Walking holidays in France are as plentiful and pretty as Parisienne patisseries. Trekking treats include the ancient shepherds’ trails of Provence, opening up natural nirvanas such as Verdon Gorge or Calanques National Parks. Walking holidays in the Pyrenees are for those who want a daily shot of joie de vivre, and the wilds of Corsica are an antidote to any cliché.
On cycling tours in France, you can push and pedal your way through an Alpine paradise or saunter gently from châteaux to coast. With some of the world’s finest cycling routes, it merits one small cliché – Allez la France!
Where to go
Provence is almost greedy in its gorgeousness, and yet it just keeps giving. From walking trails through ancient Luberon villages, to cycling tours in the Camargue, this region that stretches from the Alps to the Mediterranean has been immortalised by greats such as Cezanne and Van Gogh. Toast Provence’s fine natural heritage by cycling or walking alongside its vineyards, shake off winter blues on a springtime walking tour in Les Calanques, or bring your summer walking season to a colossal close in the Verdon Gorge.
Tour du Mont Blanc
Known as the TMB for short, it does not actually conquer the great peak but circumnavigates it instead. One of the world’s most celebrated long-distance walking trails, although it starts and ends in France, it’s actually a multinational massif, inviting you into Switzerland and Italy en route. Whether you stay in mountain huts or hotels, camp it or chalet it, the TMB is a natural adventure ‘extraordinaire’.
Corsica is, in many ways, like a natural kingdom all of its own, its colossal peaks towering over the Mediterranean, 170km from the French mainland. Walking holidays in Corsica hone in on the island’s GR20 trail, which takes both training and a good head for heights. You are rewarded with some of France’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.
The pinnacle of France tours for many, the Pyrenees are topped and tailed by contrasting Atlantic and Mediterranean seascapes. Walking in the Pyrenees National Park takes in sections of the GR10 trail, revealing greats such as the Cirque de Gavarnie vast natural amphitheatre, solitary lakelands and views of Vignemale, the highest French Pyrenean summit (3,298m). Cycling tours in the Pyrenees push even the most experienced cyclists up challenging Tour de France cols, to be rewarded with downhill gorges, spa towns and lakelands.
Things to do
- Explore a French national park, from the iconic peaks of Pyrenees NP along the border with Spain to the Calanques NP where trails along the limestone cliffs seem to forever glimmer in Mediterranean light.
- Think big and take on one of France’s Grandes Randonnées walking trails, otherwise known as GRs. Covering over 35,000km of waymarked ways in France, they are recognisable on your treks by the red and white signs directing you across the Pyrenees and Provence, Corsica and the cols of Mont Blanc’s massif.
- Slow it down and enjoy the delicious details of France’s cultural heritage. A gentle walking holiday around the pretty, perched villages of the Côte d’Azur, for example, can be celebrated with a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or a cycling tour of the Loire châteaux is a sustainable and delightful way to visit France’s greats of Chenonceau, Amboise, Langeais and Villandry.
- Travel by train to or within France, as it boasts one of the most superb railway networks in Europe. As responsible travellers, you significantly reduce your carbon footprint by taking the train, and your holiday will get off to a much more relaxed start too. By booking in advance, you can also get some great deals on French railways. Read our blogs on Top French holidays by train and How to book cheap train tickets.
- The French will never look at you strangely if you turn up on a bike. It’s their much loved national sport and, consequently, they have cycling trails through forests, along canals, coasts and between châteaux – so you just can’t go wrong. Our most popular cycling holidays in France include the hilltop villages of Provence, the flats of the Normandy coast and the peaks of the Pyrenees.
Responsible travel tips
- Learn some basics in French, as you will always turn a French frown upside down if you embrace the heart of their culture. On a cycling tour in France, for example, it is worth learning a few of the basic bike terms in case you need to get some support along the way.
- Hike responsibly. They take their outdoor sports activities seriously in France and know how to equip themselves for all weathers. Always check local weather warnings, carry plenty of water, don’t hike in extreme heat, use maps and stay connected. Stick to the marked paths and never light fires.
- Shop locally for all your needs when you can, from soap to socks, snacks to backpacks. Markets are brimming with local produce, mountain gear shops will welcome your business and bakeries and brasseries are hubs of French culture.
- The French protect their precious landscapes, signpost them clearly and share them generously, and we should always respect them accordingly by following the rules of Leave No Trace at all times.
- Respect the etiquette of mountain refuge huts and shared accommodation on a French walking tour. This includes leaving your boots in allocated boxes, using your own sleeping bag liner, respecting the peace and quiet of early nights and keeping your stuff tidy. Having cash for the bar in huts or other small rural businesses also goes down well.
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