Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
Here’s the Best Road Trip South of France Itinerary
The South of France is the perfect French holiday destination. There are many great places to visit in Southern France, the scenery is always beautiful, and the food and culture are hard to beat.
This area of France has a wonderful climate with long warm summer days stretching through to September and October. Winters in Southern France, especially along the Mediterranean coast, are always mild.
The best way to explore Southern France is by car. This South of France road trip itinerary from Toulouse to Nice (or vice-versa) covers the French regions of Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. This Southern France road trip itinerary lasts two weeks, and it is a good itinerary for first-timers in Southern France who love history, sightseeing, outdoor activities, and great food.
This road trip south of France is one of the best road trips in France. Read more about road-tripping in France:
Southern France Road Trip Overview
- Start: Toulouse
- Finish: Nice
- Duration: 14 days
- Suggested route: Toulouse – Narbonne – Arles – Camargue – Aix-en-Provence – Cassis – Cannes – Nice
- Total distance: 751 Km, 8.5 hours drive in total
- Region covered: Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
- Best for: history, sightseeing, nature, small towns, food & wine
This South of France road trip itinerary starts from Toulouse, the capital city of the Occitanie region. Toulouse is easy to reach by train from Paris or Bordeaux. The journey from Paris to Toulouse by train takes around 4 hours while Bordeaux to Toulouse by train is only 2 hours.
Toulouse also has one of the major airports in France. Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) has regular and seasonal international flights from Europe, Africa, and America – Click here for flight times and rates to Toulouse.
TIP: If you are looking for a road trip from Paris to South of France, here’s the perfect road trip itinerary for you.
South France Road Trip Map
South of France Road Trip Itinerary
Day 0 | Arrival at Toulouse
Arrive at Toulouse the day before the start of this road trip South France. For your two nights in Toulouse, the Boutique Hotel SOCLO is comfortable, beautiful, and very central. Its swimming pool and garden are ideal for the warmest days in Southern France.
Day 1 | Toulouse
Located in the Southwest of France, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France. Boasting a rich historical heritage and sumptuous monuments, the famous “Pink City” always ranks among the most beautiful cities in France.
Cradle of aviation and space, Toulouse is ranked among the most advanced technology parks in terms of research. With many elegant mansions, historical buildings, museums, and monuments, Toulouse welcomes many students and tourists each year, making the city very lively and an excellent base to explore the region.
The list of interesting things to visit in Toulouse includes:
- Toulouse free walking tour
- Place du Capitole
- Basilique Saint-Sermin
- Toulouse bike tour
- La Cité de l’Espace
- The banks of the River Garonne
- La Maison de la Violette
- Halle de la Machine (exhibition hall of performance machines)
- Nocturnes at Marché Victor Hugo (Thursday night)
TIP: with this Toulouse City Card, enjoy free entrance to museums along with discounts at dozens of participating partners. Travel for free on city buses, trams, and the metro, save money on cruises, boat rental, and much more!
Day 2 | Toulouse – Carcassonne – Narbonne
It’s time to hit the road and drive to Narbonne, the next stop of this South of France trip. The drive from Toulouse – Narbonne via the A61 highway is straightforward and only takes 1.5 hours.
If you are not in a hurry, stop for a couple of hours at Carcassonne to admire one of the most beautiful medieval towns in France. The Cité de Carcassonne is listed UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the top sights of the Cathar Country.
For your stay in Narbonne, book two nights at Hôtel La Résidence. Set in an elegant 19th building well located to the Canal de la Robine, with restaurants and public parking nearby, Hôtel La Résidence offers everything you could expect for a perfect stay in Narbonne.
Day 3 | Narbonne
Located in the Aude department, in the Occitanie region, Narbonne is a touristy city thanks to its 5 km of thin sand at Narbonne-Plage. It is also a city with a rich history that goes back to Roman times (118 BC) and an excellent base to explore the Massif de la Clape and the Fontfroide Abbey.
The Canal de la Robine is one of France’s oldest canals, and it separates the Historical Center and the Cité district in central Narbonne. Here, you will see vestiges of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Narbonne’s Age of Gold at the end of the 19th century.
The list of interesting things to visit in Narbonne includes:
- Stroll around the Old Town
- Visit the Cathédrale Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur
- Visit the Archaeological Museum of Narbonne
- Visit the Musée Lapidaire de Narbonne
- Explore the Musée Roman Horréum (ancient Roman galleries)
- Beach day at Narbonne-Plage
- Sail the Canal de la Robine on an electric boat (no boating license required).
Day 4 | Arles
After three days in the Occitanie region, this road trip Southern France moves to Provence. Provence is one of France’s favorite destinations and a must on any Southern France itinerary. With gorgeous towns such as Cassis, Grasse, St Remy, and Arles and stunning countryside, you can see why it remains one of the most popular destinations in France to visit.
Start the day early with a coffee and drive to Arles, where you will spend one night. For your stay in Arles, book at L’Hotel Particulier, a charming private mansion built in the 18th century and lovingly renovated in the center of Arles. L’Hotel Particulier offers stylish rooms with comfortable beds, beautiful floral gardens, a pool, and private parking.
Located in the heart of Provence, Arles is always a favorite. Arles has it all: an interesting Roman heritage, beautiful 17th-century mansions, mazy streets, modern museums, and the wide rolling Rhône River. When the temperatures are warm, all the café-terraces and restaurants are full of locals and tourists, creating a lively atmosphere.
Arles was also the base for Paul Gauguin and Van Gogh. Here, Van Gogh painted some of his most famous masterpieces.
The list of interesting things to visit in Arles includes:
- Arènes d’Arles
- Roman Theater
- Arles through Van Gogh: Espace Van Gogh & Fondation Van Gogh
- Abbey of Montmajour
- Church and Cloister St Trophime
- Musée Départamentale Arles Antique
- Les Alyscamps (Roman necropolis)
Days 5 and 6 | The Camargue
From Arles, this south of France itinerary 14 days takes a detour for the sole reason of visiting the Camargue. The Camargue Regional Natural Park is the largest wetland in France, covering a surface of 100,000 hectares. It is famous worldwide for its stunning landscapes, lakes, and exceptional fauna.
Located on the axis of migration of birds from northern Europe to Africa, this area is also home to one of the main nesting sites for pink flamingos in France. But above all, the Camargue is an area for breeding Camargue horses and bulls! Here, bulls and horses live in semi-freedom, most often in herds, watched over by herdsmen on horseback.
From Arles, take the road D570 to Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Considered the capital of the Camargue, Les Saintes is a little corner of paradise with beautiful beaches, wild nature, and some places of interest.
After four days on the road, it’s time to relax for a couple of days in one of France’s most beautiful natural regions! For your stay in the Camargue, book two nights at the Hotel La Tramontane. The hotel offers individually-decorated, airy rooms which lead to the outdoor swimming pool, the garden, and a private pond.
To get the most out of this natural paradise, book this guided safari in a convertible 4×4, which starts from Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. If you prefer to explore the Camargue from the water, rent a boat (with or without a skipper) at Port Camargue.
Day 7 | Aix-en-Provence
Start the day early and enjoy a last breakfast in the gardens of Hotel La Tramontane. Back to Arles, take the N113 road direction to Aix-en-Provence, the next stop of this Southern France road trip.
For a unique stay in Aix-en-Provence, book a night at the Hotel des Augustins, a former 12th-century convent just off the famous Cours Mirabeau in the heart of the Old Town. The hotel features spacious rooms combining historic and modern features and a magnificent lobby.
Aix-en-Provence is the typical Provencal city and a wonderful place to explore in Southern France. Aix’s historic center, with Italian influences, boasts beautiful architecture and pretty squares adorned with stone fountains. Aix is also known for its traditional markets. The Aix-en-Provence markets are worth exploring for their colorful stalls and delicious local products.
The list of fun things to do in Aix-en-Provence includes:
- Stroll around the Old Tour
- Aix-en-Provence markets walking tour with tastings
- A coffee break at Cours Mirabeau
- The Mazarin neighborhood
- Paul Cézanne’s workshop
- Granet Museum (art museum)
- Taste the famous calissons (Aix’s typical sweets)
- E-bike tour of Montagne Sainte-Victoire
TIP: Don’t miss this 3-hour gourmet walking tour in Aix-en-Provence’s Old Town!
Days 8 and 9 | Cassis
From Aix-en-Provence, drive to Cassis, the last Provencal destination of this South of France itinerary by car. For your stay in Cassis, book two nights at Le Jardin d’Emile. This characteristic Provence-style house has the perfect location by the beach with a short walk to the port/town. Le Jardin d’Emile offers uniquely decorated rooms, each with a different color and atmosphere, a garden, and an outdoor terrace overlooking Cape Canaille.
Cassis is a cute fishing town located on one of the sides of the Parc National des Calanques de Marseille-Cassis. This colorful town near Marseille, so typical of Provence, is one of the best coastal towns in France, perfect for a couple of relaxing days by the Mediterranean Sea.
Spend day 8 exploring Cassis. The town is dominated by a castle built in the 8th century, and it is renowned for its trails running along the Cap Canaille, its round pebble beaches, and a little bit further, its creeks and their majestic cliffs plunging into deep blue water (Calanques). There’s also an adorable little port lined with multicolored buildings, cafés, and delicious restaurants offering bouillabaisse, seafood, and fish dishes.
On day 9, you can take a day trip to Marseille – here’s a list of the best things to do in Marseille. You can also explore the Calanques of Cassis on foot or on a catamaran tour.
Suggested tours and activities:
- Calanques National Park sea kayaking tour
- Calanques Cassis Hike: Port-Miou, Port-Pin & En-Vau
- From Marseille: 5-hour catamaran tour with lunch
- Calanques & Viewpoints guided tour with mountain e-bike
- Rent a boat, with or without a skipper, in Cassis
Days 10 and 11 | Cannes
The last days of this South France road trip are spent in Côte d’Azur, also known as French Riviera. Côte d’Azur is well-known for its beaches and coves, impressive views, azure water, and for being a playground for the wealthy. The French Riviera is also home to pretty towns and villages, and there’s a vibrant cultural scene, especially in the summer.
From Cassis, drive to Cannes, where you will spend two nights. For your stay in Cannes, book at Hotel Croisette Beach Cannes Mc Gallery. Located in central Cannes, 150m far from the famous La Croisette beach, this hotel offers the best of the French Riviera: stylish and comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant with sea views, and a private beach at an extra cost.
Known for its luxurious accommodations and shopping, as well as for the world-famous Cannes Film Festival, Cannes truly is a dream destination for many travelers. Cannes is the kind of place you visit when you want to relax and enjoy some luxury. With its stunning beaches, warm weather, and convenient location close to Nice, this is where the stars go for a holiday.
Use the first day in Cannes to visit the city. The list of fun things to do in Cannes includes:
- Cannes free walking tour
- Explore Le Suquet (Cannes’ oldest neighborhood)
- La Croix des Gardes neighborhood
- The Old Port
- La Croisette Walkway
- Sandy beaches
- Villa Rothschild
For your second day, you can take a relaxing catamaran tour with lunch or drive to one of the many great places to visit on the French Riviera near Cannes:
- Boat trip to the Calanques d’Esterel
- Private boat trip to Lérins Islands and Cap d’Antibes
Days 12, 13, and 14 | Nice
The last stop of this road trip South of France is Nice, the capital of the French Riviera. For your stay in Nice, book three nights at the Hotel La Pérouse Nice Baie des Anges. This 4-star hotel is nestled into the Colline du Château, and it comes with Nice’s best view over the Baie des Anges. Rooms are huge, with elegant Mediterranean décor, and some of them also come with a private balcony with great ocean views.
In Nice, take your time to explore the Old Town, taste some provençal specialties, and, of course, have a stroll on the famous Promenade des Anglais! Nice also has some of the best French Riviera beaches, and their turquoise waters are calling for a dip.
For your first two days in Nice, we recommend this Nice 2-day itinerary, which also explores the colorful neighboring town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. For your last day in the city, take one of these best day trips from Nice. We recommend Éze Village and Menton, but all the places on the list are lovely.
So, what are you waiting for? Book this South of France road trip itinerary today!