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

Charming house in the Camargue near Aigues Mortes

Close to the beach and the very famous town of Aigues Mortes, come and stay in our house in the characteristic Camargue village of Le Cailar in Gard, near the beaches of Le Grau du Roi and Port Camargue. Our home, called 'L'école buissonnière' w...

Orangerie garden, swimming pool, comfort

Home refined and very comfortable. 5 minutes from Avignon, (great festival!) Greenery lovely, beautiful view of Fort St André, spacious swimming pool, air-conditioned house, TV + foreign channels. Beautiful bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen. And a...

Renovated apartment for 4 people with docking 12m

In a quiet area 5 minutes walk from the center of Port Grimaud 1, duplex apartment fully renovated and air-conditioned with mooring. Composed of a living room, a kitchen, a balcony with a great view on 'Green Island'. Upstairs, two bedrooms separ...

Studio on the beach with sea view for 2/4 people

Studio loft completely renovated, on the beach in Port Grimaud I with beautiful views of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, and close to shops. It is the second and last floor, composed of a kitchenette, a bathroom with shower and toilet, a living room wi...

Rental southern Corsica, Porto Vecchio has Pinarello new house 900m from the beach

Ideal for your holiday 900m from the sandy beach in, in a quiet neighborhood close to all amenities, Pool 10 mx 5 4m heated curtain, jacuzzi, Easy going home, new open onto the terrace pool. 4 bedrooms in two separate areas for privacy. Two rooms ...

Apartment in a chalet on the slopes, facing south

Apartment in a recently built chalet, 250m2 area with 5 bedrooms (all south) with bath or shower individual (spa in the master bedroom), 2 bathroom and 3 en suite toilet. 4 rooms have double beds (160x200) children's room has two bunk beds with po...

Independent farmhouse in the middle of one of 7 hectares park closed and trees, with swimming pool.

Tranquility assured 6 air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms. pool 14m x 4m heated offseason. wifi, TV, kitchen, oven, dishwasher, etc. https://maps. google. en / maps? saddr = 44. 464759.4. 301657 & hl = en & ll = 44. 465526.4. 301775 &...

Specious Family Cottage 10 people - with all comfort

- Greater comfort for this spacious family cottage of 200m ² very nicely arranged for 10 adults + 1 baby. - confortable stay of 60m2 with fireplace; - fully equipped kitchen; - 5 spacious bedrooms; - large sunny terrace with great views on...

Beautiful 3-star 64 sq.m flat on Church Square with view, 50 m from the ski

Rated 3 stars Type of housing: 3-bedroom flat Capacity: 6 people (only 2 babies / children under 12) Surface area: 66 sq.m Equipments and services: TV connected to the Internet router Free WiFi One parking space in the underground car park Washing...


'The House in the Forest of Fontainebleau is a very comfortable lodging for up to 5 people, part of a private property in the forest. It is well known to bouldering enthusiasts from all over the world. The area has much to offer (castles, historic...

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