Boating holidays on the River Lot offer the promise of new experiences, new pleasures and the joy of getting away from it all. The waterways in this region will lead you into hidden areas of the Lot valley that you never knew existed.
A cruise through the Lot is like sailing through a canyon
The ideal way to explore the landscapes of the Lot Valley is from your self-drive boat, looking out over the winding stream. The subtle shades and cliffs reflected in the water create an amazing spectacle that makes you feel very small in the face of nature’s immensity. Then, as you cruise towards the canals, your journey will take you back through the ages as you pass through picturesque villages, from Quercy to the medieval village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie. As you follow the trail of historic heritage, you’ll come to Cahors, a Town of Art and History, famous for the Valentré bridge, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The town is also famous for its wine and of course its truffles – a treat for any foodie. This is a gourmet’s paradise, but it’s also heaven for nature lovers and anyone keen on history, not to mention sporty types: there’s a range of activities on offer, from walking and gentle bike rides to kayaking and – of course – rock-climbing. Because when you’ve seen the Lot Valley from your canal boat and fallen in love with its imposing limestone cliffs, you’re going to want to climb them…aren’t you?
Cruising from the Cahors base, you plunge straight into the Lot Valley.
Cahors is a picturesque and fascinating town with medieval and neo-classical influences and several interesting sites in its centre. But it’s also an ideal departure point for your boating holidays on the wild and lovely River Lot.
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destination and its waterways
There are five items on your to-do list
between Luzech and Larnagol
The Lot Valley is regarded as being one of France’s most unspoilt regions, and boating holidays on the River Lot offer some unique experiences. Here are five suggestions. To add an extra touch of authenticity, the locks are manual here, so are best left to your most energetic crew members!
Valentré Bridge, where Old Nick enters the legend of Devil’s Bridge
To the west of Cahors, this 172-metre-long bridge is made up of eight majestic arches supporting three imposing towers… The construction is so imposing that according to legend, the devil himself helped to build it. The bridge overlooks the river and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site – not to be missed.
Truffles from the Lot, heaven for hedonists
Truffles are the region’s black gold – so sought after that they’re almost legendary. To try them, it seems that you have to deserve them. The Lot holds the secret because it’s the premier department in France for truffle production.
Douelle, where hugging the wall is an art form
As you pass by Douelle heading for Luzech, you follow a wall 120 metres long and 6 metres high. It’s a fresco, telling the story of a wine that dates back as far as Julius Cæsar. It’s the work of Didier Chamizo and is now the largest contemporary art mural in Europe.
Saint-Cirq Lapopie, the favourite village in France
This village was chosen in 2012 as the most beautiful village in France. You’ll see this amazing place from your self-drive boat if you look up towards the high cliffs. It’s a great place to stop off and enjoy the view from the top of the village: a scene you’ll never forget.
The Château de Mercuès, step into another age in the heart of Quercy
To the west of Cahors, this imposing medieval building overlooks the valley and is now a hotel in the Relais et Châteaux group. Stop here for a detour into history and a chance to explore the Mercuès vineyard.
Rent a boat in the Lot Valley, for a fascinating cruise through the wilderness
As you glide along the River Lot on your boating holidays, you’ll pass a succession of limestone cliffs and tracts of farmland in a landscape that’s always surprising. The water is green, the locks are manual and the castles overlooking the river are ancient. A cruise here is really something special. The cultural heritage, marked by medieval history, makes this waterways region even more magical. The green waters of the river reflect unspoilt natural features such as coves, dolmens and caves. It’s the contrast between the peaceful winding river and the imposing cliffs that make this cruise so different. And we haven’t even mentioned the delicious food and wine: the vin noir (dark wine) that goes back to the middle ages, truffles – the Lot’s black gold – and foie gras flavoured with truffles, which you can sample in one of the typical red-roofed taverns. Foodies and anyone who enjoys trying local specialities will love the Lot Valley. On board your no-license boat you can cover up to 64 kilometres of the river from Luzech to Larnagol. And when it comes to locks, you’re in at the deep end: you’ll have to manage them on your own. It’s a great way to discover what life was like in days gone by.
Boating holidays along France’s River Lot Boat hire on the River Lot
Lower River Lot boat hire and navigation
Navigating the River Lot is one of the most popular routes for canal boat holidays in France, and it is easy to see why. The river itself is divided into three different sections, all defined by their elevation on the landscape. From the Lower River Lot furthest west, the short stretch of the Central River Lot and the Upper River Lot further east. Deciding on your starting point and route is an important decision to make, and it’s not an easy one on such an interesting river as this.
Sitting at the River Lot’s westernmost edges, the Lower River Lot, boaters will begin at the small and unassuming commune of Nicole. Though there is very little actually in the settlement of Nicole to do, its idyllic riverside setting gives holidaymakers a charming and picturesque starting point at which to begin their journey.
Winding further east, your boating journey will take you past similar picturesque communes such as Clairac and Castelmoron-sur-Lot. Eventually, you will arrive at the Lower River Lot’s first large town, Villeneuve-sur-Lot. As you make your way through the town, your barge will pass under a 13th-century arched bridge known as the Pont des Cieutats. This fantastic feat of medieval engineering is reflective of the town itself and well worth an on-foot exploration.
Once you have soaked up all that Villeneuve-sur-Lot has to offer, you will again be back in riverside tranquillity, heading due east and towards the towns of Montayral and the Lower River Lot’s ending point, the small settlement of Albas.
Entering the Central River Lot in France
The Central River Lot begins in Luzech, a town renowned for being at the very heart of the Cahors winemaking region and a great stop-off point for exploring the region. Sample some of the best local wine at one of Luzech’s surrounding vineyards or take a walk around the town’s châteaux and church.
During September, the town plays host to the Luzech festival, a famous wine festival that brings together some of the best bottles in the entire region for your tasting pleasure. Boating and wine tasting in this region are what canal boat holidays in France are all about. Boating a little further east will take you from Luzech to the famous Lot River settlement of Cahors. Cahors boat trips allow holidaymakers to pass around the entire town via the River Lot.
Viewing the town from this perspective also means you can pass under one of Cahors’ most iconic sights, the Pont Valentré. This bridge was constructed during the 14th century and is made up of six Gothic arches and three square bridge towers.
Other sights in Cahors that are not to be missed are the town’s cathedral, preserved medieval old town and a preserved Roman amphitheatre that was only recently uncovered. Locaboat Cahors is also based within the town, meaning you can begin your journey here or simply contact them for River Lot tourist information. This thousand-year-old city is a cultural playground and one of the must-see sights when boating along the River Lot and one of the top things to do in Lot France as a whole.
Navigating the Upper River Lot
Boat hire on the River Lot France allows you to travel along hundreds of kilometres of waterways, even more so than canal boat hire in Amsterdam! Yet choosing a section of the river means you can take your time and really soak in the sounds sights of that section. The Upper River Lot stands east of Cahors, and although you may feel a little pang of sadness on leaving this excellent town, there are just as many attractions ahead. Joining back to the river with your Lot River boat rentals , you are soon amongst the idyllic French countryside once more.
Soon boaters will come to the riverside village of Vers and the rolling green valley of Vallée du Vers behind. This is the ideal place to get out on foot and explore the lush landscape beyond.
From the small tributary of the River Vers to its delectable watermill and even waterfall. Spending a few hours exploring the Vers area is both rewarding and time well spent.
Just a few more miles downriver is the commune town of Saint Cirq Lapopie, arguably one of the most popular destinations on the river and the flag bearer for Lot France tourism . Built on a 100-meter riverside cliff, the ancient village is a picture-postcard landscape of little paved streets, fortified gates and Gothic facades and stunning views. Voted one the nation’s most picturesque and favourite of all villages, nearly half a million visitors pass through Saint Cirq Lapopie every year and with a riverside introduction to the place, you are far ahead of the tourist queue.
Where to finish your Lot Valley river cruise
Depending on which section of the River Lot you decide to travel down, your final riverboat journey will take you through certain towns and villages on the fringes of the route. Depending on your own choices and desired routes, your boating trip will follow the natural course from Saint Cirq Lapopie and continue on an easterly route. Leaving Saint Cirq Lapopie you will soon arrive at the town of Cajarc, another of the River Lot’s fantastic preserved historic commune towns.
Mooring alongside the town of Cajarc you are immediately struck by the town’s beauty. The overall highlight of this town is its perfectly preserved medieval centre. Bound in on both sides by wide boulevards and the original brown wall, Cajarc is a mishmash of narrow streets, cobbled pavements and an array of historic sights.
One of Cajarc’s most interesting sights is its 13th-century castle, standing proudly over the Place de l’église – church square. Surrounding the square is a mix of a 12th-century Romanesque home and a 15th-century townhouse. All of this creates an atmosphere of idyllic charm and calmness, well worth the excursion from the riverbanks.
Following the river route a little further, you will soon come to this section of the River Lot’s ending point, the commune of Vieillevie. One of the more subtle destinations, Vieillevie is nonetheless an attractive place to call home on your boat trip. With a choice of hotels, restaurants and local shops, Vieillevie is a welcoming sight for those who welcome a place to rest their sea legs.
Majestic sights to explore while cruising the River Lot
Visiting the famous French city of Toulouse
As is the case with canal holidays in Burgundy or boat hire on the Canal du Midi, there are many iconic places to visit that are not directly along the river or canal but are unmissable when holidaying in the area. Simply moor up, hire a car or jump on a bike, and explore some of the majestic sights inland. One of the best must-see sights has to be the city of Toulouse, only a short distance south of the lower River Lot. The city has stood in the southwest of France for thousands of years and has been a critical point between France and the Spanish Pyrenees. This historical significance is seen throughout the city and is a gem for those who are keen on history.
Must-visit sites in the city of Toulouse include the Place du Capitole, one of the most famous sites in the entire city. This elegant building was constructed in the late 17th century, although there has long been a building on this site. Apart from its historical architecture, Toulouse is also a city of extraordinary culinary delights. Most famous is the dish of cassoulet, though the city has over a hundred local specialty dishes to enjoy.
From the Upper River Lot to the city of Rodez
Taking a short journey south from the Upper River Lot’s ending point of Vieillevie, you will soon come to the city of Rodez. Visiting Rodez means your French holiday doesn’t have to end with the ending of the canal route, and with so much to see and do in Rodez, you will be glad the journey isn’t over. Rodez stands at the western foothills of the Massif Central, a series of highlands in the south of France. Apart from the natural beauty of the city, Rodez is known for its exceptional architecture and bustling farmers’ markets, perfect for making the short trip south from Vieillevie.
Top of these architectural delights is the Rodez Cathedral, a 13th-century pink sandstone building that is a perfect blend of Gothic religious design and militaristic castle-like add-ons. The cathedral’s interior is a blend of marble tombs and 14th-century murals, ideal for spending a cooler Rodez day exploring. Alongside the many examples of awe-inspiring architecture, there are the Rodez weekly markets. Held in the city’s main two squares, these exquisite markets sell an array of regional produce that confirms why you set out to visit the south of France in the first place.
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