France’s legacy of history and culture is nothing short of extraordinary. This is a country of regional pride and palpable vigour and, from the prehistoric cave paintings in the Dordogne to the palatial chateaus of the Loire, you don’t need to go to the Louvre to see France’s best treasures. Paris might be France’s star, but we prefer the French countryside – where walking vacations stretch out into the hinterland, where petanque is still played in the middle of sleepy villages, and where the wine is cheap and plentiful. Find out more in our France travel guide.
Our top France vacations
From US $1879 to US $21798 days ex flights
The best of the Tour du Mont Blanc
Small group2021: 14 Aug, 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 2 Oct, 2022: 14 May, 21 May, 28 May, 4 Jun, 11 Jun, 18 Jun, 25 Jun, 2 Jul, 9 Jul, 16 Jul, 23 Jul, 30 Jul, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, 27 Aug, 3 Sep, 10 Sep, 17 Sep, 24 Sep, 1 Oct, 8 Oct
From €450 to €10804 days ex flights
Experience real French culture while relaxing mindfully...
Best time to go to France
The best time to visit France depends on what you want to do when you’re there. November to April is the winter season: the optimum time for skiing and snowshoeing. Late May and June are France’s spring, a temperate time for walking when the spring flowers are in full bloom – the Pyrenees alone has 800 different species of orchid. Refuge trekking across lofty terrain reaches fever pitch in mid-July, when the snow has cleared and the risk of avalanches is minimal. If you’re heading to the coast, May to July are your best bet. Read more about the best time to go to France.
Map & highlightsFrance’s wares are laid out attractively all over the map, like goods on a Provencal market stall. Indeed Provence is one of the best, sunniest places to go, its Cote d’Azur still seen as the most glamorous place in France outside Paris – at least in summer. In winter, anyone who’s anyone is in the Alps. The French Alps are famous for enormous snow-clad mountains – none bigger than Mont Blanc. If you’d rather be off the beaten track, consider Dordogne, the landlocked department in the south-west that’s synonymous with bucolic beauty. Then again, some think that there’s nowhere more beautiful than Corsica, France’s largest Mediterranean island.
This underrated and exquisite island is a wild outpost with an independent spirit that runs deep. The landscape proffers an eclectic mix, with a mountainous spine and sweeping rocky coastline which is crisscrossed with extraordinary walking trails. And 'Corse' sailing is the finest. See our Corsica guide for more details.
2. Cote d’Azur
Ah, the French Riviera, a fabulously wealthy part of France that sparkles with the sheer amount of money that passes through it. Tanning is a serious pursuit here; the beaches are beautiful and so are the (often nude) bodies that grace them. For those that like a little more oomph with their outdoors, there are glittering seas to swim and snorkel in, and winding coastal paths to walk.
A patchwork of countryside studded with traditional chateaus, Renaissance buildings and lush green meadows that line the banks of its eponymous river, the Dordogne has a ruddy-cheeked, earthy and reassuring charm about it. As well as fab canoeing vacations, it's known for its fascinating prehistoric cave art and rich, gourmet treasure, not least ‘le diamant noir’, the elusive black truffle that grows in its chalky soil.
4. French Alps
To describe the French Alps invites every conceivable superlative: titanic peaks, ice-white glaciers and sparkling sapphire lakes, but to see them firsthand will leave you speechless. The Giffre Valley, an exciting eerie terrain of towering limestone cliffs sits beside champagne Chamonix.
5. Mont Blanc
The highest peak in Western Europe, Mont Blanc is just so achingly beautiful. It has seven main valleys that feed of it; all lying in its stupendous shadow, and its 4,810m summit is covered in snow and ice all year round. When people talk about ‘doing Mont Blanc’, they often mean hiking its lower regions: the climb to the summit is iconic and achievable, but you’ll need experience to reach it. Mont Blanc
The Provencal cliché: wafting lavender; stone villages; smiling people sipping wine. It exists and is wonderful, but the region is actually very diverse. Towards the Rhone, flamingos flock to salt marshes where further south white horses gallop through wild Camargue. Avignon is a cultural hub and Mont Ventoux stands guard like a sentinel over the north. Self guided cycling here is perfect. Go a velo.
Culture or adventure?
The French are proud of France – and they have a right to be. There aren’t many nations that pack such cultural clout. People around the world dream of visiting Paris or sipping rosé on the Riviera. Once you’re there, there’s a lot to be said for simply sitting in the sun and soaking up your surroundings – from a guesthouse next to a Provencal lavender field, perhaps, or the garden of a Loire Valley chateau. France is also one of the best places in Europe for mountain sports, cycling and walking. Culture and adventure: in France, you can have both at once.
Serious walkers flock to the French Alps to train for even bigger treks in the Himalayas, so France’s mountains can be both a challenging and really rewarding place for walking. The Tour de Mont Blanc might not involve reaching the summit of the highest mountain in the Alps, but it certainly puts you through your paces. Elsewhere in France, you can find relaxed walking vacations in the Loire Valley or Dordogne, and mountain walking hidden behind the French Riviera in the Mercantour National Park, just an hour from Nice. Our France walking guide has more.
You can have your own mini Tour de France – with far fewer crowds and cols – on a challenging cycling trip in the Pyrenees (try the gruelling Raid Pyrenees route), Provence (on a climb up the famous Mont Ventoux) or the Alps. Or you can do the kind of cycling where you can put your panniers for their intended use – as baguette holders. You’ll find relaxed cycling vacations in Burgundy, Normandy and the Loire Valley. These are rides where you have plenty of time to stop at a vineyard, beach or bakery en-route. Read our France cycling guide for more.
More vacation ideas
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Once in a lifetime wolf tracking adventure in French Alps
More about France
Fondue or rosé? It’s a difficult choice. Visiting France in winter means snowbound activities abound, followed by a hearty meal that’s heavy on the melted cheese. In summer, a glass of pale, ice-cold rosé is the perfect reward after a day spent canyoning down a rushing river and kayaking on a mirror-flat lake. The best place to go for a winter activity vacation in France is, of course, the Alps. In summer, consider sailing in Corsica – the island, with its soaring mountains, looks amazing from the water. You could also combine cycling, canoeing and walking in the Dordogne.
France loves families. Relaxing self-catered gîtes in the French countryside are perfect for families with young children. In Brittany there are beaches and savoury crepes, whilst in the Loire Valley there are princess castles and gentle walks. Older children will get a lot out of an activity vacation – try canoeing on the Dordogne, cycling around Lake Geneva or exploring the Ardeche Gorge. The Alps are also a great place for a family activity vacation. Try visiting Chamonix, where there’s skiing in winter. When the summer comes, adorable marmots come out of their burrows to watch you white water raft and wild swim.
The Mont Blanc massif is just one portion of France’s expansive Alps, the enormous mountain range which extends from Annecy and Chamonix in the North French Alps down to Mercantour National Park, just above Nice. The mountain tops see flurries of skiers in winter, and some French resorts have a reputation for being expensive and crowded. Visit in summer, however, for a breath of fresh air. Once the snow melts, it’s all about paragliding, via ferrata and giant zip wires; the mountainsides are crowd-free and covered in wildflowers. Shake up life on the slopes on a French Alps vacation.