9 trips to France to plan in advance

Maybe you dream of the rolling vineyards of Burgundy. Perhaps the Hansel-and-Gretel cottages of Alsace grab your attention. Or is it Tahiti and the perfumes of ylang-ylang you hanker for? La Belle France, stretched over many seas and several continents, offers no shortage of getaways. Some require a little more planning than others—here are our favorite trips in France to plan in advance!

1. Route des Grandes Alpes

Begin in the heights of the French Alps, in the paradise near Lake Geneva, and finish your journey in the melon-colored splendor of Menton along the Côte d'Azur. The Route des Grandes Alpes (External link) does exactly that, beginning in Thonon-les-Bains, winding 684 km (425mi) through some of France's most beloved vistas and villages, before plunging onto the Mediterranean coasts. Cyclists complete the journey in around seven days, while motorists can certainly traverse more quickly. Half the fun, however, is exploring (and tasting!) the little attractions and mountain villages along the way, so be sure to build in as much time as possible. The Route des Grands Alpes is open from June-October, and it's best to schedule lodging well in advance.

2. Les Routes des vins

Got a hankering for Gewürztraminer and Hansel-and-Gretel cottages? Or perhaps you're more in the mood for Sancerre and sprawling châteaux? Then again, maybe sipping Grenache on a Mediterannean island speaks to you above all? France is its wine, and its 10 wine routes are unparalleled. From the rolling hills of Alsace to the infinitely varied vines of Bordeaux to the seaside vinyards of Provence and Corsica, there's a wine route for every oenophile to travel along. The only question is: which one?

3. Reunion Island

Réunion is best planned in advance for two reasons: the amazing, never-ending list of things to do there, and its remote location in the Indian Ocean. The little green gem is well worth the trek, however. An island of soaring volcanoes and plunging canyons, crystal waters and Creole towns, Réunion has something to offer visitors of all kinds. Some must-sees are Mafate (the high-elevation village), Voile de la Mariée waterfall (which takes its name for the veil-like shape of its cascacade), the capital of Saint Denis (bustling markets, lively nightlife, and a botanical garden called Eden), and the star of Réunion: the 2,631 meter (8631.89 foot) volcano La Piton de Fournaise.

4. Corsica

Corsica calls itself "The Island of Beauty" and it really, really is. The Mediterranean island is technically part of mainland France, but has married French culture with that of neighboring Sorrento and Sardinia for a Corsican identity all its own. That identity is reflected in unique (and delicious) cuisine, lovely hilltop towns (especially those of the Balagne region), and of course, wine. This is France, after all, and Corsican wine is some of the most beloved in the country. It would be a sin to skip over Corsica's natural resources, like beach days and snorkeling in Loto, Roccapina, Rondinara and Palombaggia or a dip in the streams and rivers snaking through the island.

5. Tahiti

Like Réunion, Tahiti is a far-flung part of France for most of the world to get to, so planning ahead is a necessity. The destination merits the journey. Aqua waves crash on baby powder beaches, lap overwater bungalows, and carry the scent of ylang-ylang through French Polynesia. A melting pot for millenia, Tahiti is a cultural hotspot. From the Tomb of Pomare V (Tahiti's last king) to the Petroglyphs of Te Pari and moving forward to the Polynesian-inspired works at the Musée Gauguin, there is no shortage of things to experience. And of course, the nature. The Faarumai Waterfalls, flora in and out of the Botanical Gardens, the beaches of Moorea Island and Pape’ete...the instant you step off the plane, Tahiti envelops you in a kaleidscope of colors and culture.

6. Camino de Santiago

The end goal of this pilgrammage may be Spain's Santiago de Compostela, but four routes snake through France before dipping across the Pyrenees, and are more than worth visiting on their own. While most spots on the route offer inexpensive public hostels unique to the route which cannot be booked in advance, if you're interested in more luxurious lodgings, guest houses and hotel rooms are best booked ahead.
The routes begin at Saint-Martin de Tours, the Madeleine de Vézelay, Notre-Dame du Puy and Saint-Gilles du Gard before merging into one. Like all journeys in life, the Camino through France is what you make it: Romanesque sightings through Occitanie and Béarn (like Sainte-Foy church in Conques, Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont-Ferrand and Toulouse’s Basilica Saint-Sernin) or Gothic admiration (like the Amiens and Bourges Cathedrals). Plan time to explore pretty white-and-red Basque homes, or tour the relics (both real and false). Get your hiking boots, pick up a wooden pilgrim’s staff (a must-have for all travelers on the route) and en marche!

7. Grape-picking in Champagne

Legend has is that when monk Dom Perignon sipped the first brew of Champagne, he exclaimed: "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars."
If you fancy it, you can harvest the stars yourself. Each year, when summer meets fall, Champagne houses in the eponymous region invite visitors to pick up a harvester's secateur (sheers) and join the yearly grape vendages. Many vineyards will invite you to stay anywhere from a day or long enough help throughout the harvesting process, making it an ideal trip for young people on a long school break or just finishing studies.
New York Times writer Ann Mah's piece on her vendages experience (External link) is a great guide, with tips at the end on how to turn it from a dream trip to a reality.

8. Scuba in Guadeloupe

In the heart of the Lesser Antilles lies the Guadeloupe archipelo, home to some of the world's most amazing scuba diving (External link) . Alongside the brilliant undersea flora and fauna you'd expect from the Carribbean, Guadeloupe has a few tricks up its sleeve. For one, the underwater mountain Sec Pâté on Les Saintes. This dive is not for the faint of heart—the mountain plunges 300 meters (nearly 1000 feet) and crests only 15 meters (50 feet) from the surface, so it's only for experienced divers. The reward is a stunning vista of sea turtles, coral, jellyfish, and the rest of the Carribean sea's inhabitants.
Of course, Guadeloupe is a perfect mecca for snorkleing and scuba enthusiasts of all levels as well, from the malachite waters of the Cousteau Réserve to the expansive lagoon of Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin to the launch point of the Anse-Caraïbes beach in Pointe-Noire.

9. Amazonia in French Guiana

The largest national park in the European Union actually lies on the East coast of South America. Stretching over 34,000 km² (13127 mi²), the Amazonian Park of French Guiana is home to Amerindian, Bushinengue and Creole people, whose amazing heritage and culture is an honor to witness.
Of course, the park also offers as well the incredible biodiversity of the Amazon. Swim with otters in the creek, taste the sweetness of the mombin (wild plum), canoe to the Gobaya Soula falls, take in the incredible ozone of the rainforest canopy. Like the rest of the Amazon, there's no place like it on Earth.