Stretching from the Atlantic’s rolling swells to the fairytale banks of the river Dordogne, Aquitaine’s glorious rural idyll was once the setting for bitter feuds – and with good reason. Famed for its ruby-red vintages and hearty terroir cuisine, this fertile wine-producing country is unabashedly beautiful – a landscape of sprawling vineyards, meandering rivers and hilltop villages just begging to be explored. A scattering of elegant boutique hotels await: stay in serene boltholes, pool-blessed farmhouses and sumptuous châteaux.

When to go

Summers are blissfully sunny, though as in much of the country local life grinds to a halt in August. Autumn is a lovely time to roam the vineyards, but call ahead if you’re planning on visiting châteaux, as they may close for the harvest.

Food & Drink

The region’s well-stocked larder has much to please epicureans: feast on dry-cured ham from Bayonne, bay-plucked oysters in Arcachon and all manner of foie gras, duck-fat frites and melt-in-the-mouth beef. Day trips to St Emilion are a must: a Unesco-protected site, this charming medieval village offers winery tours, gourmets picnics and lunches in stately surroundings.

Not to miss

Work up an appetite for fresh-off-the-boat seafood by climbing the sand dune of Pilat, a spectacular mound of goldens sands bordering the blue waters of Arcachon.

Nightlife

Evenings in the countryside are subdued affairs. Bordeaux has a thriving nightlife, rife in wine bars and late-night cafés. Conversation flows easily at bijou La Comtesse, which mixes some of the best cocktails in town. Sample wines from an extensive list at Verre o Vin, in the old wine district; their snack-sized regional specialties aren’t bad, either. Open until 2am, Bistro du Fromager has an equally impressive wine collection and stellar cheese plates.

Where to stay in Aquitaine

Glitzy Biarritz has pine-covered hills, melt-in-the-mouth charcuterie and some of the country’s best surf. Gironde stays are all about wine-tasting and cellar-touring. Make yourself at home in a Dordogne hideaway for acres of manicured grounds, contemporary châteaux and easy access to the region’s medieval villages and jaw-dropping prehistoric sites.

How to get there

Bordeaux Airport serves daily flights to domestic and international destinations. A new high-speed train line connects the city to Paris in two and a half hours. Biarritz Airport is smaller, but has seasonal low-cost flights to London and Europe.

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