France's finest pure wonders: 10 unimaginable, unfiltered, pinch-me encounters which can be just about as Mom Nature supposed

Everybody raves about France for its delicacies and tradition, however the nation additionally enthralls with its pure wonders – from the best peaks in Europe to colossal canyons, lyrical rivers, crash-bang waterfalls, and fields of purple lavender and pink-granite coastlines ripe for an impressionist portray. 

Enterprise past the same old vacationer path of cities and cities and also you’ll stumble throughout scenes that beggar perception – from mighty sand dunes backdropped by the crashing Atlantic to pink salt lakes fizzing with flamingos. Listed here are 10 of our favorites to get you began. 

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Hike within the Gorges du Verdon in Haute-Provence

For drama, few sights in France beat the ragged, plunging cliffs of the Gorges du Verdon, the place the surreally turquoise Verdon River slips by way of a 25km (15.5-mile) limestone plateau to the foothills of the Alps.

Eroded by the weather over millennia, this gorge is the centerpiece of the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon. Towering as much as 700m (2297ft) excessive, the cliffs appeal to birds together with golden eagles and a colony of reintroduced vautours fauves (griffon vultures).  The canyon has been dubbed “Europe’s Grand Canyon,” however frankly, why would you wish to think about your self wherever else?

This southern French valley is a magnet to journey vacationers (in addition to a favourite spot for that less-adrenaline-fueled pastime, le pique-nique). Kayakers and climbers check their limits on the rocky outcrops, however gorgeous views are on present to street trippers too (the surroundings from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to Castellane is actually sensational).

In southern Corsica, no sight is extra arresting than the Aiguilles de Bavella © John Elk III / Getty Pictures

Climb above the Aiguilles de Bavella in Corsica

Corsica looks like a world other than mainland France, notably in summer season when the island is aflame with wildflowers. Within the south, no sight is extra arresting than the Aiguilles de Bavella (Bavella Needles), hovering over 1600m (5249ft). These nice spires and turrets of granite are fascinating, whether or not you glimpse them within the golden shadow of morning or the rosy tint of nightfall. 

For stellar views, hike from Col de Bavella (Bavella Cross; 1218m/3996ft), retaining an eye fixed out for mouflons (wild mountain sheep). To glimpse them from above, hook onto the long-distance GR20 climbing path, which hoofs it as much as Mt Incudine (2134m/7001ft). The realm can be a rocky wonderland for climbers and canyoners. 

Young Caucasian woman in yellow skirt smelling lavender in a field in Provence, France
Each summer season, flowering lavender units the hills of southern France alight with shade and fragrance © Getty Pictures

Swan round summer season lavender fields in Provence

What may very well be extra French than a area of aromatic lavender bowing in the summertime breeze? 

OK, so there’s nothing “pure” concerning the neatly tended rows, however the vivid purple hills of Provence are rightly legendary. Each summer season, roughly from late June to early August, flowering lavender units the hills of southern France alight with shade and fragrance. 

One of the vital iconic views is on the Abbaye Notre-Dame du Sénanque, its medieval abbey idyllically framed by a serried sea of lavender. However if you wish to dive correctly into the violet deep finish, plan a street journey or bike journey alongside Les Routes de la Lavande, which convey collectively oil distilleries, farms, parks and lavender museums. Mid-July is the perfect time to go to for blooms.

Suppose pink on the Côte de Granit Rose in Côtes d’Armor

Brittany has such a sensuous stretch of coast that even the boulders blush. The Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast) flushes a fragile shade of copper pink, giving a surreal air to this breezy, Celtic-spirited slice of northern France. 

Operating some 30km (19 miles) from Penvern to Trégastel and Ploumanach, this stretch of coast is an actual pure magnificence, with spectacularly eroded rock formations, rock swimming pools, caves and coves washed by a sea of pure turquoise. Drink within the views on a coastal stroll by way of pines, gorse and mimosa. After hitting the path, Breton favorites like mussels, cider and galettes (buckwheat pancakes) await.

Tourists on Dune du Pilat on the Bassin d'Arcachon
Positioned in southern France, Dune du Pilat is Europe’s highest sand dune © John Harper / Getty Pictures

Race down mighty Dune du Pilat in Pyla-sur-Mer

Rippling above Atlantic surf and forests of maritime pine, oak and strawberry bushes, Europe’s highest sand dune attracts paragliders, sun-worshippers and – consider it or not – the occasional skier (when winter brings a dusting of snow to the Saharan scene). Scale this southern French gem, barely an hour from wine-rich Bordeaux, and you will be shaking golden sand out of your socks for days.

France’s finest climbing trails

Climb to the wind-whipped summit at 115m (377ft) above sea degree and the views are astonishing, reaching throughout the Banc d’Arguin chicken reserve’s tide-sculpted, shape-shifting sands, the place oyster farmers work and sandwich terns and different migratory birds strut, and all the best way throughout the bay to Cap Ferret. And you may really feel endlessly 5 years previous while you race gleefully again down in an exhilarating dash.

Already Europe’s largest, the dune is rising eastwards 1.5m (4.9ft) a 12 months and has already swallowed bushes, a street junction and a resort entire.

Flamingos on the Camargue, South of France
You possibly can see a whole bunch of flamingos in France’s Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau © digitalimagination / Getty Pictures / iStockphoto

Spot flamingoes on the Camargue salt flats

The snow-white sansouires (salt flats) and shockingly pink algae-rich étangs (small saltwater lakes) of the Camargue elicit gasps of marvel from first-time guests. There’s no denying it’s a poetic setting for equestrians, wildlife spotters and exceptionally romantic souls. 

Flamingoes, you say? Prime billing goes to the Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau, the place you’ll be able to see a whole bunch of them.  (Word: they give the impression of being their pink finest with their new plumage from December to March.) Carry binoculars to sight different migratory species flitting among the many wetlands, akin to herons, storks, egrets and grebes. The park has 7km (4.3 miles) of trails to wander.

Courageous the massive one at Mont Blanc within the French Alps

Europe’s highest peak, towering 4807m (15,771ft) above sea degree, Mont Blanc is the icing on the cake of the French Alps – and what a magnificence it’s.

You possibly can see its pearl-white summit from afar, however getting nearer brings dwelling the uncooked wilderness of its realms of rock and everlasting ice. There are various methods to understand it, whether or not you’re a hiker, peak-bagger, climber or ski tourer. In the event you plan to grapple with carabiner and crampon, enlist an skilled information as circumstances may be excessive.

The massive one is the 169km (105-mile) Tour du Mont Blanc, slicing throughout France, Switzerland and Italy – a correct journey that traverses mind-blowing glacial landscapes and stops off at 9 villages (lots of that are impassable on account of snow for a lot of the 12 months).

In winter, the multi-day Haute Route (from Chamonix to Zermatt) is an epic ski, taking you from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, with four-thousanders retaining you firm all the best way. In any other case, hop on the cable automotive floating up above the shimmering ice to Aiguille du Midi, and past to Italy on the Télécabine Panoramique Mont Blanc.

Asian woman in France in front of the Etretat Aval cliff, rocks and natural arch landmark by blue ocean
The chalk cliffs and rock arches of Étretat are one among France’s most evocative coastal landscapes © Shutterstock / Tonda Tran

Discover inspiration within the Étretat cliffs of Normandy

As day fades into pastel nightfall, you’ll be able to see why the arches of Étretat excited many an impressionist artist. Diving deep into the Atlantic, these chalk cliffs and rock arches – spectacularly eroded by wind and water over millennia – are one among France’s most evocative coastal landscapes.

Étretat has impressed everybody from Nineteenth-century French creator Man de Maupassant to painters akin to Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet. Probably the most photographed arch is Falaise d’Aval, with its needle, or Aiguille – a 70m-high (230ft) spire of chalk-white rock flinging up from the waves. Look intently and you’ll see why Maupassant mentioned it resembled an elephant dipping its trunk into the ocean.

Eyeball alpine wildlife in Haute-Savoie

Snowboarding, boarding and making snow angels are all wonderful pastimes for France’s rugged Haute-Savoie area, however summer season within the mountains additionally has its charms.

Seize your binoculars to spy fuzzy locals, like wild boar, ibex and mountain hares. The mountain-dwelling marmot is an area icon, so in case your wildlife-spotting attracts a clean, reward retailers in native cities like Morzine overflow with cuddly souvenirs (for a good friend, after all).

Hikers on a trail at the Cirque de Gavarnie in the French Pyrenees
Victor Hugo referred to as the Cirque de Gavarnie “nature’s Colosseum,” and you’ll consider the hype © John Elk III / Getty Pictures

Gaze in marvel on the Cirque de Gavarnie in Hautes-Pyrénées

There are larger waterfalls in Europe, positive, however the cinematic backdrop of the Gavarnie Falls, spilling down the jagged, typically snow-capped Pyrenean peaks rimming the pure amphitheater of Cirque de Gavarnie, is arms down one of many best exhibits in France.

Beginning their journey within the Spanish Pyrénées and fed by glacial waters, these tiered cascades are at their most gushing after the spring soften. After heavy rain, it’s as if God himself left the faucet on. 

This immense and spectacular glacial bowl despatched Victor Hugo into raptures when he referred to as it “nature’s Colosseum,” and you’ll consider the hype. For ringside views, hike alongside well-marked trails to the Plateau de Saugué at dawn.