Walking holidays in France

A walking tour of France's sites, trails – and gnomes!

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Russ Sanchez

Russ Sanchez
HomeAway travel expert


Gnomes!I will be so bold as to say that it's been established, at this point, that France's beaches are among the crème de la crème of European holiday destinations. But France in fact caters for more than just the sun and sand set: from Provence's jaunty purple fields of spicy lavender, to the lush vineyards of the Loire valley, to the majesty of the Alps, France is a country of endless geographical variety. And as such, it offers a veritable cornucopia of walking trails, vistas, and points of interest both cultural and natural to the active vacationer.

Even better, learning to speak French Walking Trail is relatively simple, as France's official trails are helpfully classified according to length and shape. Long-distance walking trails are called Grandes Randonnées (GRs), and symbolized by a red and white stripe. Those that loop through a given area are called Grandes Randonnées du Pays (GRPs), and are marked by a red and yellow stripe. The shortest trails are called Promenades et Randonnées (PRs), and marked with just a yellow stripe.

This said, paper trail guides are always recommended – you know the one time you have GPS directions alone to rely on, you'll drop your phone down a well (or have it stolen by gnomes, or something – and yes, France categorically does have gnomes, or les lutins, dwelling amidst the countryside and peering upon walking paths). Many walkers recommend guides by the Fédération Française de Randonnée Pédestre, but those published by Cicero, although not available for as many trails, are perhaps the best written in English.


 

Walking holidays in France: everything you need to know


   

Walking holidays in France: Provence Walking holidays in France: Provence

The beauty of Provence is too widely acclaimed to need reiterating here. And ribboning through its beauties are a number of trails appropriate for walkers and hikers of all experience levels. The stunning Ardeche gorge offers kayaking and hiking opportunities besides gentler trails. Alternately, take a trip to the Medieval hilltop village of Biot, overlooking the river Brague, and from there trek through the Valbonne forest, an enchanting woodland of pine, ash and hazel, with several small waterfalls along its trail. Beware, though: the gnomes here can be very sassy, so do not tempt them to mischief by flashing your pains au chocolat and attracting attention to yourself.  

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Walking holidays in France: the Alps Walking holidays in France: the Alps

Although best known for the wintertime activities that send thrill-seekers criss-crossing down its slopes, the French Alps also provide much in the way of excellent walking and hiking opportunities. The Vanoise National Park, in fact, the largest such park in Western Europe, offers breathtakingly beautiful trails catered for every difficulty level, making it an ideal outdoor spot for – just about anyone, really: beginners, families, advanced walkers and mixed-level activity groups. The gnomes here can often be found wearing luxurious furs – but they're a conscientious bunch, and chances are the furs are all faux, so don't worry.

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Walking holidays in France: Languedoc-Roussillon Walking holidays in France: Languedoc-Roussillon

A 'garrigue' is a low scrubland of resinous, aromatic plants. Lavender, rosemary, thyme – all the favourites. And it's the characteristic landscape of both Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. More rugged and less immediately enchanting than some of France's other terrains, the French garrigues, with their openness to the warm Mediterranean sun, nonetheless exert a certain undeniable charm. They present an excellent opportunity to trek about under the wide sky, past towering stands of sunflowers – and perhaps over an ancient Roman road! The gnomes here are recognizable for wearing garlands of herbs, and, though generally friendly, absolutely sneer at gluten-free diets (they bake lovely breads themselves).

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Walking holidays in France: the Regordane Walking holidays in France: the Regordane

No discussion of French trails can leave out the Regordane Way. Historically one of the most important pilgrimages in early Christendom, the long and varied Regordane is a trail connecting Paris with lower Languedoc. Traversing France, it was once used by Crusaders to reach the port of St. Giles, gateway to the Holy Land. It crosses through Medieval villages, sites of religious importance, castles, the Chassezac gorge – and, along the GR 700, a contentious make-over of the Regordane that diverges from the historical trail at some points, accommodations and restaurants as well. Any gnomes you encounter here will have very strong opinions regarding religion and politics, so do mind your small talk.

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Walking holidays in France: Normandy Walking holidays in France: Normandy

Boasting miles of well-maintained infrastructure snaking through one of the most name-checked corners of France, Normandy is a can't-miss walking holiday destination. Its trails are numerous, and both seaside and inland. But for tipplers like myself, it's all about the Route du Cidre, or Cider Trail, a tour of 20 of the region's celebrated apple orchards. Depending on the season, you can participate in apple picking or honey harvesting at several of the orchards. Lovelier still, you'll also be able to learn about the making of apple ciders, and world-renowned, local apple brandy, Calvados – and sample some, too! Normandy gnomes are inveterate gossips, and like to spy on passing humans, who are mercilessly parodied on any of several popular gnome gossip blogs ('O, the Humanity', etc.).

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Walking Holiday Accommodation in France

Right in the heart of Ste Maxime yet traffic free environment

Elegant up-market apartment in the heart of Saint Maxime, Next to the lovely leafy market square, where every day except market days, all try to perfect their technique in the national obsession of boules. Saint Maxime is a vibrant, chic little to...

Terrace cottage in quiet Cleckheaton (Swiss Normandy) from 250 eur

The house, surrounded by woods and hills is located in a small hamlet, leading directly to a hiking trail. The cottage has three bedrooms and sleeps up to 6 people ideally. A sofa bed in the living room can receive an extra couple making a capacit...

The Masanas - Rentals min 3 Days - Weekend - 7 Days + + different prices

Private estate built on a hill of rocks in a beautiful pine forest. Breathtaking views of the Gulf of St Tropez. First private terrace perfect for meals including a table chairs and bench plancha onto the living room kitchen with table chairs benc...

PROVENCE Mas with swimming pool, open all year

 We will welcome you with pleasure in full nature of Provence. We offer 3 mas for hire, all three located in a 6-hectare park planted with Mediterranean species and surrounded by olive trees. LOU Pénéquet (4-5 P): To enter Pénéquet Lou, you cros...

Luxury apartment in the lovely village of Pommard near Beaune

'Le Clos de Pommard' apartement the exceptional apartment building 'Le Clos de Pommard' is situated at the heart of the prestigious village of Pommard. The apartments of this ancient renovated coaching inn sublimates the beauty and the tradition ...

St-Germain : Luxury One Bedroom Apartment With Air Conditioning

Location This beautiful apartment to rent in Paris is located in one of the most popular, active and sparkling neighbourhoods of central Paris and the most fashionable district of the capital. It is mid-way between the Carrefour de l’Odeon, a sma...

Maison Acacia Sleeps 12

Maison Acacia is a glorious 17th century house whose private walled sanctuary offers a truly beautiful rustic haven where you can just lie back and totally relax. The villa can be found in the centre of a beautiful hilltop village overlooking the ...

Manoir Blanchefleur Sleeps 16

Located in Savoies near the lake of Aix les Bains, Manoir Blanchefleur offers an outstanding luxury holiday home rental for cosy weekends, week-long celebrations or even a month of total relaxation and exploration! Here, you'll find tasteful deco...

L'oustal Des Fleurs Sleeps 8

This classically elegant 19th century period property will seduce you with its secluded walled garden and indoor swimming pool. Located in the wine producing village of Olonzac in the heart of the Languedoc, you'll find a great selection of cafes,...

Manoir Alys Sleeps 10

This luxurious 18th property has been carefully refurbished into a bright and open space that's perfect for friends and family gatherings. Even though great care has been taken to retain period features including a stone fireplace and antique door...

France mapCorsica Provence Alps Cote d'Azur Languedoc Roussillon Midi-Pyrenees Aquitaine Rhone Alpes Auvergne Limousin Poitou Charentes Franche Comte Burgundy Alsace Lorraine Champagne Ardenne Ile de France (Paris region) Centre-Loire-Valley Pays de la Loire Britanny Normandy Normandy Nord-Pas-de-Calais Picardie World Italy Spain


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