Built into a sheer wall of the Alzou canyon and seeming to hang from a cliff, Rocamadour has been visited by religious pilgrims since 1050.
This village 85 mi/140 km north of Toulouse is now one of the most popular tourist sites in France. Stop at L'Hospitalet to take photos of the village: It's quite spectacular. Be aware that you cannot take your car into the village unless you are staying in one of the hotels there, and nearby parking lots fill up very fast in summer.
There are both steps and an elevator that you can take to get up into town. Once you're there, it's easy to get around. The small village square looks onto seven churches. The Basilica of St. Sauveur, the Chapelle St. Michel and the Chapelle Notre-Dame (with the famous statue of the Black Madonna from the 12th century) are the best ones. The castle is also a must for those who enjoy stomach-clenching, vertiginous heights.
Just south of Rocamadour is the village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie, beautifully situated above the Lot River and its valley. The local history museum documents the life and artistic wealth of the town in the late Middle Ages. Musee Rignault, housed in a 15th-century home, is also worth visiting for its art collection and its lovely terraced gardens that look out over the valley. In summer, the chateau hosts art exhibitions with a focus on surrealist art.
The Gouffre de Padirac (The Abyss of Padirac) is another major attraction near Rocamadour, only 10 mi/16 km away. You'll descend 300 ft/90 m into this huge pit to take a guided tour of 1.5 mi/2.5 km of underground passageways and chambers. After passing by amazing natural springs and canyons, you will be brought back by the gondoliers who row you along the underground river. It's an unforgettable experience.
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