Beyond Paris and the Eiffel Tower, France is ever diverse and filled with beautiful places to explore. Is it any surprise that it’s the most visited destination in the world? From the ski slopes of the Alps, the field of lavenders in Provence and the Pink Granite Coast of the north, there will definitely be a unique French landscape to captivate your heart. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your next trip, let’s check out some of the beautiful places to visit in France.
1. Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey
Established in 1148, the Sénanque Abbey was built for the Cistercian monks who came from Mazan Abbey in the Ardèche. Today, a small community of monks still live here, and they grow lavender and tend honey bees for their livelihood. Apart from going on guided tours, individuals can also arrange to stay at the abbey for a spiritual retreat. Come in June and July to see (and smell) the field in a sea of purple!
2. Les Baux-de-Provence
While you’re in Provence, check out this spectacular village that draws in over a million visitors each year. Its spectacular location in the Alpilles mountains atop a rocky outcrop means that it offers brilliant views of Arles, the Camargue and the Alpilles. The village is also home to a beautiful thirteenth-century castle, ancient houses that have been carefully restored, and a museum that describes the village’s history through the centuries.
3. Gorges du Verdon
As the Grand Canyon of France, Gorges du Verdon is the largest river canyon in Europe and one of the most beautiful places to visit in France. Limestone cliffs flank the beautiful turquoise water, and the gorge is just as impressive whether you explore it from the water, or from one of the many hiking trails along its edge. Alongside the Gorges du Verdon, there’s also loads to explore in the area, such as the village of Moustiers Sainte-Marie and the Sainte-Croix lake.
4. Côte de Granit Rose
Otherwise known as Pink Granite Coast, Côte de Granit Rose is a stretch of coastline in northern Brittany. It is famous for its curious pink sands and rock formations, which makes an enchanting contrast with the blue ocean. Head to the village of Ploumanac’h as your starting point to explore this rose-tinted coastline. There is also a dedicated Granit Rose Tour website to help you plan your exploration of this beautiful coast!
5. Volcans d’Auvergne
One of Europe’s largest regional parks, Volcans d’Auvergne is home to a cluster of around 80 dormant volcanoes. The Chaîne des Puys, the Mounts of Dore, the Cézallier and the Mounts of Cantal make for a truly unique setting for hikes, cycling trips and even hot air balloon rides. Take the cable car up to Puy de Sancy, the highest mountain in the park, and don’t miss the old granite plateau, the Artense, and the otherworldly Pavin crater lake.
On the border of Normandy, Giverny is a small village most famous for being Claude Monet’s former home and gardens. Both are open to the public today. The pastel pink house with green doors shutters look whimsical, and the gardens are Monet’s paintings in real life. The famous green Japanese bridge, water lilies, weeping willows and wisterias have all been replanted as they once were. Monet aside, the overall atmosphere of Giverny simply makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in France.
7. Dune du Pilat
The tallest sand dune in Europe, Dune du Pilat is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and an enormous pine forest. You’ll see blue ocean on one side, green pine forest on the other, and paragliders in every direction above. The area has great soaring conditions, and if you’re not keen on taking to the skies, it’s also nice to admire the landscape by lying in the sand.
The town of Étretat is most famous for its chalk white cliffs, which impressionists such as Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet included them in their paintings. Today, they are very accessible for exploration, with trails, pathways and steps built into the rocks and joining the coast together. The cliffs are even more impressive from the sea, and you can discover them on a kayak, stand-up paddle or sailboat.
9. Jardins de Marqueyssac
Listed as a National Historical Monument, the Marqueyssac Gardens surround a stone-tiled château from the early 19th century. There are over 150,000 hand-pruned boxwood trees, with viewpoints, rockeries and stone cabins on the six-kilometre pathways. From the castle’s cliff top vantage point, enjoy one of the most impressive panoramic views of the valley and its many châteaux.
10. Canal du Midi
Canal du Midi is a tree-lined, 240-kilometre waterway that runs from the city of Toulouse down to the Mediterranean. It is one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century. While you can certainly admire the canal from the shores, they’re best from the deck of a river barge with a drink in hand. In the distance you can see the Pyrenees, and closer are the vineyards that seem to stretch on and on.