Bordeaux and surroundings: 4 days ontheroad in Aquitaine

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Aina Martin

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What to see in an on the road itinerary between Bordeaux and its surroundings

In this article I want to offer you a series of places to see in Aquitaine that will allow you to discover the area in 4 days, one of which is dedicated to the city of Bordeaux. These are wonderful areas to travel by car, especially in the stretches of the Saint-Émilion vineyards, where the rows of vines are lost visibly. If you want to stay longer in this southwestern stretch of France, you can add a few days on the coast near Biarritz, so famous for its waves that it is known as the European surfing capital.

1 - La Rochelle, a romantic seaside town

Strange that in an itinerary between Bordeaux and its surroundings you start right from the surroundings and not from its main city. Instead it is just what I recommend. La Rochelle is a small town almost 200km and 2 hours drive from Bordeaux. It has no prominent places of interest, but it is a good way to get into the theme of the itinerary: relaxation.

It is a quiet location with one splendid and important port overlooked by numerous restaurants. La Rochelle should be discovered on foot by wandering through its streets full of restaurants, creperies and bars where you can have a drink, or by discovering the beautiful towers (Tour de St. Nicolas and Tour de La Chaine) to better savor its history.

In La Rochelle you can feel it a romantic air throughout the city, which makes it very pleasant.

If you want to learn more about the city, I refer you to the official website, where you can discover all the things to see in the surrounding area -> click here for the official website

View on the port of La Rochelle

2 - La Île de Ré, a thin strip of land towards the Atlantic

Opposite the beautiful La Rochelle is the Île de Ré, a well-known French holiday resort. But the Île de Ré is not just beaches, it is also wonderful views and glimpses that even out of season give serenity to those who have the pleasure of being in those areas.

The Île de Ré is connected to La Rochelle by a scenic and long bridge for a fee (8 euros return). Beyond the bridge you have to let yourself go and discover the island, perhaps stocking up on food and water first because I have seen few places to stop and find something to eat / drink. Indeed, I give you a little advice about it, mark Steph la Boulangerie ... it is a bakery that you can find near the town hall (search for it on google), you will find it on your left proceeding towards theKloster Notre-Dame-de-Ré abbey.

By the way, the abbey is all in ruins but stands in the middle of nowhere in a splendid place. Lots of greenery and a view that extends to the sea and the bridge that connects La Rochelle to the Île de Ré.

The Kloster Notre-Dame-de-Ré abbey.

Finally, on the Île de Ré you cannot fail to reach the easternmost point looking "straight in the eye" the Atlantic Ocean. I'm talking about the Whale Lighthouse. In all honesty I tell you that it is not a scenic lighthouse on some steep cliff where the waves break. It is a simple lighthouse with stretches of sand or water behind it depending on the tides. The fact that, however, it is the westernmost end of the island and beyond there is only the ocean, makes it a particularly fascinating stage of the route around Bordeaux.

View from the whale lighthouse.

3 - Cognac and cognac wine

The surroundings of Bordeaux are dotted with villages which give their names to well-known delicacies. This is the case of Cognac where the homonymous distillate is produced. For reasons of time, unfortunately I was unable to visit the town which they say is very beautiful, but if you are in the area you must absolutely include it in your itinerary. And not only to visit the city center, but also and above all for visit a distillery and discover the Cognac production process!

4 - Saint-Émilion, the village surrounded by miles of vineyards

To the east of Bordeaux, past Libourne, nestled between rows and rows of vines stands Saint-Émilion, a small village World Heritage Site. Saint-Émilion is famous for its wine cellars and views over the vineyards. The town itself is not surprising, or at least it did not impress me. It must have been the unfavorable period, the fact is that he "left nothing". This does not mean that it is a stage to be skipped, I only advise you to give it the right weight. Perhaps their surroundings deserve more, perhaps by doing a tasting in the cellar in the summer months when the vines are completely green.

The village of Saint-Émilion seen from above

5 - The dunes of Pilat, the giant dunes on the Atlantic

This place, a few kilometers from Bordeaux, has the absurd. A giant tongue of sand, almost 3 km long and 100 to 120 meters high, which gradually incorporates the forest behind it.

I had never seen a sand dune of this size. It is a must-see stop on the itinerary between Bordeaux and its surroundings. The advice is not to visit it "hit and run", the advice is to bring flip-flops, beach towel and everything you need to spend a day on the beach. Maybe, why not, waiting for the sunset on such a special beach.

The 4 travelers on the Dune of Pilat

Any photograph does not convey how extraordinary this place is.

For more information read my article about the Dunes of Pilat -> The Dune of Pilat: the highest dunes in Europe.

6 - Bordeaux, the elegant city

Take a city and all its historic center, register it in the Unesco heritage, and here is Bordeaux. I know, the opening words of this paragraph are utopia, but Bordeaux is just that.

The entire historic center is a World Heritage Site. So, to the question “what to see in Bordeaux” the answer should be: everything!

In fact, it is precisely by walking through its historic center that you can fully appreciate it. From the Opera House, to the great gates of the city, passing through the beautiful Cathedral, everything is placed inside an elegant and functional city.

The beautiful cathedral of Bordeaux

Furthermore, it is a city that has also moved towards the redevelopment of certain areas, such as Darwin Park, a stop not to be missed to finish an itinerary to discover the French territory of Aquitaine in the best possible way.

On Bordeaux I advise you to deepen on my recent article -> Bordeaux: what to see in one day

Advice on possible other things to see around Bordeaux

Had I had more time to explore this beautiful piece of France, I would have definitely included these other two destinations:

  • Biarritz: South of Bordeaux, this well-known location overlooking the Bay of Biscay is the favorite destination for all surf enthusiasts and has been elected as the capital of European surfing. An excellent reason to include it in the itinerary and appreciate the ocean breeze even more.
  • Rocamadour: just glimpse a photo of this small village perched, indeed, embedded in the rock, to understand how it is an unmissable stop if you have time to visit it. It is quite a distance from Bordeaux (about 250km), but with some effort it could be a very interesting detour.

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