Luxury Self Drive Holiday: Avignon to Carcassonne

8 days

Explore the fascinating and beautiful wine region around two of France’s loveliest medieval cities, Avignon and Carcassonne. Along the way you will savour a delightful chef’s table dining experience, a vineyard hike, and a mini-cruise on the beautiful Thau lagoon. Your own private chauffeured tour of key French wine regions Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Costières de Nîmes, the Pézenas & Faugères, Minervois and Corbières will of course include vineyard tours and wine tastings, accompanied by an English speaking driver/guide.

Trip Highlights

  • Seven nights in luxury lodings, including a vineyard spa and a magical 19th-century neo-Gothic masterpiece in medieval Carcassonne

  • An incredible chef's table experience set in the 19th century kitchen of an historic mansion

  • All private guided tours as specified in the itinerary with expert guides in each region

  • One-hour boat trip on the lagoon, where you will be able to the see the oyster beds and find out all about the work of this sought-after shell

  • Unique experiences hand-picked by the team

  • SmoothRed Travel App with recommended restaurant lists

  • Dedicated 24/7 SmoothRed on-call support

from $4,862 per person

This is a guide price based on 2 people travelling together and sharing a room.

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Trip details

Day 1

After self-driving to Avignon, you will check into a fantastic five-star hotel in the heart of this beautiful city for the next two nights. There’s no need to worry about your car, the hotel has secure parking in which you can leave your car during your stay.

Remarkably preserved, Avignon has a fascinating, rich history and much architectural beauty. Set on a charming cobbled lane in the medieval city centre, the hotel, housed in a lovely 16th-century building, is just a stone’s throw away from key sights such as the famous Avignon bridge and the Palais des Papes, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe.

In the evening, you will enjoy a fabulous chef’s table experience set in the 19th century kitchen of an historic mansion. As the chef cooks over an old wood stove with copper pots, creating delicious dishes inspired by the fresh ingredients from the day’s market, he will enthral you with his anecdotes and exuberant personality. You will relish the friendly discussion across the  large wooden table, savouring wonderful local wines.

Day 2

After a delicious breakfast at the hotel, you will be whisked away on a private chauffeured tour of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, accompanied by an English speaking driver/guide. It is a lovely old village, with small winding streets beautiful ancient fountains and imposing castle. Visiting some specific sites, you will learn all about the characteristics of the terroir, the wine-making process, visiting the cellars and, of course, tasting the wine before a memorable lunch.

In the afternoon, you’ll have a tour of the Costières de Nîmes, a unique area for vines. The vineyards are spread across beautiful countryside between Nimes and the Petit Rhône, a river of the delta rim in Camargue. Its terroir is perfectly suited to the Mourvèdre grape which dominates the region.

One reason the wine in this region is so extraordinary is the many terraces and banks of pebbles the river has created over hundreds of thousands of years. The principal  secondary grape here is the Grenache rouge, and you will get to try some of these fantastic wines, visit some of the estates, and understand the impact of the incredible terroir on these wines.

Day 3

After enjoying the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, you will have the morning to relax, enjoying the hotel, or perhaps taking a nice walk around the city of Avignon. It’s a delight to just stroll, taking in the beautiful historic buildings and squares, and there are museums, churches, cafes and bars to explore.

You’ll then self-drive approximately an hour west, towards Montpellier, spending two nights at a luxurious spa hotel, set on its own wine estate. This gorgeous 16th-century country house is set in the centre of magnificent landscaped grounds and is a supremely relaxing, tranquil retreat just minutes from Montpellier city centre.

The hotel estate has a lovely spa with a heated indoor pool, Turkish baths, saunas and two outdoor pools. You can visit the thirteen-hectare vineyard, making use of the complimentary bikes.

Day 4

Following the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, you will experience a full-day private chauffeured wine tour of the Pézenas & Faugères region with your English-speaking guide. The soil’s mineral qualities of schist and limestone mix with volcanic basalt to create unique terroirs. You will learn all about the appellation of Pézenas and Faugères from your private wine expert.

The tour encompasses the wines grown around the town of Pézenas, which contains a number of different terroirs. The morning will be spent at an innovative producer of organic wines, where you will discover their amazing state-of-the-art winery and cellars. Following the tour, a wonderful local lunch will be prepared for you, made from seasonal produce.

In the afternoon, you will discover wineries and vineyards of local producers in Faugères, and there will be a memorable tour and tasting.

Day 5

After another delicious complimentary breakfast at your hotel,  meet with your guide for an invigorating hike through local vineyards awaits, where you’ll try lovely examples of white, rosé and red wines from the estate along the way. After the walk you will be able to enjoy a winemakers’  picnic prepared with local products and paired with wine from the estate.

In the afternoon your guide will take you to the edge of the Thau lagoon, considered the second largest lake in France. Wildlife-rich – especially its birdlife including pink flamingos and herons – it is known for its oyster and mussel farming. On a one-hour boat trip on the lagoon, you will be able to the see the oyster beds and find out all about the work of this sought-after shell, then enjoy them freshly out of the water with a local specialty, a crisp glass of Picpoul de Pinet.

Day 6

Relax with breakfast at the hotel, time for final treatment in the spa or walk among the vines!

Following this, you will then self-drive to the pretty hilltop town of Carcassonne (approx. 1h50) and will stay in a magical 19th-century five-star neo-Gothic masterpiece, ideally located in the medieval city of Carcassonne.

You’ll have the evening at leisure to enjoy the atmosphere, visit a restaurant and soak up the absorbing history of Carcassonne, home to one of the most remarkable medieval sights in the world: the citadel astride its hill, known as la Cité. La Cité is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Day 7

After enjoying your complimentary breakfast at the hotel, you will be picked up by your chauffeur guide to start the day with a wine tour of Minervois. The beautiful Minervois region is a short drive from Carcassonne and an area of outstanding beauty. It possesses some of the most picturesque vineyards in the Languedoc wine region are found here as well as some of France’s finest wines.

At a visit to a top-class winery in the cru appellation you will learn what it is that makes this wine so special. Following this, you will find out why lunch is such a special part of this tour, enjoying a delicious three-course menu accompanied by fine wines from the region.

In the afternoon, you’ll visit the appellation of Corbières. The vineyards of Corbières are perched on rocky hillsides among winding roads and have a fascinating history. The area has been used for viticulture since Roman times and some of the vineyards in the area are more than a century old.

This evening you’ll receive the SmoothRed recommended restaurant list (dinner not included).

Day 8

Enjoy your complimentary breakfast at the hotel. You’ll have the day at leisure in Carcassonne before making your own way from there.

All of the holidays we create are completely tailor-made to you

This sample itinerary is intended to give you a flavour of what we can do.

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“Thanks for taking the time and trouble to call. You really have set the standard by which we compare all other companies!! Thank you so much for organising a fantastic itinerary with such an interesting and varied range of stop-overs. We are already starting to think about next year’s trip to France so would welcome any suggestions.”

Hilary Alder

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