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In France, vacations frequently involve a weekend trip to Paris or an opulent summer holiday in Cannes. But the nation is much more than just the French Riviera and the Eiffel Tower.
Travelers from abroad can now enter France without any COVID-19 limitations, making now the ideal time to book a trip to some of the nation’s less-visited and off-the-beaten-path locations.
These are 11 of France’s most underappreciated travel locations, which range from remote wine districts and breathtaking natural beauties to hidden (and not so hidden) French islands.
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This Article Gets There
It’s easy to go to France from the United States, especially if your goal is to fly to Paris and rent a car to see the rest of France.
Numerous airlines, including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, British Airways, and Air France, offer nonstop service between major American cities and Paris at various times each day.
In addition to Paris, Air France also offers nonstop service between the majority of significant American cities and French hubs like Lyon, Marseilles, Nice, Lille, and Toulouse. For one-way flights, the airline’s Flying Blue redemption rates start at 22,000 miles for economy class and 57,500 miles for business class from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG).
Arles, Nimes, and Avignon in terms of religion, art, and ancient Rome
You might have to visit all three of these quaint towns in southern France since we were unable to pick just one.
Roman remnants can be found in Arles, including an amphitheater and a theater. In actuality, the whole region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Given that Arles served as the inspiration for more than 300 of the artist’s works in the late 19th century, the town’s tourism authority also provides a self-guided Van Gogh Walking tour.
Roman remnants can also be found in Nimes, including an amphitheater and the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct. The city is also home to the opulent Jardins de la Fontaine, which is thought to be the first public garden in Europe.
The renowned Palais des Papes, which served as the seat of the Roman Catholic Papacy in the 14th century, is located in Avignon, less than an hour’s drive up the Rhone River from Arles. Families with young children should ride the Petite Train, a tiny train that transports travelers to view the sights in Avigon, to explore the neighborhood.
picturesque villages National Park of the Cévennes
France has much more to offer than only the French Riviera, as evidenced by the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Lozère in the south of the nation.
Natural attractions found in the national park include the Tarn River and the Gorges du Tarn, a steep canyon that looms over charming French villages and the Aven Armand limestone cave, which has enormous stalagmites.
It’s simple to get your fill of French greenery on foot thanks to the park’s many hiking trails and walking paths, but you can also explore the area by car. A must-see destination is the fabled village of La Malène, which is located beneath the Gorge.
Castelbouc, a magnificent settlement carved into the rock of the Gorge, and Sainte-Enimie, where you may hire kayaks or canoes and paddle down the river, are two more excellent stops.
Giverny, where nature and art collide
Fans of the impressionist painter Claude Monet should think about taking a day trip from Paris to visit the renowned Giverny gardens, which served as Monet’s source of inspiration for his famous water lily series. Art aficionados may be familiar with the famous Japanese bridge from Monet’s paintings because it is present in the gardens.
Art lovers can also visit the Impressionism Museum, the Claude Monet Foundation, as well as private galleries in the hamlet, which is known for its gardens. Giverny and the surrounding town of Vernon provide a variety of charming walking pathways with views of the countryside for a stroll. From Paris, it takes less than an hour to get there by rail.
The unknown: Corsica
You’ve probably heard of Corsica, but you might not have given it much thought as a vacation destination. Summer vacationers frequently choose the French Riviera, southern Spain’s coast, or well-known tourist destinations in Italy like Capri or the Amalfi coast.
However, Corsica is a beautiful island, especially in the off-peak months of September and May when it is blissfully unpopulated and natural.
Check out the Calanques de Piana for beautiful vistas. These recognizable red cliffs, which are a part of the Gulf of Porto and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, tower over the Mediterranean Sea.
In the south of the island, Bonifacio has a charming harbor with Genoese influences, and in the north, Plage de Saleccia has white sands and lush pine forests.
Mustard and wine: Jura and Dijon
One of France’s smaller wine-producing areas, Jura creates the distinctive, almost nutty-flavored Vin Jaune. Due to the “yellow” wine’s aging process in a yeast filter known as a voile, it is actually a white wine more akin to sherry than anything else.
The hilly landscape of the area makes for the ideal getaway. Explore the vineyards that are located at the foot of the Jura mountains as you travel through the lush, rolling hills. One of the few winegrowing areas that holds a winter wine festival is this one. The La Percée du Vin Jaune is scheduled to take place in the village of Cramans in February 2023.
To learn more about Burgundy’s wines, start with the nearby town of Dijon (yep, the mustard capital of the world). From there, you may embark on the La Route des Grands Crus wine path, which passes by around 40 different wine villages, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and stunning rural French scenery.
If you’re curious about the history of the town and its renowned, delectable condiment, the Musee de la Vie Bourguignonne is the place to go.
A remote island getaway: Île d’Yeu
From ports like Fromentine or Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, you may take a ferry to Teu for a lovely island getaway in the Nantes region of France.
If you want to arrive in luxury or if you’re a #AvGeek, take a helicopter from La-Barre-de-Monts to the island. Over the Ile d’Yeu, you may also take air excursions and take flying lessons.
Ile d’Yeu feels more distant than most other French islands because it is the second-farthest from the French mainland, making it the ideal destination for travelers seeking some alone time.
Sand beaches, more than 40 bicycle routes, peaceful fishing towns, and the ruins of medieval forts and castles are just a few of the attractions that Ile d’Yeu has to offer tourists. Walkers can benefit from organized walking tours throughout the island, where they can discover lighthouses, wooded regions, and Belle Maison, one of the island’s most picturesque beach coves.
Alsace’s Hidden Gems Eguisheim
Try to visit both Colmar and Eguisheim; Colmar receives most of the attention. Eguisheim is another German-influenced town in Alsace. Eguisheim is well-liked by the French, who named the town one of France’s most lovely; it is home to ancient courtyards, cobblestone streets, and vibrant Swiss-German architecture that will enchant any visitor.
The three castle towers on Schlossberg Hill, which provide a view of the settlement, should definitely be visited. Small wine taverns, tasting rooms, and wine cellars abound in Eguisheim. Numerous stunning wineries and estates are available nearby that are ideal for excursions and tastings.
Lac Bourget and Parc Naturel Régional Du Massif Des Bauges are natural havens.
There are other locations in France that have lovely beaches besides the sparkling St. Tropez coastline. Lake Bourget is one of France’s biggest and deepest lakes and serves as an alternative to the well-known Lake Annecy. With the Jura Mountain range serving as the backdrop, it has a welcoming sandy shoreline.
You can ride a bike or take a stroll around the lake’s trails while you’re not swimming. Several vistas, including Mont Revard on the lake’s eastern shore, can be reached by hiking up (or driving, if you don’t want to work up a sweat).
Nature lovers can climb and stroll at the Massif Des Bauges Natural Reserve, which is close to the lake.
To sum up
From well-known centers like Paris and St. Tropez to tiny villages, remote natural wonders, and untamed islands, France is full of intriguing travel locations.
Visitors can (and ought should) make an effort to see as many as they can. There is nothing wrong with taking a vacation in a more well-known French location. Check out some of the locations on this list, though, if you want to experience some of France’s best undiscovered delights (as well as some of its lesser-known wines).
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