If you want to explore France as part of a gap year, one destination you won't want to miss is Aquitaine. Located in the south-west of the country, the region is rich in history and natural beauty. Hire a boat and take in as much as you can during your time in the area.
Follow the River Baise or the Canal lateral a la Garonne for at least a week to really get under the skin of Aquitaine. There are so many places to see that narrowing down your options can be tricky; read on to discover a shortlist of the area's top five destinations.
The town of Montech is certainly one worth taking in; home to a number of landmarks, the settlement is also close to a forest, where activity lovers can try out some daring pursuits. Explore the town to take in the innovative water lift, which is a memorable way to avoid having to use numerous locks if you're travelling by boat. Also in the area is the 15th century Church of Our Lady of the Visitation, which houses a grand organ and 17 bells.
Not too far from here is the Foret d'Agre, which is comprised largely of oak trees and is a lovely place for a hike, taking in the native flora and fauna. You can also try out the aerial runways and climb trees using ropes as part of your visit.
Another must-visit is the town of Nerac, which boasts some fascinating monuments and places of interest. Among the most well known are the remains of Chateau Henri IV, which houses a scaled-down model of the castle in its heyday. Another important structure in the vicinity is the fortified watermill, which you can find in the Barbaste neighbourhood. The building has four towers in different styles, each of which is dedicated to one of the four daughters of King Henri IV.
Those with a sweet tooth will also want to call in at Nerac, as the town is home to a chocolate factory. Take a tour to witness the craftsmanship of the chocolatiers and perhaps sample the treat for yourself.
If you want to sample some regional cuisine, Aquitaine won't fail to disappoint. Head to Agen, which is known as the home of the prune, to sample the fruit in a variety of formats, such as dipped in chocolate, stuffed and baked.
Time your visit for the end of August and you're likely to catch the Prune Show, which is a gastronomic celebration of the fruit accompanied by music and dancing. You can also taste delicacies such as foie gras and truffles, washed down with a glass or two of one of the region's world-famous wines, including Margaux, St Emilion, Medoc and Graves.
Agen is also home to the Fine Arts Museum, which houses works by names like Goya, Tintoretto and Sisley, as well as archaeological relics and pieces of decorative art.
Meilhan Sur Garonne
History buffs will be in their element in the village of Meilhan Sur Garonne, which boasts a number of fascinating landmarks that date back through the ages. Along with the 12th century chapel that stands here, the village is home to the ruins of a Gallo-Roman citadel, as well as ancient ramparts.
You can also explore the former tomb of Admiral Baron Lacrosse during your visit, as well as take a walk along the Breach of the English - a picturesque old pathway set on a hillside that has survived battles and still connects the nearby canal with the lower village.
Meilhan Sur Garonne is just one of the many medieval villages to dot the region; if you want to explore others consider heading to Castets En Dorthe, Le Mas D'agenais or the bastide town of Valence D'agen.
One of Aquitaine's most prominent landmarks can be found in Moissac; the settlement is home to a magnificent cloistered Benedictine abbey that dates back to the seventh century. Once you've marvelled at the structure, take a guided walk around the area to learn more about its history.
Admire the impressive arched aqueduct at nearby Cacor and, if you fancy getting active, call in at the watersports centre in the vicinity. Here, you can try your hand at canoeing, waterskiing and a range of other fun pastimes.