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

Villa with pool in a relaxing and green oasis, in Grasse

Provencal style villa with lots of charm. Absolute calm. Panoramic 180 degree views, not overlooked. No busy roads nearby. Serenity in the heart of the Cot d’Azur and away from the summer crowds (Cannes and Saint Paul de Vence are at 15km). Villa...

Mom´s Farm, a charming Breton farmhouse gîte located in Perros-Guirec

Located in Perros-Guirec, in the heart of the Pink Granite Coast, this typical Breton farmhouse (built in 1821) combines authenticity, charm, and great comfort. It is fully-equipped with high-quality amenities both indoors and out. The rental h...

2 rooms, Paris 15th district, Rive Gauche, Cambronne Metro, Eiffel Tower

In an old, secured, Parisian building (2 digicodes). This beautiful and fancy apartment, with 2 rooms of 30 m2, on the third floor (with elevator) has been fully renovated for your comfort while you stay in the heart of Paris (popular neighbourhoo...

Black Diamond Lodge Sleeps 12

Black Diamond Lodge is a luxurious chalet beautifully set over three floors. It's the perfect option for family groups or those looking for a beautiful room in a shared chalet! Owned and run by the lovely Paul and Lizzy, you are guaranteed a warm ...

Chateau Beauford Sleeps 20

The Chateau is set in a truly beautiful grounds Approaching Chateau Beauford down its long, winding and tree-lined drive is like stepping into the past. The Chateau garden itself is magnificent, with 22 hectares of fields, streams and some of the...

Chalet Le Vieux Bois Sleeps 10

Situated in a quiet cul-de-sac, Chalet Le Vieux Bois is a great choice if you're a family keen to go skiing with children. From the terraces and balconies there are wonderful views up the valley and its location in the Musillon area ensures only a...

Chalet Berangaria Sleeps 10

Chalet Berangaria offers holiday accommodation for 8 to 10 people. It has a warm, welcoming feel and is ideal for both family groups and groups of friends for week long skiing and snowboarding, or even a summer holiday in Meribel when the ski seas...

Chalet Moana Sleeps 14

As a classic Val d'Isere chalet, Chalet Moana is a traditional farm building which has been lovingly restored to offer the perfect retreat - just what you need after after a hard day on the slopes! Refurbished with local stone and wood, this home...

La Fee Blanche Sleeps 6

La Fée Blanche consists of an apartment for 6 people, set over and an area of ​​160 m² and featuring a beautiful terrace facing Mont Blanc, complete with garden furniture so you can take in the view while relaxing after a day on the powder! The a...

Chalet Viennoise Sleeps 12

Chalet Viennoise is notable for its fantastic location and the generous space and light that floods the living and dining areas. The owners have been careful to choose furniture and additional home comforts they were sure guests would totally fall...

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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