtle mix of history, culture, cuisine, wine, and outdoor activity—and plenty of picturesque landscapes between stops. Over the course of two weeks, you'll spend quality time in Paris, Normandy, Bordeaux, and the Dordogne region with a combination of tours led by English-speaking local guides and free time to explore on your own.

Highlights

  • Cruise along the Seine after dusk to see emblematic sites over dinner
  • Get a private tour of Versailles and the gardens with a local historian
  • Climb the narrow alleys and ancient abbey crowning medieval Mont Saint Michel
  • Sample Bordeaux's hip coffee shops, food trucks, restaurants, and wine bars
  • Canoe down the Dordogne River to see some of the prettiest villages in France

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paris - Explore the City Paris
Day 2 Versailles Day-Trip Paris
Day 3 Canal Saint-Martin Food Tour Paris
Day 4 Visit Le Louvre Museum - Dinner Cruise on the Seine Paris
Day 5 Train to Caen - Drive to Bayeux Bayeux
Day 6 Tour of Normandy's Landing Beaches Caen
Day 7 Mont Saint Michel Day-Trip Bayeux
Day 8 Drive from Bayeux to Bordeaux - Explore the City Bordeaux
Day 9 Cheese & Wine Tasting in Bordeaux Bordeaux
Day 10 Free Day in Bordeaux Bordeaux
Day 11 Drive from Bordeaux to Dordogne - Canoe Excursion Sarlat
Day 12 Paleolithic Art Tour in Dordogne Sarlat
Day 13 Explore Dordogne - Return to Paris Paris
Day 14 Depart Paris  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paris - Explore the City

Sunset skyline aerial view from the L'Arc de Triomphe
Sunset skyline aerial view from the L'Arc de Triomphe

Welcome to Paris, the City of Lights! Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation where you can drop off your luggage and hit the streets.

Synonymous with food, culture, fashion, and architecture, Paris needs no introduction. Despite being the dream destination for millions of people each year, the French capital still has plenty of hidden secrets to offer. Monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros, and boutiques are now enhanced by a new wave of multimedia galleries, creative wine bars, design shops, and tech start-ups.

A good place to spend your first evening is by visiting the 1050-foot (320-m) tall Eiffel Tower, conceived by Gustave Eiffel as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 World's Fair. Luckily, the art nouveau tower's popularity assured its survival.

It's advised to prebook your tickets online, which gives you access to the lifts that reach the first two floors and the summit. It's a timed entry ticket, but be aware that you can spend some time in line because of security checkings and the number of tourists. Another option is to climb as far as the 2nd floor via the south pillar's 704 stairs (no prebooking needed). 

Enjoy the rest of the evening exploring Paris your own!

Day 2: Versailles Day-Trip

Apollo Fountain at Versailles
Apollo Fountain at Versailles

After breakfast, you'll meet your private guide for day-trip to Versailles (5 hours including transportation).

This family-themed tour starts with a train ride from Paris where you'll enter Versailles via skip-the-line access. Then, travel back in time over the centuries to explore what life was like living in the splendor of Versailles amongst the kings and queens of France.

Your guide—a specialist in family tours and an accredited historian—will explain the magnificence of Versailles from the ornately-painted ceilings and private royal quarters, to the resplendent Hall of Mirrors allowing you to walk through the ultimate display of power and prestige. Take time to explore the hidden details of the palace and enchanting gardens. 

Following the tour, you'll return to Paris where you'll have the rest of the day to spend at leisure.

Day 3: Canal Saint-Martin Food Tour

Canal Saint Martin food tour
Canal Saint Martin food tour

Make sure to save some room at breakfast today before you embark on a gourmet Parisian food tour (3 hours). 

This delicious odyssey focuses on picturesque neighborhoods that will open your senses to a whole new world of French culture. It's packed with inspiring locales and tastings along the way, while a personable expert fills you in on each mouth-watering product.

While the tour hones in on Canal Saint-Martin, you'll also get a glimpse of Le Marais and Temple while sampling scrumptious delicacies from the city's top artisanal producers and markets. The itinerary also includes an offbeat cheese and wine tasting with passionate French connoisseurs.

From here you can spend the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring Paris on your own.

Day 4: Visit Le Louvre Museum - Dinner Cruise on the Seine

Skip the line at this world-famous museum
Skip the line at this world-famous museum

Today, after breakfast, you'll make your way to the 1st arrondissement for a morning visit to Le Louvre Museum with skip-the-line-access tickets. 

Le Louvre is one of the largest and most important museums in the world. Housed in the expansive Louvre Palace, its most recent addition—the glass Louvre Pyramid—serves as the museum's iconic main entrance thanks to renowned American architect I.M. Pei.

Le Louvre's collection was first established in the 16th century as the private collection of King Francis I. One of the works of art he purchased was the Mona Lisa painting, and the collection grew steadily thanks to donations and purchases by the kings. Today, the museum has a collection of over one million works of art, of which about 35,000 are on display spread out over three wings of the former palace. Make sure to allow plenty of time to experience the highlights!

Following the museum, you can spend some time exploring more of the city on your own perhaps walking through Tuileries Gardens across the street. 

Later in the evening, you'll make your way to the Seine for a 2.5-hour dinner cruise, which includes multiple courses, a selection of fine wines, and musical entertainment—a fitting way to end your Paris portion of the trip!

Day 5: Train to Caen - Drive to Bayeux

Beautiful Bayeux
Beautiful Bayeux

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll be picked up by a private driver and transferred to the rail station for your train journey to Caen in the Normandy region. From here, you'll pick up your rental car and make the drive to Bayeux

With two cross-Channel invasions—almost 900 years apart—Bayeux offers a front-row seat at defining moments in western history. The dramatic story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 is told in 58 vivid scenes by the world-famous and quite astonishing Bayeux Tapestry, embroidered just a few years after William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, became William the Conqueror, King of England.

Meanwhile, on June 6th, 1944—also known as "D-Day"—roughly 160,000 Allied troops, supported by almost 7,000 naval vessels, stormed ashore along the coast just north of town. Bayeux was the first French town to be liberated (on the morning of June 7th) and is one of the few places in Calvados to have survived WWII practically unscathed.

A very attractive and historic town, Bayeux makes an ideal base for exploring the landing beaches. WWII history aside, the town is also crammed with 13th- to 18th-century buildings, including a fine Gothic cathedral.

Plan your trip to France
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.

Day 6: Tour of Normandy's Landing Beaches

Pointe du Hoc along the English Channel
Pointe du Hoc along the English Channel

This morning, you'll be picked up by your guide for a tour of Normandy's landing sites during D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history.

Before you get to these though, you'll explore the cobbled, medieval town of Bayeux where you'll visit the Tapestry Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, and sites related to William the Conqueror. 

The rest of the day belongs to the brave soldiers who fought for freedom in 1944. You’ll first head to Pointe du Hoc, a stunning place of natural beauty scarred by heavy aerial and naval bombardment. Walk the lunar landscapes that underscore the infamous feat carried out by U.S. Rangers who scaled the 100-foot cliffs to boot out the enemy, thus securing this imposing strongpoint.

Then head to Normandy's coastal battlefield grounds for a tour of Omaha Beach, one of two landing areas where Americans lost many lives. You'll also visit the American cemetery in Colleville, a site stretching 170 acres housing 9,387 tombs.

Following the tour, transfer to a hotel in Caen where you'll have the rest of the evening to explore on your own.

Day 7: Mont Saint Michel Day-Trip

Spend a day on this famous island
Spend a day on this famous island

This morning, after breakfast in Bayeux, you'll be picked up by your private guide for a full-day tour of Mont Saint Michel. (Note: wear comfortable shoes!)

Situated in the middle of a large bay, this granitic island oozes with history and is one of the most popular places to visit in France. The first monastery was replaced by a benedictine abbey in the 10th century, where the monks prayed and welcomed pilgrims coming to adorn the archangel in order to earn their right to go to heaven. The monks never stopped adding new building constructions century after century until they were chased away by the French Revolution in 1791. This magnificent abbey then became a prison!

In 1864, Mont Saint Michel was added on the list of French Historic Monuments and restored before opening itself to visitors. Your guide will take you to the top where there is a breathtaking view that is well worth the number of steps to arrive. He or she will also let you understand the symbolism of the architecture as you visit the different rooms, one more incredible than the other. If lucky, you might even meet one of the monks of the new community who settled here a few years ago and hear their Gregorian Chants vibrating in the church at the time of the mass.

Your guide will also take you through the narrow cobbled streets around the village with granite or half-timbered houses. You can also wander along the top of the fortification wall, built during the Hundred Years War when Mont Saint Michel became a medieval castle. 

At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel in Bayeux for some free time.

Day 8: Drive from Bayeux to Bordeaux - Explore the City

Typical street scene in Bordeaux
Typical street scene in Bordeaux

This morning, you'll set out on your own pace for the drive to Bordeaux (approximately six hours). Upon arrival, check into your hotel enjoy some free time to explore the French capital of wine on your own.

This pedestrian-friendly city is among France's most exciting, vibrant, and dynamic places. At least half of the city is UNESCO-listed, making it the largest urban world heritage site on the planet with a number of gothic and medieval highlights, so there's plenty to see. 

It's not all about the past though: Modern architects have designed a bevy of striking new buildings, including the Herzog & de Meuron stadium (2015), the decanter-shaped La Cité du Vin (2016), and Jean-Jacques Bosc bridge (2018) across the Garonne River. 

As for atmosphere, Bordeaux is bolstered by its college-aged student population and growing tourism trade (it receives about 5 million visitors a year), so make sure to sample the barista-run coffee shops, food trucks, gourmet restaurants, and, of course, wine lists focusing on nearby vineyards. .

Day 9: Cheese & Wine Tasting in Bordeaux

Capucin's market in Bordeaux
Capucin's market in Bordeaux

Today starts with a free morning to relax and explore the city on your own. Perhaps you'd like to visit Marché des Capucins, the largest market in the city, nicknamed 'Belly of Bordeaux'.

In the afternoon, you'll meet your guide for a Cheese & Wine Tasting (3 hours). This gourmet tour focuses on savoring the sumptuous flavors of Bordeaux as you wander through the scenic and historic promenades.

Along the way, you will get to know one of the oldest and most famous cheese shops in Bordeaux, visiting their cheese caves located in the stone-vaulted cellars convent. Here you will find a treasure trove of cheeses being gently aged to their optimal maturity, with the aging process being explained by one of their expert staff. You will also take part in tasting three kinds of cheese while enjoying the atmosphere of the ancient underground caves. 

Next, visit a world-renowned Bordelaise company known for their resurrection of the canelé, the dessert originally prepared by the nuns for school children. You will learn about the history of this traditional dessert and how its creation in Bordeaux is related to wine! You will enjoy a relaxing moment sampling this and other interesting desserts, as well as a hot beverage.

Finish this tour with the pleasure of a wine tasting in a small boutique wine bar, where you will taste three Bordeaux wines each with its own unique style, selected for us and introduced by their wine steward.

Following the tour, you'll have the rest of the day to spend at leisure.

Day 10: Free Day in Bordeaux

Vineyards surrounding Saint Emilion
Vineyards surrounding Saint Emilion

This day is at leisure for you to explore more of the Bordeaux region. Since you have a rental car, it's recommended that you head out of the city and see some of the beautiful landscapes and vineyards. 

A great option is to visit Saint Emilion, a charming UNESCO-listed village dating back to medieval times. While here, you can also discover the subterranean cellars and winemaking secrets of this world-renowned wine region, while admiring sweeping vistas of the picturesque countryside. 

Alternatively, drive to Arcachon Bay along Bordeaux's Atlantic coast to check out the forests, beaches, and sand dunes, including Pyla, the biggest sand dune in Europe, while stopping to taste oysters at a local producer.

Upon return to Bordeaux, you could rent bikes and take an afternoon cruise around town for a different perspective of this sophisticated city.

Day 11: Drive from Bordeaux to Dordogne - Canoe Excursion

Rent a canoe and enjoy the scenery
Rent a canoe and enjoy the scenery

Today you'll make the drive from Bordeaux to the Dordogne region, specifically the small town of Sarlat la Canéda (approximately 2.5 hours of driving).

After checking into your hotel, take the rest of the day to explore Sarlat's picturesque tangle of honey-colored buildings, alleyways, and secret squares. The village boasts some of the region's best-preserved medieval architecture and is a popular base for exploring the Vézère Valley—a favorite location for film directors. It's also firmly on the tourist radar, especially on market days during the summer months. In early March, there is an annual goose festival called the Fest' Oie when live birds and market stalls fill the streets. This is also when top chefs come together to prepare an outdoor banquet.

One recommended activity is to rent canoes and paddle along the Dordogne River from Carsac to Beynac allowing you to discover the beauties of the Périgord Noir. With six castles on both sides of the river and three villages classified as the most beautiful villages of France, this unforgettable route will have you reaching for your camera often.  

Return to your hotel in Sarlat at the end of the activity.

Day 12: Paleolithic Art Tour in Dordogne

Lascaux Caves
Lascaux Caves

Today you'll be picked up by a private guide for a full-day Paleolithic Art Tour. For a bit of history, the Dordogne region has breathtaking cave paintings created from unknown artists dating back to 15,000 years B.C. Some of the most extraordinary examples are found in the area and during this excursion, you will be introduced to this fascinating art and to the people who made it.

Begin the day in Les Eyzies de Tayac for a guided visit of the National Prehistory Museum. Opened in 2004, this national museum possesses the largest collection of prehistoric artifacts in the world.

Then continue to Montignac where you will visit Lascaux IV, a perfect reproduction of the original cave. Opened in 2016, Lascaux IV is a triumph of technology. Unlike any other cave visits, Lascaux IV employs different set designs, displays, state-of-the-art interactive workshops and immersive technology to bring it to life. In fact, the atmosphere inside the replica cave is just like that of a real cave: dark, damp, and muffled.

The tour culminates with a visit to Rouffignac Cave, which possesses original and authentic etchings and drawings. Mentioned in 1575 by François de Belleforest, he cites “paintings and animal traces”. Later in the 19th century, the cave was known as a tourist attraction. Famous archaeologists like Henry Breuil, André Glory, and Martel had visited the cave in the early 20th century, but it was only in 1956 when Louis-René Nougier and Romain Robert, two prehistorians from the Pyrenees, rediscovered and confirmed the cave art.

At the end of your excursion, you will be dropped off at your hotel in Sarlat.

Day 13: Explore Dordogne - Return to Paris

Chateau des Milandes, a castle in the Dordogne
Chateau des Milandes

Today you'll have the morning to explore on your own before making the drive to Paris (approximately 5.5 hours of driving).

Consider visiting a few more stops in the Dordogne region before hitting the road. Perhaps you'd like to visit Chateau des Milandes. Completed in 1489, this charming castle with its magnificent Gothic features is a great example of Renaissance architecture. To this day, it still retains all its medieval splendor with architectural features such as turrets, a winding staircase, and gargoyles.

You could also visit the manicured gardens of Marqueyssac. Designed for relaxing strolls, boxwoods constitute the main theme of the walks, some of which reveal panoramic views of the entire Dordogne Valley.

Upon arrival in Paris, you'll drop off your rental car and make your way to your hotel for one last evening in the 'City of Lights'!

Day 14: Depart Paris

A street in Montmartre near the Sacre Couer
A street in Montmartre near the Sacre Couer

It's time to say goodbye to France! At the designated time you'll be picked up from your hotel by a private driver and transferred to the airport for your departure home or next destination. Au revoir! 

Map

Map of Western France Road Trip - 14 Days
Map of Western France Road Trip - 14 Days