Périgueux in the Dordogne area, is known for its refined gastronomy and its bustling outdoor markets. Pau, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, has kept alive a strong link with the British influence. While, Bayonne home of chocolate makers, has preserved its traditions and heritage from the Basque country. You can throw in a pretty decent coastline, too, the Côte d'Argent, which is Europe's longest, and attracts many surfers to Mimizan and Hossegor each year.
© Atout France/Maurice Subervie
The region has a complex and chequered history: it passed to France in 1137 when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII of France, but their marriage was annulled in 1152, and when Eleanor's new husband became Henry II of England in 1154, the area became an English possession, the cornerstone of the Angevin Empire. Aquitaine remained English until the end of the Hundred Years’ War in 1453, when it was annexed by France. During those 300 years, the region was ruled by the Kings of England strengthening links with England, with large quantities of wine produced in south-western France being exported to England, where it was known as claret.
The Dune of Pyla in Arcachon Bay, the tallest sand dune in Europe. It rises 105m above sea level, and was awarded the "Grand site national" label in 1978. © Atout France/Franck Chanel
The countryside is especially notable for its wines and vineyards, perhaps more so than its scenery, although the hills around Entre-Deux-Mers and the lovely town of St Émilion are a delight to explore. Of wider appeal is the huge pine-clad expanse os Les Landes, as well as the notable beaches along the Côte d'Argent, which stretches for over 200km from the Gironde estuary all the way to Biarritz. Inland from these beaches lie high sand dunes, and Les Landes, the largest forest in western Europe.
What makes Aquitaine especially attractive, particularly for those who enjoy being by the sea is that the limited range of conventional tourist attractions means that for most of the year (July and August excepted) there are few visitors; at these times you can have long stretches of the beach to yourself.
de Tourisme d'Aquitaine
4/5 Place Jean Jaurès
Tel: 05 56 01 70 00