Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: 5 Best Reasons Why You Should Visit

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is southern France’s one of the most beautiful villages where natural wonders and timeless charm linger together. Even a slight glimpse at its quaint town can satisfy anybody’s wanderlust, without a doubt!

For years, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has been the haven of several creatives. They are writers and painters who were all inspired by the beauty of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. In fact, in 2012, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie was voted Frances’ favorite village!

In this post, I share the top reasons why you should consider Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. They should help you decide if Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a go or no go. Alright? Let’s go!

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I also shared the attractions (with visiting information) and scenic spots around Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. If ever you decide to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, this post will already help you build your itinerary.

Okay…

If you’re living outside of France, the chances are you only recently discovered Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. 

That’s absolutely understandable because, unlike Paris, Reims, Lyon, Avignon, or Strasbourg, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is only a tiny village with no comparable world-famous landmarks. 

Although that is the case, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie can be your beautiful off-the-beaten-path destination. I think Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is one of the best places to visit if you want a meaningful “journey” or a unique get-away to France.

But for everyone, is Saint-Cirq-Lapopie worth visiting? 

Yes. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is well worth visiting for a lovely stroll in its medieval village and surrounding natural attractions. Most importantly, considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie can definitely be a place that satisfies wanderlust!

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, The view of the medieval village

Okay, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is nice to visit. However, can we quickly go to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie? Where is Saint-Cirq-Lapopie?

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is one of the villages perched on a rocky hill overlooking the meandering Lot River. Technically, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is within the Lot Department in the Occitanie Region in southwestern France.

Together with Rocamadour, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie lies within a natural park called Parc Naturel régional des Causses du Quercy, a UNESCO Global Geopark. It’s a place of winding rivers, craggy limestone plateaus, and spectacular chasms.

Toulouse is the closest major French city to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, only 1.5 hours away by car. 

You can also go to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie from Toulouse using public transportation. First, take the train to Cahors. And from Cahors, hop on bus #889 to get to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. Total travel time is 3 hours at minimum, considering matching train-bus schedules.

I won’t convince you to go to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, especially if you don’t prefer renting/driving a car or hiring a driver. Although there are buses and trains, their availability is limited.

If you are traveling by car, there’s little to no problem with going to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. So, stay tuned as this article will mention the best experiences you’ll have in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

If you are thinking of skipping Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, hold on for a second! Because here are the five reasons why visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: 

  1. Charming Village
  2. Dramatic Viewpoints
  3. Scenic Hiking Trails
  4. Wonders In The Towpath
  5. Relaxing Boat Ride

Let’s kick off the list with the primary reason why you’d come:

Reason 1 — Charming Village

Is it a destination which nothing will remind you of your work and problems you like to go to? Do you want to see a totally new place that can make you forget about all the stress for a while? 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Timber-framed and masonry style houses in the medieval village

If yes, the charming and preserved village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie can help. This place, existing and maintained for over 1000 years, will transport you to a setting where “awe” replaces the “worries.”

How? Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is one of the most beautiful villages in France, and that “title” never lied. The lovely houses—all appear as if it’s the middle ages. 

With quaintness everywhere, you’ll feel unreachable. Unreachable by any negativity at home or work. Come and free your mind to think about what’s best for yourself!

Here’s the beauty you can see when you visit:

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Beautiful houses in the preserved medieval village
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Roof and balconies of the cute houses
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Wooden balcony embellished with flowers
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Timber-framed houses and cobblestone lanes
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Upright perspective of the beautiful houses

What surprised me in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is the Maisons à Colombage or the half-timbered houses in the village. These houses are mainly found in northern France. I did not expect Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, located in southern France, to have them.

Although Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has timber-framed houses, their appearance isn’t exactly the same as those in the north. The materials that were used are similar to other villages in southern France.

(To get an idea of what the houses in northern France look like, check my article about Colmar, a town in Alsace in northeastern France.)

That said, I think Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has beautiful “unique” architecture, combining the styles of the houses from northern and southern France. For me, the wood and masonry materials of the buildings in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie are perfect together. They look straight out of a fairytale, indeed!

You’ll love wandering along its cobblestone lanes, flanked by these shutter-presser houses

I also like Saint-Cirq-Lapopie because it’s a car-free village. A stroll should feel more like living in the bygone ages. You might spot one or two, but they must be owned by a local.

Aside from the village center, there are two specific places I want you to see in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie:

  1.  Eglise de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie
  2. Castle Ruins of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

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Eglise de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

Eglise de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is the most noticeable heritage of the village. It is the largest structure in Eglise de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie that is dedicated to the youngest Christian martyr, Saint Cyricus

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Eglise de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie close-up view

You can see it as soon as you arrive in the vicinity of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. Viewing it up close, you will notice it manifesting Languedoc-Gothic style architecture.

Eglise de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is located in the middle part of the village. In front of it is a mini square with an overlooking view of the lovely houses.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Eglise de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie behind the quaint street and houses

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Castle Ruins of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

Back in the day, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie served as a French stronghold. And on the highest point in the village, there was a fort or castle overlooking the entire Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and the Lot Valley.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, View of the village from the castle ruins

It was a significant structure for the residents of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie back in the day. For centuries, it defended the medieval village from enemies.

The castle was most notable for protecting Saint-Cirq-Lapopie during the conquest of Richard the Lionheart and more enemies during the 100 Years’ War. It lasted for years until King Henry IV ordered it completely demolished during the Wars of Religions

Although it is no more, you can still imagine how it functioned in the past.

 The breathtaking view of the Lot Valley and the beautiful view of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie village will spark your imagination, you being a guard or the viscount that oversees Saint-Cirq-Lapopie way back then. 

From the top, you can spot the village center and see people roaming in the village. If you’re from the church, you can find a stairway/pathway to the castle ruins, serving as a shortcut.

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Reason 2 — Dramatic Viewpoints

The ruined castle is only one of the vantage points where you can see breathtaking panoramas in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. There are two more I know you must see.

For me, these beautiful views are a reason to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie because the scenery you’ll see is mostly natural. It’s going to be a totally refreshing sight! At the same time, they can make us feel awe, a sensation that’s so beneficial for us.

These vantage points are called Porte de Rocamadour and Venes Cirque Lookout. You may use these links to see their exact location on Google Maps.

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Porte de Rocamadour

Porte de Rocamadour is the name of the gate to the east of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie village center. I think it is called Porte de Rocamadour because it is where the people traveling between Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and Rocamadour pass by.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Porte de Rocamadour

Rocamadour is another beautiful village in southern France. It is a famous pilgrimage site, included in a group of UNESCO called Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.

Porte de Rocamadour is a dramatic viewpoint in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie because its location has a beautiful perspective of the medieval village

The view near the gate is at postcard level. And it should make you feel like you’re a wanderer who stumbled upon a magical village, seeking to see the beauty of the world. 

If you’re currently in the tourist information office, just follow the main lane running in the village center. You must pass by the Le Cantou restaurant and continue walking east (do not take the path to the road).

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Vènes Cirque – Lookout Point

Not too far from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is the viewpoint of Vènes Cirque. It is another beautiful scenic spot you can quickly visit with a short hike from the medieval village.

swipe the 360° image below to see more views

In a nutshell, a cirque is a landform made by a natural phenomenon that involves erosion and limestone dissolution. Usually, cirques are carved by glaciers in the alpine environment. But in the case of Vènes Cirque, it’s most probably because of the fluvial activity of the Lot River.

At Vènes Cirque’s lookout point, you’ll see the breathtaking view of a cliff carved by nature. It forms a half-circular dip, similar to an amphitheater, which makes it a bit spectacular.

To get to Vènes Cirque’s lookout point, you may start from Porte de Rocamadour. Then, hike along the Les Vezes Road to the east. The hike is about 1 kilometer long and would take 15 minutes to finish.

The viewpoint lies on a small path on the left side of the road, just before the curve in Les Vezes Road.

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Reason 3 — Scenic Hiking Trails

Another reason you would want to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is the scenic hikes around the village. 

They are not only scenic, though. The hiking trails pass by artworks, picturesque rock formations, and historical landmarks

You can find several hiking trails where Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is the jump-off point. But the most famous is the Chemin de Halage or the towpath beside the Lot River. 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Chemin de Halage or Towpath
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Chemin de Halage or Towpath

The towpath connects Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and the town of Bouziès, stretching for approximately 5 kilometers. I think it is a unique attraction you can’t easily find anywhere else. That’s why I think it can be enough to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

Why is it unique? Well, because it is not just an ordinary hiking trail. The towpath is carved out of the rocky cliff beside the Lot River

Hiking on the towpath, I’m sure you’ll also marvel at the semi-tunnel towpath. As you walk, you’ll see beautiful faces of the cliffs—picturesque as they’re often reflected in the calm surface of the Lot River.

The towpath has the relaxing sound of the flowing water and birds chirping. So, prepare to be nature-touched, as well!

I have to point out the cliffs you’ll see from the towpath. The wall of rocks manifests nature’s creativity. The different colors, from amber to white and black to gray, painted on the dizzying cliffs, are simply a spectacle for me.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Beautiful rocks in the cliff of Chemin de Halage or towpath

Fun fact! Did you know? The towpath was created in 1845 to pull the goods-loaded boats and boats upstream by horses. I was impressed with how the men dug the towpath with the civil engineering technology at that time.

Because the towpath was created to help transport goods before, it was built in a way that everyone could easily travel.

That said, you can expect the hike to the towpath to be pretty easy and not demanding. Also, although some parts of this hiking trail are paved, you still must wear walking shoes or anything comfortable to enjoy.

If you start hiking the towpath from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie village center, expect a downhill path in the early portions of the hike. 

Note that a roundtrip hike from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie to Bouziès takes up 2.5 to 3 hours. There is a way to shorten that up, though. You’ll discover it as we discuss more reasons to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

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Reason 4 — Wonders In The Towpath

Aside from the 70-meter-high limestone cliff walls, man-made marvels can also be found in hiking the towpath. These wonders in the towpath or Lot River are another reason you would like to have a trip to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

They are fascinating discoveries involving art, engineering, and history.

If you’re hiking the towpath from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie to Bouziès, you should see these attractions in sequence:

  1.  Ganil Lock
  2. Sculptures of Daniel Monnier
  3. Old Railway Bridge
  4. Château des Anglais

Ganil Lock

As a person who lived in an archipelago, I have never seen rivers in our country used as waterways. Apparently, in our case, it is the sea and roads we always use to transport goods and people. 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Ganil Causeway Lock

Locks, such as the Ganil lock in the Lot River, were new to me. 

In a nutshell, locks, in water navigation, are enclosures for boats in a canal or a river. It can adjust the water level, so boats can travel up and down a river or canal.

If you are from places where waterways are not common, the Ganil lock can be one of the “coolest” things you can discover on a trip to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. 

Ganil Lock is near the middle of the hike on the towpath. It was built over a century ago and is still working today. When you visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and hike the towpath during the peak season (summer), you can see how the Ganil lock works.

swipe the 360° image below to see more views

Whether on the towpath or riding the boat, you can also witness how the lock operators moderate the boat’s passing in the Ganil lock. Lock operators use the techniques and motion used by traditional lockmasters, demonstrating Lot’s cruising history. 

It is quite a spectacle to see if it’s the first time.

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Sculptures of Daniel Monnier

Did you know that the part of the towpath dug into the cliffside has been carved twice?

The first time people carved the cliff was to give a better way to transport goods. For the second time, it was to surprise and give fascination to people using the towpath.

What’s that surprise? 

An artwork, sculpture, or relief carved out of the walls of a dug part of the towpath. I don’t like to spoil you, so I won’t show you a picture of the artwork on the towpath.

Anyway, the relief was created by Daniel Monnier, an artist from Toulouse. In his masterpiece, you’ll see the natural characteristics of the Lot River. Some elements depict birds, water, fish, fossils, flora, and fauna.

If you want to learn more about the sculpture, here’s an article from Atlas Obscura telling the history of the artwork. Seeing the pictures from this post may spoil the experience on your trip to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie… so it’s already up to you.

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Old Railway Bridge

After the part of the towpath that is dug into the cliff, you’ll emerge into a forest where you can see the old railway bridge. It passes above the towpath and the Lot River, so no effort will be spent looking for it.

swipe the 360° image below to see more views

There’s nothing much special about the old railway bridge. However, if you’re looking for photo opportunities, the old railway bridge one can be. 

The railway has symmetrical elements when viewed above the bridge’s anchor.

There is a small inclined path beside the old railway which you can climb to get on top. Just be careful! The path is sandy when dry and has loose stones. Thus, it can be slippery.

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Château des Anglais

Bouziès is where the towpath ends if you start hiking it from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. There are a few shops and cafes in the town where you can replenish after the hike. 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France, Chateau des Anglais

It may appear like there’s nothing more you can discover when you reach Bouziès. But, there’s still one that may surprise you! It’s Château de Anglais.

Unlike most castles and forts we know, Château de Anglais is absolutely one of the most unique. Why? Because it’s seamlessly built in a cavity of a cliff, anchored in massive limestone rock.

Château de Anglais was built because the locals needed refuge whenever their enemies attacked. The enemies were mainly the English; hence it is the castle’s name.

Constructed in a very strategic position, Château de Anglais must have not only protected the citizens but also made ambush attacks on invading armies marching along the road below it. So clever.

If you are in the town of Bouziès, you must get to the metal bridge or cross the Lot River to get a nice view of Château de Anglais. You may not quickly notice Château des Anglais from Bouziès at first glance because of its location.

swipe the 360° image below to see more views

Today, visitors can only behold Château de Anglais from the outside. Its interiors aren’t accessible.

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Reason 5 — Relaxing Boat Ride

Previously we talked about the Lot River and Ganil Lock. With that, I believe you already have in mind that visitors have an option for boat tours during their trip to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. 

If that’s what you suspect, you are correct! Gabare, the traditional boats in Lot, cruise on the Lot River from Bouzies and Saint-Cirq-Lapopie back and forth.

They fully operate during the peak season, from July to August

Visitors going to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and then hiking the towpath during these months can complete the round trip back to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie with a boat ride on the Lot River.

This boat ride is a reason to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie because it is definitely a rare experience. 

Not only seeing the spectacular cliffs and the wonders in the towpath I mentioned earlier that make the overall experience. It is also a relaxing boat ride in a traditional boat on the Lot River.

Gabare is a flat-bottomed boat whose draft only sinks only 70 cm deep (The draft is the part of the hull that is submerged into the water). It is made to fit the specifications of the river’s dam called “causeways.”

One thing unique I notice about Gabare is that instead of using a sail, it uses a long hemp rope to pull the vessel away from the banks. (the hemp rope is attached to the mast)

The company that manages the Gabare boats is Les Croisières de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. They offer more than just a simple tour of the River Lot! 

Les Croisieres de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie let you rent your own Gabare, and they will teach you how to use it. They also offer pirate-themed boat rides, which are great for kids!

On the Gabare cruise, you will pass through the Ganil Causeway Lock, Château des Anglais, and the Old Cargo Port. You will see how the Ganil lock works. 

Similar to the experience in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie’s medieval village, the Gabare boat ride shall be another throwback to the past experience (In another setting). Here is the website of Les Croisières de Saint-Cirq-Lapopie to reserve and book a ticket.

So, that’s it!

Those are my five reasons to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. 

Suppose you wish to visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, but don’t have time to make an itinerary and book services individually. Then, you may check this link to show you all the available tours to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

If you like to see or discover more places like Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, click the name of a village in my list below.

I’m sure one of them will be on your travel bucket list! Some are totally unmissable and offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 

Village/Town Name Features
Gordes A scenic hilltop village with a view of the picturesque Luberon Regional Nature Park.
Eze A romantic hilltop village with an overlooking view of the coast of the French Riviera
Rocamadour A breathtaking pilgrimage site and historical village in Lot Department
Moustiers Sainte-Marie A village sitting by the foothills and nearest to the spectacular Verdon Gorge (Grand Canyon of France)
Aigues Mortes A walled village with imposing gates located in the wildlife-rich Camargue Regional Nature Park
Carcassonne The village/town with 2 preserved medieval walls and 2 UNESCO sites.
Chamonix The village/town with the most panoramic views of the Alps in the South of France.
Domme A quaint village in Dordogne Valley known for its honey-colored houses
Saint-Paul de Vence A village in the French Riviera, home to countless artworks tucked in its preserved medieval narrow lanes.
Saint-Cirq Lapopie A charming village with half-timbered houses overlooking Lot River.
10 Most Beautiful Villages in the South of France

You may click the names of the villages to learn more. Alternatively, you can also read my article about the Most Beautiful Villages in the South of France for a brief summary of each village.

I also want to share with you the town called Annecy—my favorite city in France. It’s a scenic place that also has a charming historic center, where you can discover some history. I think that you’ll love hanging out at its lake (Lake Annecy). Learn more from my post “10 Reasons Why Visit Annecy.”

Lastly, if you plan to stay in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and have a memorable night in one of France’s most beautiful villages, Here’s the link to see all the best accommodation deals.

That would be all. Thanks for reading!

I hope you found this article very informative and insightful. I wish you many memorable moments in your travels you can cherish all your life! Viva la Vida.

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Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, France

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