France’s landscapes are incredibly diverse: from the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast to the dramatic gorges of the Ardèche, there’s something to inspire all tastes. And this breadth of scenery has helped to cultivate a wealth of outdoor activities, making it perfect for those seeking a little adrenaline with their R&R. Hiking, biking, sailing and kayaking are all on offer – just take your pick from our active holidays in France.
Languedoc for hiking
For hiking in breathtaking countryside, base yourself in the Aude region of Languedoc. We love the area surrounding Limoux, where you can walk the historic Cathar Trail (amongst other routes). The area is rich with ruined castles, rushing rivers, authentic market towns and brocante shopping, as well as numerous wineries. To see the wildflowers at their best, May and June is the time to be here. The autumn months are also memorable, when the vines and fruit trees change colour.
Languedoc Hideaways is well located for the Cathar castles. Further south, Le Trésor is set in the charming town of Sonnac-sur-l’Hers, with way-marked footpaths leading straight from the village.
Provence and the Ardèche for kayaking
Provence has a timeless wonder which not even the summer hordes can dilute. Its impeccably preserved medieval towns, rich Roman legacy, Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards and stunning ravines have been charming visitors for decades. A stay at Le Mas des Oules will place you within 15 minutes’ drive of the extraordinary Unesco-listed Pont du Gard, which straddles the Gardon River. Built in the 1st century, this 360m-long, 50m-high aqueduct helped provide Nîmes’ citizens with fresh water for 5 centuries. Today visitors can kayak under it, or simply sit on the riverbank and marvel at it.
Alternatively, stay at Chateau d’Uzer and you’ll be well-located for kayaking along the Ardèche river, paddling through stunning gorges and gentle rapids. Many stop for lunch on the pebbled shores – owner Véronique can prepare picnics (and advise on kayak hire).
Brittany for sailing and sea-faring fun
Brittany’s coast is a true sailing mecca. Were you to tour its many waterfront towns, you’d be hard pushed to find one without a sailing school. Along the north coast, the village of Locquirec has fantastic sailing all year round – stay at Grand Hotel des Bains, directly opposite the Ecole de Voile Française. Swimming, diving and kite-surfing are also available during summer (June-September). Elsewhere, the chi-chi resort town of La Trinité sur Mer has all sorts of boat charters, yacht trips and sailing lessons on offer.
Alternatively, head along the Quiberon Peninsula, where sea-kayaking is available from the small fishing harbour of Portivy. Perfect for exploring the many safe, sandy beaches nearby.
The Alps for year-round adventure
Of course, we can’t talk about adventure holidays in France without talking about the Alps. In winter, the French Alps offer some of the world’s best skiing and snowboarding, with pistes for all abilities. In summer, people come here to hike, bike and climb in the green mountains. You can also white-water raft on rushing Alpine rivers, and boat on sparkling natural lakes. Intrepid explorers are lured year-round by Western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, which poses an irresistible ascent challenge. Whenever you come, you’ll be awed by blue skies and panoramic vistas of snowy peaks; this is a seriously beautiful region.