sarlat -> biarritz // routes

Apr 9th, 2017, 06:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2008
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sarlat -> biarritz // routes

We will be in Sarlat (Dordogne) then Biarritz this July, we will have a rental car. I would love any recommendations please on travel from Sarlat -> Biarritz, any suggested stops / sights / overnights? (Alternatively, we could return the rental in Biarritz and TGV to Biarritz, just wanted to explore the 'scenic' route first.)

Thank you.
ladybugtravel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2017, 11:32 PM
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I dont know what this means. But assuming you are driving from Sarlat to Biarritz, we'd need to know how much time you have to cover that distance (i.e., how many days/nights on the road).
StCirq is online now  
Apr 10th, 2017, 01:43 PM
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We have one full day (spend a night along the way) to drive from Sarlat to Biarritz.

If you recommend that we don't make this drive, we can return the rental car in Bordeaux (mea culpa for error in original post) and simply take the train to Biarritz.

Thanks in advance for your guidance.
ladybugtravel is offline  
Apr 10th, 2017, 02:04 PM
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The fastest route, which will take you through/around Bordeaux, is a bore, and Bordeaux is about halfway there (total drive = about 380 kms), so that would be the logical place to stop (or veer off onto the coastal route for a bit and stop in Arcachon). The longer route, through part of the Pyrénées) is 100 kms longer, and you might stop in Pau. Up to you, but I'd drop the car in Sarlat and take the train to Bordeaux and stay there, or drive to Bordeaux and drop the car there and take the TGV from there.
StCirq is online now  
Apr 10th, 2017, 04:50 PM
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I would head into the Haute Pyrenees, with an overnight in "one of those lovely, picturesque little villages". It will take you about 4 3/4 hrs (mostly on the Autoroute) to get there. The following is something I wrote for a friend and put into my Pays Basque itinerary. It is a round trip from Sare, but you can use it as a scenic route between the mountain village in the Pyrenees and Biarritz. If you would like a copy of my Pays Basque itinerary, or my new Dordogne itinerary - e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail.

I would only do this "overnight" on a clear day - with as few clouds as possible. Perhaps wake up early in the morning, gauge the weather, and if it is clear - call one of the hotels mentioned below to reserve a room. Then "head out" on this lovely trip through the Pyrenees. Get an early start (see below comment) so the sun will be at your back for the most scenic part of the drive.

It is our experience that there are fewer clouds in the mornings than in the afternoons when clouds seem to gather in the mountains. So try to drive over the following mountain passes (cols) as early as possible. If you get to the Col du Tourmalet and it is cloudy - drive back over the col again the next morning.

A portion of this drive follows the same route as #12 above. So if you decide to follow this overnight trip into the Haute Pyrenees - don't do #12.

This drive consists of a 2 hr 20 min drive on the A64 Autoroute, then a 2 1/2 hr extremely scenic/picturesque drive over two of the most famous mountain passes in the Pyrenees to a lovely village with a "quaint" hotel/restaurant. Then a 2 hr walking/ski lift exploration to the Pont d'Espagne*** - one of our favorite spots in the Pyrenees. The Pont d'Espagne could be visited the afternoon you arrive in the region, or the next morning. Then it is a scenic 5 hr drive back to Sare along some of the roads described in #12.

My wife & I stayed in the Haute Pyrenees for 2 weeks in 2012 & loved the area. We never got tired of just driving around in the mountains and admiring them at different times in the day - in full sunlight and in clouds. We stayed in the little village of Gaillagos at the eastern foot of the fabulous Col d'Aubisque**.

Leave Sare and get on the A63 at Exit #3, and then take the A64 east. Get off the A64 at Exit #16 and take the D924A to the interesting village of Arreau. It should take you about 2 hrs 50 mins to get to Arreau from Sare. Explore Arreau, and if it is time for lunch - have lunch there by the river (but remember about the clouds in the afternoon). Next, drive west on the D918 over the Col d'Aspin***. At the Col (highest point on the road), get out of the car and wander around & admire the scenery and grazing horses, cattle, and sheep. Remember - much of the Pyrenees is "free-grazing" and the animals have the right-of-way. You might encounter a cow sleeping on the road you are trying to drive on, or even a troupeau (herd) of sheep "blocking" the entire road. You'll have to be patient until the troupeaux travel off the road, before you can get by. The horses can get a little rambunctious - so don't approach them. We saw a tourist trying to get close to a horse, and the horse clearly didn't like it at all!!!

At Ste Marie de Campan in the summer you'll see displays of hay-stuffed costumed life-size "dolls" portraying "daily life" - a potter, two people sitting at a cafe, and other similar scenes. Drive through Ste Marie slowly. Then take the D918 west over the famous Col du Tourmalet**. If you follow the Tour de France at all - you will be familiar with this col. When you actually reach the col, get out of the car, admire the views, cows, sheep & horses. Have your picture taken under the statue of the bike rider "huffing & puffing" his way up the col. There will probably be many other people/bikers hanging around the col. Perhaps ask one of them if you can borrow their bike & have them take a picture of you under the statue. We did this (corny as it sounds).

Now descend the Col du Tourmalet and drive north on the D921 through the scenic Gorge de Luz to your hotel.

We dined at two very nice restaurants, which are also hotels in the Vercos mountain region in the Pyrenees. They are close to each other - both just south of Argeles Gazost. The first one is La Grange aux Marmottes in Viscos (population 44). . The second one is Les Viscos in St Savin (population 372). .

On this day or the next morning, visit the fabulous Pont d'Espagne*** - which is a short drive from your hotel. It is just south of Cauterets* - which is a charming "Belle Epoque" alpine town. Though Cauterets is less of a tourist mecca than it was in times past, you can still see and appreciate its "glory days" and many of the grand old hotels have been converted into apartments. Get to the Pont d'Espagne by driving through the Val de Jeret**. You can read about the Pont d'Espagne in the Michelin Green Guide for the Languedoc - but there really is no "trick" to visiting this spot. Just drive there, wander around and admire the scenery, the convergence of two rivers, and the rushing waters. The force of the raging waters is remarkable - quite deafening when you are close by. Go up the ski lift to the mountain lake, and perhaps have lunch or a drink at the restaurant by the lake. The Pont d'Espagne is a "don't miss" in this region. Between Cauterets and the Pont d'Espagne, you'll pass one of our favorite restaurants in the region - L'Abri du Benques. There is a magnificent water cascade next to the restaurant - you'll hear it before you spot it.

To drive back to Sare, head towards Argeles-Gazost and then take the D918 over the Col du Soulor and then over the fabulous Col d'Aubisque**. We drove over this col 4-5 times while we stayed in a gite in Gaillagos. It is very scenic - perhaps our favorite. At the end of the col, you will arrive in Eaux-Bonnes. My wife loved the "old" hotels in this spa town. Continue on to Laruns.

Now, check your watch. It is about a 3 3/4 hr scenic drive back to Sare from Laruns. If you did not visit the Pont d'Espagne today and you got an early start this morning - perhaps you have 4 hours available to take a gondola trip, then a tiny train up higher into the Pyrenees with lovely views of snow-covered mountain peaks. From Laruns, take the D934 south. When you get to the smaller D431, take it north to the Gondola starting place. Take the Gondola, and then the very scenic train to La Sagette. The most scenic views are from the left side of the train going up. At the termination of the train trip, you have the option of walking to Lac d’Ayous, but we did not take this trek – most people on the train did not either. This entire gondola/train trip will probably consume 3-4 hours, but it is well worth it.

From Laruns, head north on the D934, If you want to stretch your legs - Bielle* is a nice visit. Then head west on the very pretty D294. If you have an extra 1 1/2 hrs to spare, take the N134 south toward Lescun* for a visit. There is a marvelous walking path above town (look for the dirt road before you get to town). This path has restful, magnificent views. We took a break along this path, sat on a bench, & simply "took in" the scenery.

If you don't have the 1 1/2 extra hours to visit Lescun, at the N134 drive north to the D918 and take the D918 (you've been on the D918 quite a bit these last 2 days) all the way towards Tardets-Sorholus. Just before Tardets, take the D26 south to Larrau, then the D19 west over the scenic Col Bagargui*, then the pretty D18 to St Jean Pied de Port. Then back to Sare.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Apr 10th, 2017, 05:49 PM
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Thank you StCirq and StuDudley. This is *very* helpful!
ladybugtravel is offline  
Apr 10th, 2017, 06:11 PM
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My itinerary - simple

Stu's itinerary - complicated and long

You decide.

I live 20 minutes from Sarlat. I do these drives all the time. If your aim is to get from A to B in the easiest, fastest way possible, I suggest you use the trains.
StCirq is online now  
Apr 11th, 2017, 05:49 PM
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Thank you both. We have booked a gîte near Sarlat for six nights. Per your advice, we will rent a car in Bordeaux (we must arrive on a Sunday, sadly, all rental agencies in Sarlat closed). Then, return car to Bordeaux -> train to Biarritz. Merci!
ladybugtravel is offline  
Apr 11th, 2017, 06:33 PM
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When you get to Biarritz, are you going to pick up another car to explore the Pays Basque region???

If so - why are you driving back to Bordeaux and then taking the train to Biarritz??

1. Drive to Bordeaux & take a train to Biarritz
- Pack the bags for train travel, and drive 2 1/2 hrs to Bordeaux.
- Return the car - perhaps a 15 to 30 min effort
- Wait 45 mins for the next train to depart for Bordeaux
- 2 hr train ride to Bordeaux
- Rent another car - 30-45 min effort depending on how many others on your train are also renting cars
- Drive 15 mins(?) to your hotel

Total time about 6 1/2 hrs

2. Drive from Sarlat to your hotel in Biarritz
- Throw things into the car
- Drive 4 1/4 hrs to your hotel.

Of course, if you plan to spend the night in Bordeaux - then it's an OK idea. But I would still keep the car & drive 2 hrs to Biarritz.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Apr 11th, 2017, 06:48 PM
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Or take the route between Bordeaux and the Pyrénées, which has some nice "plus beau villages"

This was our travel between Biarritz and the Dordogne: with an overnight stop in Orthez.
Michael is online now  

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