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If you have’ got wheels, wanderlust and some free time, there’s nothing like a road trip in France to make you appreciate the diversity of the country at a more relaxed pace. Plus they are fun! From the Alps to the French Riviera, from the Atlantic Ocean to cute medieval villages inland, France by car means unforgettable routes that will plunge you straight into the country’s heart and soul.
We’ve done a fair few of our own road trips in France and you can find more French road trip ideas on this link. For this post, however, we asked other experienced travelers and friends to tell us about the best road trips in France. The following itineraries can be easily combined, shortened or extended and they are suitable for all types of travelers.
The Loire Valley from Nantes to Blois
- Duration: 5 days
- Regions covered: Pays de la Loire and Centre Val de Loire
- Best for: Renaissance chateaux, small towns, French wine
This Loire Valley itinerary covering Nantes to Chambord takes 5 days and is an ideal road trip for those who love history, architecture, food, and wine.
Arrive at Nantes Airport and drive about 90 minutes to Saumur. Book a hotel in Saumur for two nights. Hotel St. Pierre is super comfortable, has a great historical feel, and is situated right on the main square. Dine at Michelin-starred Le Gambetta to treat yourself to an amazing French meal.
From Saumur, drive to Chateau d’Usse (the castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty) with a stop at Chateau Miniere for a walk among the vines and some wine tasting on the way. The sumptuous and artistic gardens at Chateau Villandry are also a must-see and easily accessible from Saumur.
Continue east along the Loire Valley to Amboise for two nights. Hotel Le Manoir St. Thomas is a great choice of hotel and even features a suit of armor to guard the lobby. Amboise is home to Chateau de Clos Luce where Da Vinci spent the final years of his life. From Amboise, drive to the Loire Valley’s most iconic chateaux including Chateau Chenonceau and Chateau Chambord. Enjoy dinner in Blois followed by the exciting light show after dark at Chateau Royal de Blois.
On the return to Nantes Airport, break up the more than 3-hour drive with a stop in Angers to see the Apocalypse Tapestries at Chateau d’Angers. Chateau d’Angers resembles a menacing fortress rather than an elegant chateau and is an excellent counterpoint to the other places visited on this Loire Valley Itinerary.
By Jennifer (aka Dr. J) of Sidewalk Safari
Along the West Coast of France
- Duration: 10 days
- Regions covered: Normandy and Nouvelle Aquitaine
- Best for: architecture, sightseeing, nature, and landscapes
Stunning landscapes, old cities, and historically important places are all part of a road trip along the west coast of France. Whether you camp, as we did, or stay in hotels, this trip will be epic.
We start our road trip in Normandy, in Étretat, known for its huge chalk cliffs. Enjoy a breathtaking walk on the cliffs and finish off with a delicious seafood dish in one of the seafront restaurants of this pleasant village. The next stop is the WOII beaches of D-day, such as Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. Visiting this place will leave an everlasting impression. The last stop in the northern part is Mont-Saint-Michel, the medieval abbey that speaks to anyone’s imagination. It is built on a rock in the sea, and can only be reached by a bridge during high tide.
In this road trip, we skipped a large part of Brittany and drove straight down to our next stop, the island of Île-de-Ré in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. If you want to explore more of Brittany as well, such as Brest, you should add 3-4 more days.
Île-de-Ré is a fantastic small Island, right of the coast, reachable by a toll bridge. The island is known for oysters, the local drink Pinot, salt production and the lighthouse watching over its rugged coastline. Rent a bike, as this is the main way of transport on the island.
After a 1 or 2 day visit of Bordeaux, continue your journey to Arcachon and Dune du Pilat. This dune is the highest and biggest dune in Europe. Walking across it will give you the feeling of being in a desert. Enjoy the sunset on top of the dune, while watching over the Bassin of Arcachon. A moment you’ll never forget. End this road trip with a visit to Biarritz, close to the Spanish border and go surf in the waters of the Atlantic.
By Hellen of the Global Wizards
Around Verdon Natural Regional Park
- Duration: 3 days
- Regions covered: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Best for: nature, and landscapes
Did you know that there was a Grand Canyon in France? Yep. Well, it’s not as big, but trust me when you’ll get there, you’ll have the same feeling.
It’s called the « Gorges du Verdon » or Verdon Gorge, and it’s a stunning rocky landscape with towering cliffs, where a turquoise and green river meanders at the bottom.
Ready to visit? Let’s go on an epic road trip around the Verdon Natural Regional Park!
To start the road trip, you can drive from any of the nearby major cities: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Nice or even Cannes. The trip takes 3 days to complete, with one day in Valensole and the lavender fields, one day driving around the different lakes, and one day driving the epic road on top of the Gorges du Verdon.
Here are the major stops on this trip:
Valensole’s lavender fields, famous for its fields of purple beauty. The lavender blooms from the end of June to the end of July. Valensole is a cute little village where you can spend the night after exploring the fields around.
Esparron de Verdon, and Lac Quinson de Verdon, are two small lakes with absolutely no crowds. Lac Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon is the main lake in the area, and the perfect place to stop for a while and relax on the beach.
Gorges du Verdon is the main attraction around here, France’s Grand Canyon. Drive on top of the gorges on an epic scenic route (Route des Crêtes), and forget that you are in France for a little while.
Sillans la Cascade. Before you leave, check out this secret waterfall, it is absolutely worth the trip!
One of the best places to establish as your home base while you road trip around the area is the village of Valensole, for the ultimate traditional French experience.
By Kevin of Kevmrc
Gorges du Tarn
- Duration: 4 days
- Regions covered: Occitanie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
- Best for: nature, landscapes, and small towns
This 4-day road trip will take you through The Causses and The Cévennes, a region in Southern France, which offers the ultimate scenery for an amazing road trip: from deep gorges with hairpin bends to wide-open pastoral landscapes. Because of its uniqueness, the region has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.
The road trip starts and ends in Millau. On the 1st day visit the world’s tallest bridge – Millau Viaduct, and the tiny village of Payre. Stay the first night in Millau and use the evening to explore this beautiful medieval city.
The next day head to the heart of the Gorges du Tarn. The road (D809, D907, and D907bis) follows the bends of the River Tarn, which has cut deeply into the cliffs forming this stunning canyon. You’ll be passing through lots of lovely villages along the Tarn. At Les Vignes, take the D46 road to Point Sublime, from where you will have the most breathtaking view over the canyon. Go back to Les Vignes and follow the road towards La Malène. On the way stop at Pas de Soucy for some more amazing views. You can stay the second night at La Malène.
On day 3 head to Sainte-Enimie – a post-card beautiful village. On the way, you can stop at Saint-Chélly-du-Tarn. After Sainte-Enimie continue to Florac where you can spend the 3 night.
The next day take D16 and D63 to the famous cave Aven Armand. You’ll be crossing Causse Méjean, a plateau with a totally different landscape from the canyons. After the cave, stop at the nearby Medieval Farm (Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois). Afterward, continue to Meyrueis on D986 and at Meyrueis take D996 to Le Rozier. Follow the road along the canyon on La Jonte River – Gorges de la Jonte. Stop at Le Rozier and Peyrelau – two lovely places, where La Jonte flows into Tarn. Afterward, continue to Millau.
By Daniela of Ipanema Travels
Along the Côte d’Azur
- Duration: 7-10 days
- Regions covered: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Best for: landscapes, and sightseeing
The road trip along the Côte d’Azur is one of the most scenic drives in France and in the world, with the French Riviera coastline being dotted with picturesque towns and pristine coves along the way.
One of the best starting points for a road trip along the Côte d’Azur is Cannes as not only is this easily accessible, but it is a city filled with glitz and glamour that will make you feel as though you’ve arrived in the French Riviera in style! Spend your first night (or two) here soaking up the atmosphere before moving on towards Nice.
On your way to Nice, you might want to stop off in Antibes. This is a lovely place to unwind after the buzz of Cannes and you can enjoy a relaxing lunch and spend your afternoon at the Picasso Museum. If you want to hike the Cap d’Antibes and spend an extra day on the beach, consider staying a night in Antibes itself.
Next, you’ll drive onto Nice where you can explore the city’s narrow streets, bustling markets, and ochre-colored architecture. After spending a couple of days in and around Nice you can drive on to Monaco, stopping off at the medieval village of Eze and perhaps Villefranche-sur-Mer. You can then choose whether you want to stay in Monaco for a chic casino break or move on to Menton, a small foodie town on the French/Italian border.
The distances between the destinations are relatively short, so you can easily tick off two places in one day. I would suggest spending at least seven days traveling along the French Riviera but of course, you can spend much longer delving into this stunning French region.
By Chrisoula of Historic European Castles
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