I had to go explore the world to realize how lucky I was having grown up in such an amazing country as France. It took me twenty years to understand that. There is a lot to love about France, from its breathtaking mountains to its great historical sites, to how beautiful and remote parts of it still are -yes, we WILL talk about the food. Later...
To inspire you and give you some ideas for your own France itinerary, I've put together this ultimate bucket list of things you should do in France -outside of the famous 'must-see places' that are on your travel guide.
This list compiles 15 of France's greatest hidden treasures...
From the Pic du Midi observatory to small villages on the countryside and the most amazing carnival in Dunkerque, France is an intoxicatingly stunning and diverse country where there's enough to satisfy a lifetime's worth of experience. Everywhere there is something that's worth the visit!
01| Provence's fragrant & colorful lavender fields
In bloom all summer in Provence, the lavender fields create a magnificent atmosphere in the whole region. The marvelous lavender roads are particularly stunning at sunrise, when you've got the views for yourself, with no tourists around, after what you can head to a traditional boulangerie for a well-deserved petit-déjeuner... Sault is the perfect village to base yourself during the purple season. ©IBELLHOP
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02|the Canal du Midi on a romantic barge cruise
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the lovely Canal du Midi is one of the most beautiful waterway in France, going through rolling countryside and vineyards, all under the dappled shade of plane trees lining the canal. A barge cruise is a perfect way to enjoy the quietness of the area -an other option being cycling along the canal. ©TOULOUSEVISIT
03|Lake Annecy from the sky
Annecy is known as the village that will steal your heart -one of the most charming in Europe. Its wonderful adjacent turquoise lake and the mountains surrounding create all together an exceptional scenery -that is even more enjoyable from the sky. Indeed, Annecy region is a dream spot for paragliders and skydivers... ©K.SAMUELBORGES
04|Dunkerque during its insane carnival
Get prepared. This is not just any ordinary carnival. This is the noisiest and oddest carnival in France. In two words: pure madness. It began in the 17th century as a special feast before fishermen sail for the dangerous Icelandic water. It's now celebrated between Epiphany and Mardi Gras, with the final 3 days known as Les Trois Joyeuses, the biggest part of the festivities -during which revellers take over the streets dressed in outrageous costumes and carrying coloured umbrellas. ©JEANMIAILLE
05|Corsica from the mythic GR20 trail
The GR20 is a long distance trail that traverses Corsica diagonally from North to South. If the whole thing is considered as one of the most difficult trails in Europe, you can also choose to trek just a part of it -it offers not only beautiful mountain views, but also the opportunity to live an incredible experience with other trekkers.
06|St Guilhem le Désert, plus beau village de france
Located in a stunning green valley with a river running through it, St Guilhem Le Désert has been declared a World Heritage by UNESCO. Hidden in the chalky limestone mountains, this enchanted village offers stunning views on the area. Better visit it off-season for a more authentic feeling. ©ANALGLYPHE34
07|FLY OVER THE MONT BLANC
If the weather allows it, hot air ballooning in the French alps could be one of most breathtaking moment of your trip. Silently sneaking up on the mountains and exploring the surrounding from the sky would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Other alternative? Get on a scenic helicopter flight around the Mont Blanc. ©EVIANCOUNTRY
08|LYON during the festival of lights
The Festival spreads over 4 days of pure magic, during which the city lives up to its title as the city of lights. This spectacular celebration of light unveils the architectural treasures of the city in an unexpected way, through the illuminating of monuments, streets, hills and river banks -it's the whole city turning into an open air theatre!
9|the Aubrac plateau and its authentic BURONs
The Aubrac is a much less touristy area to travel than other parts of France -c'est la France profonde. It's all real and authentic here. The Aubrac plateau holds a nature full of character and some gorgeous medieval villages surrounded by mountains and forests. And on its green hills, you can spot some little gray farmhouse dotted here and there: they are called buron... ©AUBRACLAGUIOLETOURISME
10|a jewel of brittany, the ÎLE DE BREHAT
Brittany is blessed with lovely island and islets -if there is one to explore, it would be the Ile de Brehat, pure gem on the Pink Granite Coastline. This tiny island offers stunning views, beautiful garden and a chance to get some fresh air in the most authentic and peaceful atmosphere. ©VEDOMAX
11|ESPELETTE village and its special pepper
Every year on the last week-end of October, the village of Espelette welcome thousands of people to celebrate the area's most famous agricultural product: the Espelette peppers (piment d'Espelette), the most characteristic feature of the Basque cuisine. It's a pleasure to stroll down its streets and take in the unique scenery that is formed by the pretty houses with colorful red shutters and drying peppers hanging from the facades and balconies.
12|Carcassone on French national day
Obviously, the old Cité de Carcassonne looks like a magic castle all year long. But every year on July 14th, it gets even better with the spectacular fireworks show. It does get packed at this time of the year but really worth the effort -go to the nearest boulangerie, buy some jambon-beurre sandwich, find the perfect spot with a view, sit down, enjoy your picnic and wait for the show to start... ©NAIRODS
13|The vercors nature reserve with a donkey as buddy
There are many ways to explore a region. In the high plateaux of the Vercors, you can bivouac with a donkey as companion! In the company of your friendly buddy, head for the land of the chamois and deer and discover an incredible variety of landscapes: mountain peaks, gorges, valleys, plateaux, forests, rivers, waterfalls, caves, alpine flora and wildlife...
14|the canals of sète
Sète is a gorgeous seaside town that hosts water jousting tournament every year, played with boats equipped with small, narrow platforms. A jouster equipped with a lance stands on each platform, and the goal is to push one's opponent off the platform while maintaining balance. A very unique event in Southern France... ©JPDEGAS
15|beneath the stars, in the Pic du Midi Observatory
The Pic du Midi is an observatory located at 2.877m in the Pyrenees, accessible by a cable car from La Mongie. The old scientists' quarters have been converted into nice rooms for travelers. Outside are several viewing terraces that offer indescribable views on the mountains, especially when the sun sets and rises... ©TWAN