Walking vacations in France guide

Walking vacations in France guide


ALLEZ LA FRANCE

The wonderful Robert Louis Stevenson quote below sums up the feeling you get from putting a bag on your back and just walking. Itís simply about moving through landscape, fuelled by the desire to conquer that next hill, swim in that aquamarine lake, or discover what cove lies beyond that next headland. The list goes on forever in a country with such an eclectic array of landscapes as France. And by walking through these landscapes, you are not only open to the elements but also open to the element of surprise. Fields fecund with marmots, carpets of wild white narcissi filling the air with sweet perfume, or a gushing glacial river timed perfectly to assuage aching feet. The great affair is indeed to move, but this in itself can also be incredibly moving. Get the most out of your walking vacation adventure with our Walking Vacations in France guide.

Do go walking in France if...


  • ...You want to test your muscles, but not your overdraft limit.
  • ...You enjoy the company of an expert guide. Not all walking vacations are guided, but good ones take you, and your vacation, to another level.
  • ...You want to get to know the Alps that are hidden under the ski resorts.
  • ...You want to prepare for a bigger trek in more distant lands, such as Nepal.

Don't go if...


  • ...You donít want to get wet. In the mountains, in particular, weather conditions change quickly, so you need to be prepared.
  • ...You are a fastidious time keeper. Walking vacations are for taking your watch off and switching off.
  • ...You are more into Michelin Stars than star gazing on a remote mountainside.
  • ...Long lie-ins and lazing by the pool are what you crave.

What does walking in France entail?


OUR GUIDE TO A WALKING HOLIDAY IN FRANCE

Guided or self-guided?


Walking vacations in France may possibly be as varied as a French cheese board, some with expert local guides, others with more qualified International Mountain Leaders, and others self-guided.

Guided trips are usually in small groups, which is the norm on more strenuous walking vacations. However, if you prefer to walk independently, and not be tied to timetables or fixed itineraries, an organised self-guided walking vacation in France takes all the other work out of it for you, providing maps, copious notes, accommodation, luggage transfers and, in most cases, food. So all you have to do is walk.

It depends on the walk, but in general no previous experience is needed, although an ability to read a map does help!

How tough are they?


We have categorised our walking vacations on Responsible Travel just to make your search a little easier. On most walking vacations, a basic level of fitness is required but there are many different options available.
If you are just stepping out for the first time, you will want an introductory walking vacation, such as in the Poitou-Charentes region, Dordogne or Loire Valley. If you have pushed yourself up a few hills of a Sunday, then a moderate walking vacation will push you just a bit more, with 5-8 hours walking per day, and some days stretching those calves more than others, but leaving you a bit of rest in between, so you can take in the sights. Such as taking on a section of the Tour de Mont Blanc, or being guided along the gorgeous gorges of the Parc Naturel Regional du Verdon in Provence. Or the Pyrenees, where you can choose between ascents of 300-3,000 metres.
If you are a well-seasoned walker then our strenuous walking vacations, such as trekking on the Pyrenean Haute Route will appeal, or of course, or winter walking and snowshoeing through the Alps. Also in the Alps, we have a number of summer alpine hut to hut treks which will take you up to heights of 3,000m, scrambling on scree and climbing to impressive plateaus and ridges. Even tougher, and falling into our very challenging trekking vacations or climbing vacations (ie. when you start to add in all the gadgets, such as ropes, crampons and ice picks) category, are the ascent of Mont Blanc, and also climbing the famous Dome des Ecrins or Barre des Ecrins, also in the Alps.

Centre based or nomadic?


It is a mark of just how good and prolific Franceís hiking routes are, that there is such a wide array of walking vacations you can take on. So, you can walk hotel to hotel, or mountain refuge to mountain refuge while circumnavigating the mother massif, Mont Blanc. Or you can walk for days in the Haute Savoie region of the Alps, stay in one chalet and do different treks every day, coming back to your same room, hosts and homely environs every night.
If you want to cover distance in, for example, the Pyrenees or Alps, then hiking from one bed to another is usually your best option, with your bags being transferred for you, sometimes even by a donkey. However, if you want to take on hearty hikes in the Loire or Provence, and take your time to enjoy gastronomic gorgeousness along the way, a centre based vacation might suit you best.

Hut or high end?


You could probably sleep anywhere after an eight hour hike; however, there are lots of different accommodations available on walking vacations in France, to suit your budget or, simply, if you are walking from one bed to another every night, to fit in with your route. The high trekking routes of the Alps and Pyrenees have a network of hostels called mountain refuges or mountain huts. Built originally for hunters and hikers, today they are run like most hostels: there is a community atmosphere, an eco-ethos, with shared dorms, meals at fixed times, and clearing up done together. Sleeping bags and pillows are provided, but you should bring a sleeping sheet with you. Always in extraordinary locations, such as the famous Gouter Refuge on the final ascent to the summit of Mont Blanc. Or the The MoŽde-Anterne mountain hut near Chamonix, which was first opened in 1898.
Family-run chalets are also a feature of walking vacations in France, usually with mountain guides and experts as hosts, who have crafted a series of idyllic itineraries for you during your stay, as well as plenty of fine fare to fill those hollow legs when you get back. Some even have pools or hot tubs to ease the mountain muscles. You will find traditional maison díhŰtes , or family run guesthouses, in areas like Provence or the Dordogne, catering for slightly more luxurious needs such as aperitifs and appetites for the finer sides of French cuisine. Look out for walking vacations that also offer cooking lessons. And for the full on white robes and spa treatment after a day on the hills, there are hotel to hotel walking vacations in the likes of the luscious Loire valley where, surrounded by chateaux, one expects some sort of mansion to mosey into at the end of the day. Et pourquoi pas?
Photo credits: [Mont Trelod:Guilhem Vellut] [French chalet:Jerome Bon]
Self guided walking vacation in France

Self guided walking vacation in France

Idyllic walking in France with great food, wine and ambiance

From Ä897 6 Days ex flights
Winter walking & snowshoeing, France

Winter walking & snowshoeing, France

Top winter walking/snow shoeing in the Mercantour, France

From £675 8 Days ex flights
Guided walking vacations in the French Alps

Guided walking vacations in the French Alps

Guided walking from a historic chalet base

From £615 8 Days ex flights
Mont Blanc Circuit trek, with hotel accommodation

Mont Blanc Circuit trek, with hotel accommodation

Classic Tour, using small inns and guesthouses

From US $3255 15 Days ex flights
French Alps self guided walking holiday

French Alps self guided walking vacation

Chalet based, self guided walking vacation in the French Alps

From £515 8 Days ex flights
French Riviera vacation, walking, culture & cooking option

French Riviera vacation, walking, culture & cooking option

Experience real French culture and get off the beaten track

From Ä510 5 Days ex flights
Mont Blanc vacation, Tour du Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc vacation, Tour du Mont Blanc

The best of the Tour du Mont Blanc

From US $1315 8 Days ex flights
Walking holiday in France, Mercantour Reflections

Walking vacation in France, Mercantour Reflections

Magic walking - Mercantour National Park - South of France

From £645 8 Days ex flights
Pyrenees guided walking vacation

Pyrenees guided walking vacation

Walking& trekking vacations with qualified Mountain Leaders

From £695 8 Days ex flights
Mont Blanc Circuit hiking vacation

Mont Blanc Circuit hiking vacation

Probably the most dramatic walk in Europe

From US $1985 15 Days ex flights
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