Working out the best time to go to France is like choosing the best French wine. There are just so many out there, all appealing to an array of adventurous palettes. If you want that full body experience of trekking the GR10 in the Pyrenees, the GR20 in Corsica or the Tour du Mont Blanc, the best times are June to September. If you want all the fine aromas of Provence, it’s at peak perfume time in June and July but many of its routes are a bit too dry in August.
Brittany and Normandy are June and September when Parisiennes have not yet moved in for the summer, the tracks and trails are at their most tranquil, but the air is still warm and the sea is inviting. France has, of course, a fine bouquet all year round and, wherever or whenever you go, you will always discover a natural adventure where you can raise a glass and say santé – to your good health.
Best time to hike the GR20, Corsica
Corsica’s crowning glory for hikers is the GR20 trail, which takes both training and a good head for heights. The GR20 is considered one of the toughest of the GR routes in France, but you are rewarded with some of the country’s most exquisite elevated landscapes, such as the route between Vizzavona to Calvi on the north coast where you have to really work out to bliss out. Most of our GR20 tours are self-guided, with the exception of this guided one, which is also open to solo travellers and they are available for travel between June and September.
There can still be snow in May and as early as the end of September on the GR20 and there is also less risk of rain after this point and, although starting to get hot, you are trekking to altitudes over 2,000m so temperatures are lower. However, it does get busier in July and it is very hot in August, so you need to start at sunrise really. June and September are better months all round, although days are shorter in September and thunderstorms are less predictable. But the most important thing to remember with the GR20 is that Corsica has its own unpredictable mountain climate, so temperatures can sometimes plunge or soar within hours.
Take on the gritty but grand GR20 trail in Corsica between June and September.
Best time to go to Provence
Provence is almost greedy in its gorgeousness, and yet it just keeps giving. All year round. From walking trails through ancient Luberon villages, to cycling tours in both Provence and the Camargue, this region that stretches from the Alps to the Mediterranean has been immortalised by greats such as Cezanne and Van Gogh. Like the bliss of Cezanne’s bathers to the iconic sunflowers of Van Gogh, Provence is positively blooming in June. For Provence at the height of its perfume season, when the lavender is blooming, book a trip in June and July, breathing it all in at a lavender festival in Valensole on the first Sunday in July and Digne-les-Bains during the first week of August. Provence’s markets are positively packed with fine local produce at this time of year too.
You can also toast Provence’s on our Wine trails of Provence walking holiday and similar cycling holiday, which take you to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, famous for its raunchy reds, between March and November, so you can not only escape the summer crowds but also hit the hills for the grape harvest season. The grapes will have benefited from dry, hot weather of summer, with temperatures often exceeding 30C. But people don’t always feel the same way, which is why some of our walking holidays, such as our Hidden gems of Provence walking holiday and Walking in Van Gogh’s or Cezanne’s footsteps, or in the Alpilles and Luberon don’t run in July and August.
Autumn in Provence is still warm though, with daily temperatures ranging between 12-20C and, apart from our wine tours, other seasonal Provençal tours include a Cycling highlights holiday and a Bike and boat adventure, as well as a hiking holiday in Verdon Gorge, when you can see the gorge in all its grandiosity but without the summer crowds. Winter is mild and relatively sunny in Provence, with average daily temperatures between 3-11C, and we have two winter cycling options that are very popular – one a six day journey and the other a cheeky little five day break of pure bliss.
It’s a short window to catch both the sunflowers and the lavender in Provence, but if you do, it will turn your head.
Best time to go to hike the GR10 and Pyrenees
Many of our walking holidays in the Pyrenees, and its eponymous national park, follow the GR10 trail. At 866km long, it is topped and tailed by contrasting Atlantic and Mediterranean seascapes, with trailheads at Hendaye and Banyuls-sur-Mer respectively. With some stunning elevations the hiking windows can be short, although this depends on the itinerary you choose. The Pyrenees High Trails and Cirque de Gavarnie tour, for example, with its vast natural amphitheatre, solitary lakelands and views of Vignemale, and the highest French Pyrenean summit (3,298m) runs from June to September.
This self-guided trek between Cauterets and Néouvielle has the same June to September window, hiking across the highest pass on the GR10, the Hourquette d’Ossoue (2,734m), as well as the magnificent Madamète Pass (2,509m). Or this GR10 holiday which starts in the hiking haven of Cauterets and follows the trail to the thermal spa village of Luz-Saint-Sauveur, finishing in Gavarnie village, keeps the walking window open for longer, with trips available between May to October.
Lac de Gaube, one of many stunners along the GR10 in the French Pyrenees.
Best time to do the Tour du Mont Blanc
The Tour du Mont Blanc is far out, but the secret about its beauty has been out for a long time now too. It’s one of those long-distance walking trails that serious hikers all over the world want to do, especially as there is no technical climbing required. Also, compared with other iconic walking trails such as the Camino de Santiago which are accessible all year round, most Tour du Mont Blanc tours are only available during the summer months. So they do book out. And so if you are trying to work out the best time to do the Tour du Mont Blanc, it’s when you can get a booking, really.
Our trips starting in Les Houches are bookable between June and September, but the tours starting in Martigny are only available between July and September. They start booking up a year in advance sometimes. In addition, availability may be limited during big events such as the Marathon du Mont-Blanc at the end of June and the UTMB trail running event at the end of August. Your best bet is to get a booking in before Christmas, if you want to guarantee accommodation. There’s thankfully, only a limited number of beds on the Tour du Mont Blanc, because we wouldn’t want it to get too overcrowded after all. For more information on the Tour du Mont Blanc holidays that we offer, see our dedicated blog. In the event of our TMBs being booked out, check out our blog on Our top Tour du Mont Blanc alternatives.
The biggest question about the best time to do the Tour du Mont Blanc is, “is it your time to do it?”.
Best time to go to Brittany
Our Brittany tours are vélo voyages that cling to the coast, with Brittany boasting some of France’s wildest beaches. Both of them, not surprisingly, have coastal influences climate-wise, with wind and cooler temperatures than France’s Mediterranean. In the handsome and historic port town of St. Malo, for example, which you cycle through on our Emerald Coast tour, available from March to November, the best time for calmer climes is between May and September when average daily temperatures are 22-24C and as high as 25C in July and August.
If you choose to go as early as March or as late as November, average daily temperatures are 09C but you will have the trails to yourself. Our Pink Granite Coast cycling holiday is another Breton beauty, but only available between April and October as it’s a bit more exposed, and yet just as exquisite. And you also get to time your visit with the Scallop Festival, or Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, which takes place in April and is the biggest scallop festival in the world.
Shooting the breeze in Brittany, with cycling holidays available as early as March.
This is just a small selection of the natural adventures we have on offer in France and, for the big picture, see here. We are committed francophiles at The Natural Adventure and have several other blogs to get you en route, including our top French holidays accessible by train, GR Routes in France and the Best markets in France.