A summer off the beaten track in France

Inspiration

margouillatphoto
© margouillatphoto

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 20 June 2024

Dreaming of an unforgettable summer full of unique experiences? Take a step back in time and relax in a secret spa, cycle the back roads or recharge your batteries in the heart of an undiscovered green landscape. France is full of hidden paradises, unspoilt landscapes and cultural treasures. Whether you're travelling alone, as a couple or as a family, here's a selection of summer destinations off the beaten track. Let yourself be surprised...

Climbing... and breathing mountain air

A wide range of sporting activities in the Alps
© Nathan Degaches - Tignes Développement - A wide range of sporting activities in the Alps

  • For a summer off the beaten track, head for the Aubrac mountains, the gateway to the Auvergne volcanoes, for lovers of hiking, nature, culture and history. An authentic land, sheltered from the world and the heatwave. 
     
  • Further south, in Occitanie, Les Angles, at the foot of Canigou in the Pyrenees, offers an exceptional panorama of the Carlit massif. Open your eyes and take a deep breath!
     
  • For the more sporty, head for Tignes! Mountain biking, hiking, water sports... Situated at an altitude of over 2000m, this alpine resort offers a wide range of sporting activities for young and old.  

Enjoying the serenity of the lakes

Lac de Trémelin in the heart of the Borcelliante forest - Brittany
© Marie Houssin - Lac de Trémelin in the heart of the Borcelliante forest - Brittany

Both relaxing and rejuvenating, France's lakes are the perfect combination for lovers of swimming, water sports and peace and quiet. Ideal for a summer away from the crowds.

  • In Brittany, the Lac de Trémelin is a must for kayakers and canoeists. Set in the heart of the Brocéliande forest, it's also a nature reserve and a great base for walking, horse-riding and cycling. Something for everyone.  
  • Head to Corsica to explore the magnificent lakes of Capitellu, Melo and Bastani. These are unique, peaceful places to get some fresh air and experience the island's famous beauty in a different way.

Explore undiscovered spots

La Soule - Pays basque
© Tourism office Pays Basque - La Soule - Pays basque

Looking for little-known gems for a summer getaway off the beaten track? Sometimes all you need to do is drive a few miles away from the crowds to find peace and quiet and enjoy some magnificent scenery. 
 

  • Like the Monts du Vaucluse between the Luberon and the Ventoux, this corner of France reveals another facet of Provence, untouched by the hustle and bustle of summer.
     
  • In the south-west, take a step back and wander through La Soule, the smallest and wildest region of the Basque Country.
     
  • On the Provençal coast, head for the Côte Bleue: the other side of the Calanques, west of the city of Marseille, less well known than the famous Parc des Calanques in Marseille, but not to be envied. 

Relax in the heart of a spa resort

Total relaxation at Balaruc-les-Bains - Occitanie
© OT thau - Total relaxation at Balaruc-les-Bains - Occitanie

Summer holidays are also the ideal time to relax and pamper yourself. So why not choose a spa holiday for a summer off the beaten track and recharge your batteries before the new school year begins?
 

  • If you've got a Mediterranean accent, head to Balaruc-les-Bains, France's only seaside resort. With stunning views over the Etang de Thau and a building that looks like a boat, the Balaruc thermal baths and spa offer the perfect setting for total relaxation. 
  • For lovers of the Atlantic, Dax is the place to be. Only 1h30 from Bordeaux and 30 minutes from the beaches, this renowned spa town invites you to enjoy its curative waters and calming surroundings in the heart of the Landes forest. 
     
  • Finally, for those who love the landscapes of the north, Saint-Amand-les-Eaux in Hauts-de-France is a spa on the edge of the forest.

Getting green

Road cycling along Lake Ilay
© Benjamin Becker/Jura Tourisme - Road cycling along Lake Ilay

There's nothing like breathing in the fresh air and immersing yourself in nature to cope with the heat. There are regions all over France where you can spend a summer off the beaten track. 
 

  • With its dense forests, lakes and waterfalls, the Jura Mountains are a haven of peace for those who want to recharge their batteries in the great outdoors. 
     
  • The Cévennes National Park: the ideal place for a nature retreat. Explore this Unesco-listed protected environment. 
     
  • Burgundy's green lung, the Morvan massif, invites you to enjoy its breathtaking panoramas. 

Taking it easy on rivers and canals

Kayaking on the Vézère at Uzerche
© OT Terres de Corrèze - Kayaking on the Vézère at Uzerche

This summer, answer the call of the calm of rivers and canals. All over France, get on board for soothing river trips and holidays off the beaten track.

  • In the heart of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, go canoeing on the Leyre. This calm river rises in the heart of the Landes region and winds its way 115 km to the Arcachon basin, just 1 hour from Bordeaux. Routes ranging from 5 to 90 km allow you to paddle through an unspoilt ecosystem.
  • Hire a barge and cruise up the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This river cruise will take you through picturesque landscapes and locks steeped in history, for a cruise in complete tranquillity. 
  • The Vézère rises in Corrèze and flows for 211 km, ending at Limeuil in the Dordogne. A narrow, wild river where you can enjoy remarkable sites and landscapes by canoe or kayak. All to the sound of birdsong and lapping water. Close your eyes, you're there.

Cycling on the greenways

Cycling to Mont-Saint-Michel
© Thomas Le Floc’H - CRT Normandie - Cycling to Mont-Saint-Michel

Whether electric or muscle-powered, cycling is a sustainable way of getting around and enjoying the countryside in a different way. Here are a few ideas for off-the-beaten-track cycle routes for a summer away from the hustle and bustle of tourism:

  • La Véloscénie: a 450km cycle route linking Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy. This greenway offers a gradual immersion in the French countryside, with its villages, lush green forests, wheat fields and more.
  • The Vélomaritime: one of the longest cycle routes in France... 1500 km of coastline between Roscoff and Dunkirk. This route offers a variety of coastal landscapes, from sandy beaches to steep cliffs. Enjoy the sea air while exploring charming coastal villages.
     
  • The Loire by bike: 900 km of different ways to visit the region and enjoy the scenery, nature and, of course, the sumptuous châteaux of the Loire. A route that combines culture and nature.

Follow in the footsteps of artists' villages

Doctor Gachet's house in Auvers-sur-Oise
© Auvers tourism - Doctor Gachet's house in Auvers-sur-Oise

How about using your summer to nourish your spirit? France's landscapes have been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for many artists: all over France, emblematic villages plunge you into a unique artistic universe.

  • In the Occitanie region, visit Collioure. Nestling on the shores of the Mediterranean, this village was the birthplace of Fauvism. Henri Matisse, André Derain and Etienne Terrus all came here to capture the special light of Collioure in their world-famous paintings. 
  • Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, is an emblematic village that was home to the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh. It was also the site of his final resting place. Today, the village preserves the painter's artistic legacy, with sites such as the church and cemetery where the artist is buried. 
     
  • Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has a special significance in the world of art. The village, located in the Lot department, was a place of inspiration for André Breton, the pope of surrealism. Fascinated by surrealist poetry, the artist was captivated by the picturesque, medieval beauty of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, and the village has since gained renown as a place of artistic inspiration. 

A tour of the most beautiful vineyards

Cyclists on the road to Burgundy's Grands Crus Alain Doire
© Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Tourism - Cyclists on the road to Burgundy's Grands Crus Alain Doire

France shines thanks to the unique richness of its wine-growing regions. In fine weather, the vineyards are in full bloom, and the summer months are the perfect time to explore them for a holiday off the beaten track. 
 

  • The Alsace wine route: explore a legendary itinerary and meet passionate winegrowers and lush green landscapes. 
     
  • The Burgundy wine route: cross the emblematic landscapes to discover Burgundy wines and the villages of the Grands Crus.
     
  • The Champagne route: bubble through the vineyards of Champagne and visit the cellars to discover the secrets of making the famous sparkling wine.

Discovering cities in a fun way

Summer at Place Pey Berland - Bordeaux
© Nicolas Duffaure - Summer at Place Pey Berland - Bordeaux

As we all know, cities take on a quieter side in the summer. It's the perfect opportunity to explore them without the crowds.

  • For an off-the-beaten-track summer exploring French cities, head to Paris, the epitome of summer serenity! In July and August, the capital trades its hustle and bustle for a more relaxed atmosphere... it's the perfect time to enjoy museums, restaurants, monuments and shops without the crowds (although in the summer of 2024, the capital should be less quiet for the duration of the Paris Games).                    
  • Bordeaux is less than an hour from the Atlantic coast, perfect for a city break between two trips to the beach. In fine weather, the city takes on a more relaxed feel, inviting you to explore all its charms without rushing.
     
  • Lyon, with its magnificent quays along the Saône and Rhône rivers, is particularly pleasant in summer. Stroll through Vieux Lyon, savour its gastronomy and enjoy its many parks and sunny terraces.