A naturally preserved region, the Lot valley is rich in history and traditions and is a perfect destination on your next French vacation.
Whether you like discovering medieval villages, active holidays (walking, cycling, fishing, sailing, canoeing, quad biking), or just want to relax in a spa or stroll along a river, the Lot Valley is a wonderful place to visit and of course to enjoy the delicious food and wine; try aligot and truffade.
When the French talk of the Lot valley, they call it La France Profonde – Deep France.
This is a place that is peaceful and rural, where you can drive on incredibly twisting mountain roads or simply wander around villages that seem to be untouched by the passage of time.
On one side of the Lot valley rises Mont Lozère, on the other the Garonne, and in the middle, the Lot, its valley a long green-blue ribbon, threading the region’s heritage and culture.
Where is the Lot valley?
The valley spans four regions (Midi-Pyrénées, Auvergne, Languedoc-Roussillon and Aquitaine), and passes through five départements (Aveyron, Cantal, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne and Lozère).
Read our Visitors Guide to the Midi-Pyrénées
There are almost 600 towns and villages, with a combined population approaching 360,000.
Over 6,000km rivers and waterways, as a result water sports are very popular.
The area lies between the popular touristy places of the Dordogne, the wineries of Bordeaux and Nouvelle-Aquitaine and the Riviera, and for those in search of tranquillity is very much one of the forgotten corners of France.
Yet it remains an area of outstanding natural beauty, renowned for its dramatic gorges, fecund green hills and ancient, beautiful French villages like Conques, Laguiole and Marvejols.
The Wolves of Gévaudan
The park of Les Loups de Gevaudan is one of the most visited tourist spots in the Lot Valley.
It’s the perfect location for people with a passion for animals and wildlife since it allows you to get up close and personal with a pack of wolves.
While this is a monitored area, the wolves live largely as they would in the wild so it gives you a really true to life experience.
If you are concerned about the welfare of the wolves, there’s no need to be. Almost every review from previous visitors talks about how well taken care of the animals are.
It’s the perfect combination between providing them with an excellent home and educating humans on these magnificent creatures.
The area spans some 15 hectares and is home to around 100 wolves, at the time of writing. There are also different sections that cater to the needs of the different wolf species here including a Siberian area, a Mongolian area and an area that mimics the wilds of Canada.
Not only does this allow the project to cater to the specific needs of each breed but it also prevents interbreeding which could result in health problems. As you walk around, you will notice the vast differences between the species.
As well as being able to explore where the wolves live, you will also have the opportunity to visit the on site museum in the welcome centre. This is also home to a bar and gift shop and visitors can also book a tour with one of the experienced guides.
The whole place is incredibly beautiful and even if you aren’t lucky enough to spot one of the wolves, the natural scenery is more than enough to keep you happy.
Is the Lot valley worth visiting?
The Lot valley represents a stunning journey back in time, from the prehistoric caves of Pech Merle to fortified chateaux and country houses that have stories to tell of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).
Romanesque châteaux, country houses, abbeys and churches, prehistoric sites, towns and villages full of character: the banks of the Lot valley are filled with some quite exceptional heritage.
Take time out to visit the wolves of Gévaudan (more than 100 wolves from Canada, Siberia, Mongolia and Poland, living in semi-capitivity).
For something really special, follow the sheep transhumance which takes place from Lot into Cantal each June. Is the Lot valley worth visiting? It most certainly is and you really should add it to your vacation ‘must do’s’.
What is the Lot Valley sheep transhumance?
The transhumance of the flocks up to the mountain summer pasture is always a crucial moment for life in the Lot valley, and covers a trail between the départements of Lot and Cantal. Hundreds of sheep progress from the Lot to the Lioran in Cantal where they will stay until mid-September.
This is a wonderful opportunity to discover the area, the diversity of the scenery, the local products and the ancient traditions of local shepherds and farmers.
Why join in?
It’s unique! There is so much to do if you take part and includes visits to the most iconic sites of Lot and Cantal: from the Quercy arid soil to the green Lioran resort, the flock and its guides will take you through amazing landscapes.
The sites crossed during the transhumance are:
Les Causses du Quercy
The Causse is a vast limestone plateau (covered with dried grass and rich flora) cut with valleys where under the action of water , you find cliffs, caves, sinkholes, …
The Quercy Blanc, so called for the colour of its white chalk bedrock, occupies the south western corner of the Lot. With its white stone houses, fields of lavender and lovely Romanesque village churches, it has a sunny, bright, undeniably Southern feel to it.
The Célé valley
It runs through the same type of limestone landscape as the Lot. It is bordered by tall cliffs, often coloured ochre by the presence of small quantities of iron oxide, or dark greyish-black by manganese dioxide.
It is a gloriously beautiful valley, lined with small villages, cave-dweller villages, medieval castles, each more attractive than the last.
In the south-west of the Cantal area, the “châtaigneraies” (chestnut groves) have been carefully preserved over the centuries.
The contrasting landscapes characterised by the strength and majesty of the Auvergne’s volcanoes and the peaceful setting of the Lot valley, are combined with a remarkable Romanesque architectural heritage, which you can appreciate in the medieval villages of Marcolés, Montsalvy, Maurs la Jolie and La Roquebrou.
The Jordanne valley
In the heart of a setting formed by the Puy Mary, Puy Griou and Puy de Chavaroche massifs, Mandailles St Julien possesses an inestimable wealth of nature. Mandailles has become a prized holiday destination for refreshing walks and summer hikes.
The Lioran massif
Peaks, valleys, plateau, waterfalls or gorges : each trail offers exceptional sceneries! Final stage of this transhumance, the Lioran resort , by the Plomb du Cantal, offers various activities all year long.
Clinging to the cliff above the Alzou river, Rocamadour is a remarkable site. It lies in the former province of Quercy, and attracts visitors for its spectacular setting in a gorge above a tributary of the Dordogne.
But also for its historical monuments that have attracted pilgrims from every country, including kings and nobles, including Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England and Louis IX and Charles IV of France.
The town is simple enough to explore, since there is just one street, rue de la Couronnerie, linking medieval gateways, above which the steep hillside supports seven churches.
The town below the complex of monastic buildings and pilgrimage churches, traditionally dependent on the pilgrimage site and now on the tourist trade, lies near the river on the lowest slopes.
A number of guidebooks perpetuate the somewhat dubious founding legend that the town was named after Saint Amator (sometimes Amadour), identified as the biblical Zacheus (Zacchaeus), a tax collector from Jericho, and the husband of St Veronica, who is said to have wiped the face of Christ on the way to Calvary.
The validity of this (and other) accounts is untrustworthy, since there is no record of any related accounts until long after the age in which the principal characters lived.
But, while this deficiency doesn’t withstand sound criticism, neither does it stop pilgrims and tourists alike from flocking to the town, lying, as it does, on the route to Compostela, and, for that reason, classed as a World Heritage Site.
Another naming legend attributes the name ‘Rocamadour’ to a local hermit, whom the local people dubbed ‘Roc Amator’, or ‘rock lover’, so called because of his love for the rocks among which he lived.
Some accounts suggest that the hermit was no other than Zacchaeus, who lived out his years here as a hermit. So, all-in-all a somewhat confused genealogy.
The best view of Rocamadour is from the road descending from l’Hospitalet, to the north-east, and ideally early in the morning. From the large car park above the site, a railcar (charge) takes you down to the main access to the religious level.
Nearby, and worth visiting, is the Forêt des Singes and the écoparc Rocher des Aigles.