Discover the diverse treasures of the most famous wine region in the world as we ply the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers through the rolling hills of southwest France. Venture into ancient towns and villages where half-timbered houses and medieval churches meet Renaissance gems, and enjoy a warm welcome at some of the most prestigious wine estates in Bordeaux. Set out on walks and bike rides to explore a gentle countryside that—like its wines—begs to be savored, and sample award-winning vintages from world-class appellations like Saint-Émilion, Médoc, and Sauternes. Along the way, soak up the insights of the National Geographic expert and a National Geographic photographer on excursions and onboard talks.
Cycle through the vineyards near Libourne, stopping at the Château Belles-Graves, owned by relatives of Jacques Cousteau, who grew up in the region and spent time at the castle.
Follow a historian on a guided tour of the Musée d’Aquitaine, home to treasures from prehistory to the 20th century.
Head out with a conservationist on a bird-watching hike at the Teich Bird Reserve, where water birds, eagles, and all manner of migratory species have been spotted.
Venture into the Grotte de Pair-non-Pair to see prehistoric cave art with a private guide, and meet with a researcher to learn about other significant finds here.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Day 1 — Bordeaux, France
Arrive in Bordeaux, a thriving port town since the Roman era and the capital of France’s most prestigious wine region. Settle into your suite aboard the Scenic Diamond and enjoy dinner on board this evening. (D)
Day 2 — Libourne/Saint-Émilion
Cruise the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers to the 13th-century port town of Libourne, and perhaps enjoy a cooking class along the way. Spend the afternoon in picturesque Saint-Émilion, an ancient village of cobbled alleyways and half-timbered houses set above rolling vineyards. Take a tour of the village’s Monolithic Church and catacombs, which were carved out of a limestone hill in the 12th century. End the day at the glorious Château Siaurac, where we’ll toast the sunset with the estate’s excellent wines.
Day 3 — Libourne/Bergerac/Pauillac
Choose from the following excursions today: visit the Château Franc Mayne to taste its grand cru classé, or journey to the historic city of Bergerac and sample local specialties at a nearby farm. Alternatively, head out of the city by bike, pedaling past vineyards and stopping at historic wine estates along the way. One of the chateaux we’ll visit is owned by relatives of National Geographic Explorer Jacques Cousteau, who was born in this region. Cruise to Pauillac in the afternoon.
Day 4 — Pauillac/Médoc
Travel the scenic Médoc wine route today, gaining insights from our expert and capturing images alongside our National Geographic photographer. Opt to explore the region on foot, walking from one historic wine estate to the next and sampling local vintages along the way. Or cycle to Château Lagrange, featured on Napoleon III’s Official Classification of Bordeaux wines in 1855. This evening, enjoy a classic musical performance at the medieval Château d’Agassac.
Day 5 — Pauillac/Cadillac
Glide south along the Garonne, soaking in beautiful vistas of the Bordeaux region on the way to Cadillac, a port town whose fortifications date back to the Hundred Years’ War. Take part in a cooking class on board if you wish. In the evening, local entertainers perform on the ship.
Day 6 — Cadillac/Sauternes
Spend the morning discovering the Sauternes region, known for its dessert wines. Cycle through rolling vineyards to Château de Myrat for a tasting of grand cru classé wines, or visit the Château Guiraud to try its prestigious vintages. Enjoy a master class in French cuisine aboard the ship, or set off on a hike to the village of Loupiac. Alternatively, visit the historic Château de Roquetaillade with the family that has owned it for centuries, or stroll the medieval village of Saint-Macaire.
Day 7 — Bordeaux
Immerse yourself in the vibrant rhythms of Bordeaux today. Join a chef at the market to select produce, and then cook it up during a culinary class on board. Or take a guided tour—by vehicle or by bicycle—of the city’s bridges, gardens, and historic sites. Then join a local historian for a private visit to the Musée d’Aquitaine, which traces the tumultuous history of this region from prehistoric times to the modern era. After a dinner of regional delicacies, set out on an evening cruise to see the city lit up at night and attend a performance by a classical musician.
Day 8 — Bordeaux/Arcachon/Bourg
Enjoy a day on the Arcachon Bay, edged by nature reserves and long sandy beaches. Go on a bird-watching hike with a local conservationist in the Teich Bird Reserve, where more than 300 species have been observed. Alternatively, stroll through the town of Arcachon and its outdoor market, head to the beach to climb the highest sand dune in Europe, or take the tram to the new Cité du Vin museum. Dock in picturesque Bourg for the night.
Day 9 — Bourg or Cognac/Blaye
Start the day with a tour of the Château de la Citadelle in Bourg, including its carriages museum and guardrooms. Then visit the Grotte de Pair-non-Pair with a site researcher on an excursion specially arranged by National Geographic. Discovered in 1881, the cave yielded many thousands of tools and fossils, as well as wall paintings—an incredible glimpse into life on Earth some 60,000 years ago. Alternatively, enjoy an excursion to Cognac, a fortified town renowned for its brandy, and stop for a tasting at the Rémy Martin property. Relax on the sun deck as we sail into the historic port of Blaye this evening.
Day 10 — Blaye/Bordeaux
Take in sweeping views of vineyard-striped hills from the historic Blaye citadel on a tour of the town. Or enjoy a morning of cycling on the Captain’s Road, named after World War I captains who purchased homes along the waterway. Join a final cooking class in Scenic Culinaire or just relax on board as we make our way back to Bordeaux. Gather for a Captain’s farewell dinner tonight.
Day 11 — Bordeaux
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport or train station in Bordeaux for your journey home.
This trip is offered in partnership with Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours.
Book by June 30, 2018 and receive round-trip economy airfare between the U.S. and Europe for $295 per person on any 2018 departure, and $395 per person in 2019. Offer is subject to availability and valid for new bookings only, and may not be combinable with other promotions. Please call for details.
Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Jay Dickman has worked in photojournalism for more than 40 years, covering topics as diverse as the war in El Salvador, the Olympics, national political conventions, six Super Bowls, and the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Among his more than 25 assignments for National Geographic, Jay has lived for three months in a Stone Age village in Papua New Guinea and spent a week under the Arctic ice in a nuclear attack sub. A popular photo instructor and expedition leader, he has also published five books and numerous articles for National Geographic Traveler, LIFE, Condé Nast Traveler, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Forbes.
Travelers can choose between a light or moderate activity level. For a light level of activity, they should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
For a moderate level, travelers should be prepared for multiple hours of physical activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.