Planning a France road trip? Want ideas for the best regions or places to visit? Here are 11 of the best, just waiting to be explored…
We love France. We spend a lot of time touring France in our motorhome and exploring as many of the pretty towns, villages and points of interest as we can.
After all this time, we've got pretty good at finding fun places to visit- but I know how overwhelming it can feel at first to decide where to go. Whether you're visiting France from the UK or abroad, it helps to have a guide or an idea on the best places to visit.
So here's a quick tour of 11 of the best regions and natural attractions in France. If you want cities, here are 10 top cities to visit in France (besides Paris) and if you're looking for a little history and culture, here are 7 unmissable historical places in France.
But today, we're talking mountains, gorges, lakes and… lavender?
Map of France Road Trip ideas and points of interest
Isn't it annoying when people talk about places and you have no idea where they are! To give you a rough guide, here's a map of some of the places mentioned in this article, so you can see how far you might want to travel on your road trip.
If you'd like help planning your route and journey, grab our FREE road trip planner here– it walks you through everything you need to know to organise your road trip.
French Alps- our favourite France road trip destination
There is just something about the Alps which keeps us returning again and again. They speak to my soul. In fairness, I think it might be all mountains, as I felt like this in the Dolomites and in Norway too, but the Alps are the closest to the UK and therefore the ones we've visited most.
I should point out that there are French Alps, Swiss Alps (which is where we made the decision for me to quit my job so we could go travelling long-term) and the Italian Alps. They're all the same mountain range, and you can merrily cross from one country to another without any real border. But, for this post, we'll focus on France and the French Alps.
Points of interest in the French Alps
Some of our favourite places in the Alps have included:
- Going to almost the top of Mont Blanc and standing in a glass box over a sheer drop into the valley below. I'm not even joking- it's called ‘The Void' and you can read all about it here.
- Lake Annecy. Which is silly as that's where we lost our drone and were very very sad. But it's such a beautiful city that we still like it, despite all the mistakes we made!
- The Gorge du Fier. An incredible place near Annecy- well worth a visit.
- Wild Camping in the Alps with our motorhome. There have been several gorgeous places we've found, both in summer and winter. Vanlife in the mountains is magic.
There are a million more places in the Alps I could mention. If you're driving from the UK to Italy, this is the route we drove through the Alps (near Chamonix, so you can stop at Mont Blanc if you wish).
When is the best time to head to the Alps?
Well, between November and April they're usually covered in snow- so it depends what you're trying to do. We love visiting the Alps later in the year, like October (here are some more ideas for places to visit in Europe in October) but they're also lovely in late Spring and even throughout the summer they don't get too crowded.
Want to hire a vehicle for touring France? Find out everything you need to know about how to hire a motorhome in France.
Loire Valley- an incredible area to visit on a road trip
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Located approximately 2 hours south of Paris, the Loire Valley is one of the most unique places in the world, famous for its charming scenery, delicious wineries and the vast number of châteaux. In fact, there are over 300 of these fairytale castles in the region!
You could certainly spend many happy road trips in France just exploring the Loire Valley alone! The Loire Valley castles and wineries are easy to access by road and parking is readily available, even for motorhomes or campers.
Famous Chateaux and points of interest in the Loire Valley
Château de Chambord
One of the best château to visit is Château de Chambord. This was a former hunting lodge and constructed by King Francois I. You may recognize this castle as the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! It is also the largest château in the region. The hours for Château de Chambord are 9 am-6 pm during peak season (March 28-October 25) and 9 am-5 pm outside of peak season.
Chateau de Nitray
Another famous château is Chateau de Nitray, perfect for lunch as it has many splendid picnic spots as well as a winery at which you can relax and taste some delicious French wine!
For Chateau de Nitray, you can only visit individually from June 1-September 30 from 9 am-12 pm and 2-6 pm, except on Sunday mornings. The remainder of the year is only open for group visits.
Château de Chenonceau
The last château we highly recommend is Château de Chenonceau or “The Lady Castle.” This castle was gifted to Diane de Poitiers who commissioned the bridge over the River Cher and then was taken over by Catherine de Medici, who created the sprawling gardens. It is beautiful to behold, and if you prefer to try more Loire Valley wine, this is a great castle to visit as additional wine samples are available for purchase, here.
Chateau de Chenonceau’s hours vary throughout the year, but opening times range from 9-9:30 am and closing times range from 5-6:30 pm.
There are plenty of places to stay in the Loire Valley for your France road trip- campsites, hotels and many aires for motorhomes. We recommend visiting in the Spring or Autumn, when the tourists have mostly left but the weather is still beautiful. The nice thing about the Loire is that it is not too far from the English Channel, so you could visit for a long weekend or stay for 3 weeks. The choice is yours! (Here are some more ideas for places to visit in Autumn in Europe.)
Provence ( and the Lavender Fields)
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How many pictures of the lavender fields in Provence have we all seen on Instagram? Tons, but yet…. there’s a reason why they are so popular. They are so unbelievably beautiful and perfect for a France road trip destination.
Where is the best place to see the lavender fields in Provence?
I suggest two places in particular: the lavender fields in Valensole and the fields at the Senanque Abbey. The first ones are the most popular, which also means they will be really crowded unless you go super early in the morning. The Senanque Abbey fields are unique as they are right next to a beautiful monastery.
You’ll have no problem inserting both stops on your South of France itinerary, and there’s plenty of parking available. You’ll probably spend around one hour at the fields just walking around and taking way too many Instagram pictures. When you’re done, you could also visit a lavender producer to see how the oil is manufactured.
When is the best time to visit the lavender fields in France?
You’ll have to time your trip right if you want to experience these fields at their best. You can visit any time between the end of June and mid-August. However, every year might be a little different. The fields can bloom earlier or later, so I’d recommend you visit around mid-July to guarantee that you can shoot those iconic lavender fields photos.
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If you are looking for the most beautiful places to visit in France , you have to visit the Verdon Canyon/ Gorge. Verdon Gorge is a French natural wonder – a spectacular 21-kilometre-long river strip that Mother Nature carved in rocky limestone.
It is one of the deepest canyons in Europe, and its deepest place is 700 metres. The narrowest point of the Verdon Gorge is 6 metres, and the widest 100 metres. All this means that this place has been attracting climbers, photographers, hikers and canoeists for years. You can't miss it while visiting France!
France road trip ideas- how to get to Verdon Gorge
The canyon is best explored by car or motorhome- perfect for a French road trip! Anyway, you can't reach it in any other way. There are no trains or direct buses, and the canyon itself extends over a very large area.
The fastest way to get there is driving from Nice on the A8 towards Marseille. Then, exit at Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Tropez after Frejus and driving north along routes D1555, D54 and D955 to Comps-sur-Artuba.
Why should I add Verdon Gorge to my French road trip itinerary?
Gorges du Verdon is primarily a mecca for rock climbers and a destination for expeditions of amateurs of quite strenuous trekking, but also for all those who are looking for unusual, unique views without sporting ambitions. The panorama from the route around the canyon is really unique and worth seeing at least once in your life.
We recommend at least a day in the area to explore the gorge properly. Going early in the morning means less tourists- well worth it for beautiful photos free from people!
Dordogne- an incredible France road trip idea
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The Dordogne is a department in the south-west of France. Inland from Bordeaux, it is known for its river valleys, medieval towns and historic cathedrals. The Dordogne can most easily be enjoyed by way of a road trip, or by local trains. Bordeaux is the largest international airport (2.5hrs drive); although Bergerac also has an airport too.
How long to spend visiting the Dordogne
You can see the highlights of the Dordogne in a couple of days; however, I recommend spending at least a week in the area if you can.
Points of Interest in the Dordogne
The city of Périgueux, with its 5-domed cathedral based on St Mark’s in Venice, is worth a visit. The cathedral was started in the 10th century and renovated considerably in the 1800s. While only the bell tower and crypts remain of the original structure, it is a magnificent piece of French history. It is on the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.
One of the most picturesque spots in the Dordogne is the town of Brantôme. Sitting on a hairpin turn in the Dronne River, Brantôme is famous for its Troglodyte Caves and Abbey. Another site that was on old pilgrimage routes, Brantôme’s Abbey was founded by Charlemagne in 769. Brantôme has lots of riverside dining options, weirs to canoe on, and lots of history to soak up.
Towards the eastern edge of the Dordogne is the beautifully preserved medieval town of Sarlat-la-Canéda. This market town avoided much of the modernisation of recent centuries, so has a really authentic feel. Located in the Périgord Noir area, Sarlat is famous for its walnut groves, wild cèpe mushrooms, and truffles. Needless to say, it is a very popular culinary destination.
Castlenaud-la-Chapelle (pictured) is also incredibly beautiful and well worth a visit
Pyrenees- one of the best places to visit in France
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The French Pyrenees is a beautiful area in France. This jagged mountain range runs along the French-Spanish border and is full of snowy peaks (even in summer), and some of Europe’s rarest wildlife including vultures and even brown bears.
Why should you include the Pyrenees in your France road trip itinerary?
Compared with their more famous sister, the French Alps, they are much less known and have a wild, brooding feel. This part of the world is perfect for outdoors enthusiasts including skiers, climbers, hikers and cyclists.
Argelès-Gazost is a good base. It’s a small town but well-known for its thermal spa – and also (a little incongruously) its casino. Near Argelès-Gazost, there’s a treetop trail course, river rafting and an animal park that’s popular with kids. There’s also a cycle path along the valley bottom which is a lovely ride if you prefer your cycling flat.
Access to Argelès-Gazost is easy by road. From Toulouse, you take the A64 motorway to Tarbes, then Lourdes. From there take the main road to Argelès-Gazost.
Points of interest and things to do in the Pyrenees
The nearest mountain peak is Hautacam, which is located just a few minutes away from the town. Here you’ll find many mountain-based activities including a mountain luge, segway and hiking trails. If you’re into road cycling, Hautacam is also one of the most famous climbs of the Tour de France.
While you're in the area, don't miss a visit to the Cirque de Gavarnie– one of the most beautiful places in France and home to the second-highest waterfall in Europe!
When is the best time to visit the Pyrenees on a road trip?
Winters aren’t overly long in the Pyrenees, but they’re pretty much reserved for winter sports (like downhill and nordic skiing) between November and the end of April. Come during late spring and summer to get the best of the Pyrenees when it's not covered in snow!
Depending on how much you love the outdoors and what activities you want to sample, you could spend anything from a weekend to a two week holiday exploring the Pyrenees and all it has to offer.
Cassis, France- a perfect France road trip stop
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Cassis is a small fishing village in southern France, about a 45-minute drive from Marseille. With its colourful streets, beautiful port, and nearby hiking opportunities, Cassis makes a wonderful place to visit on a road trip in France.
Points of Interest in Cassis
The town of Cassis is lovely to stroll around; it's full of colourful streets and Provencal charm. There is a beautiful beach right next to the main pier, which is perfect for sunbathing. Nearby is the Calanques de Cassis, which is a great place to go hiking.
You can also enjoy the Calanques on a boat tour that leaves from the Cassis harbour. There are some excellent French restaurants to dine at in Cassis, offering fresh seafood options.
How easy is it to visit Cassis on a road trip?
Cassis is open year-round and is easy access from Marseille. The drive along the coast is beautiful, with amazing views of the Calanques as you approach Cassis. Parking is available in town but may be tricky to find during the busy summer season- especially for a motorhome.
There are several parking lots in Cassis which you can reserve in advance (but often not for large vehicles). If you don't have a car, there is a train which regularly runs between Marseille and Cassis.
How long to spend at Cassis
One day will give you enough time to walk around the town, enjoy the beach, and dine at one of the restaurants. If you'd also like to hike around the area, then it's better to stay overnight for a night or two. There's enough to in the area to keep you busy for a weekend.
Calanques National Park
What is the best way to explore the Calanques?
Points of interest in the Calanques
There are less than a handful of services within the park, but you’ll find sustenance available at two of the most accessible Calanques – Morgiou and Sormiou. In the off-season, it’s possible to drive right down and park at either of these Calanques.
For the others, it’s preferable to set aside a day and hike to a hidden beach for serene swimming.
TOP TIP: Be aware that the park often closes in the height of summer due to the risk of wildfires. In July & August, it’s preferable to enjoy it via the sea instead.
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The region of Brittany is one of the best places to see in France. This French region has the best of everything: beautiful cities, stunning medieval towns where you can go back in time and be immersed in history, beautiful nature, and gorgeous secluded beaches with impressive coastlines.
It’s rugged, authentic, full of opportunities for adventure and water sports and the people are some of the friendliest in the country!
When is the best time to visit Brittany?
Brittany has a bad reputation because of its climate; truth is I’ve seen very few rainy days on the many summers I’ve spent in Southern Brittany. It’s mostly been beautiful weather and compulsory sunscreen – even if the nights can be a bit chilly. Still, expect similar weather to the UK and prepare for rain at any time of the year… just in case!
Points of Interest in Brittany
Brittany is a large region, with different landscapes and atmospheres whether you’re in the Northern part (St-Malo, the Pink Granite Coast, Brest…) or the Southern part (Lorient, Vannes,…) so you could easily choose to spend a weekend or a month exploring and you wouldn’t see everything there is to see!
Don’t forget to try the traditional treats, including cider and crêpes! And if you’re into history and folklore, angle your trip around the Legend of King Arthur and Celtic myths, still very vividly alive in this part of France. (Yes, the same King Arthur from Tintagel Castle and Merlin's Cave in Cornwall!)
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Given their incredibly significant history, the World War II sites of Normandy are some of the best places to visit in France. Normandy is a beautiful and worthwhile tourist destination in its own right, but visiting the World War II sites is to view the region from an entirely new perspective.
Points of Interest in Normandy for WWII
D-Day and the Battle of Normandy is one of the most well-known battles of World War II and to see and experience these locations in person is life-changing.
Among these sites are Omaha Beach (and the four others that were part of the amphibious D-Day invasions known as Operation Overlord), Pointe du Hoc, the comprehensive Caen Memorial Museum, the artificial harbours at Arromanches-les-Bains, and Normandy American Cemetery, to name just a few. There are also a number of battlefields, abandoned batteries like the one at Longues-ser-Mer, museums, and other cemeteries.
When is the best time to visit the WWII sites in Normandy?
These sites (and more) are open all year long but, if you can, visit as close to D-Day (June 6th) as possible to experience them at their best. Costumed re-enactors, enthusiasts, and World War II veterans at and around the sites greatly add to the overall experience.
There are numerous WWII sites to visit in Normandy—you could spend a week there visiting them all on a road trip, or see the key highlights in a single day if time is limited. They are quite easy to get to if you have a car or motorhome (and all sites have adequate, dedicated parking).
If you get time, we highly recommend a detour on your road trip and visit Ypres in Belgium- the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate for the fallen soldiers is one of the most moving things we have ever experienced.
French Riviera- not the best France road trip destination!
We have mixed views on the French Riviera, but we wanted to show you the good and bad aspects of the region, especially in regards to a road trip.
Oh, it's a beautiful spot for sure and the beaches and boats are to die for! BUT… it's not particularly road trip friendly- especially for those of us with big vehicles. Aires are few and far between and are often full. Wild camping is almost impossible and campsites are… well, they vary in quality- let's put it that way.
Points of Interest in the French Riviera
We stayed for a couple of nights in March so we could visit the Menton Lemon Festival. We also visited Monaco and Nice but the area was too crowded for us, even in March- probably because it's one of the best places to visit in Europe in February and March! I can't imagine it in high summer or in May around Cannes- the volume of people is frightening.
But, don't let our opinion put you off. Just… maybe book a campsite in advance. If you enjoy cities, nightlife and people watching, this is definitely one of the best areas in France to visit.
So, there are 11 regions in France you can visit on your road trip- with points of interest. I hope you've found this information useful and enjoy your France trip!
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