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With its rich history and culture, 37 World Heritage sites, beaches, snow-capped mountains, the most modern cities and most picturesque villages, France is, statistically, the most popular tourist destination in the world.
The French climate varies from moderate in the northwest to Mediterranean in the southeast. Across different regions, one witnesses extreme rainfall, plentiful sunshine and freezing temperatures, making France a favorable destination for a variety of adventure activities and holidays.
France is celebrated for the perfect holiday experience it offers visitors from across the globe. While there is fun galore to be had in the cities for the routine traveler – including popular sites, museums and National Parks – there is also a plethora of adventure activities and extreme adventure sports one can indulge in.
Here, for our adventure junkies, is a list of all the sports/activities that can be enjoyed in France: Take your pick!
National Parks – The National Parks of France is a system of 10 national parks throughout metropolitan France and overseas departments. These parks protect a total area of 3,710 sq km and draw over 7 million visitors every year. Some of the most popular are Pyrénées National Park, Écrins National Park, and Vanoise National Park.
Walking, Trekking & Mountaineering – France has a network of close to 180,000 km of long-distance footpaths, known as sentiers de grande randonnée or GRs. These are signposted and equipped with campsites, refuges and hostels along the way.
Mountain climbing is possible all year round, although some higher routes will be snowbound until quite late in the year, and require special equipment such as crampons and ice axes.
In mountain areas, associations of professional mountain guides, often located in the tourist office, organize walking expeditions for all levels of experience. In these and more lowland areas, particularly the limestone cliffs of the south and west, you’ll also find possibilities for rock climbing (escalade).
Meanwhile, walking holidays are popular in France, and there are many tour operators offering enticing packages.
Some areas of interest for climbing enthusiasts are the Fontainebleau forest in the south, Burgundy and Provence, with their limestone cliffs (Burgundy in central France, Provence in the southeast), and the Vosges range in the east.
Cycling – France has approximately 60,000 km of marked cycle paths (pistes cyclables). The countryside has an increasing number of specially designated long-distance cycle routes. Burgundy has an 800 km circuit, and is a cyclist’s paradise, while there is also the Loire à Vélo cycle route that runs the length of the Loire valley from Nevers to St Nazaire.
Skiing and Snowboarding – The French Alps promise a great mountain experience for nature as well as adventure lovers. Skiing and snowboarding are among the most popular outdoor sports. Whether it’s downhill, cross-country or ski-mountaineering, you can encounter it all here. There are a plenty of travel agents that sell all-in packages. You can ski at high altitudes from November to April; peak season is February and March.
Without doubt, the best skiing can be had in the Alps, with its longer season and plenty of snow. The higher the resort, the better the experience! Provence, in the foothills of the Alps, offers skiing on a smaller scale. There is also the Pyrénées, the friendlier range, less developed and warmer, and ideal for beginners.
Cross-country skiing is also being promoted, especially in the smaller ranges of the Jura and Massif Central.
Adventure Sports – Other activities like hang-gliding, paragliding and caving are also popular in parts of France. The Hautes-Alpes of Provence, the Pyrénées and Corsica offer opportunities aplenty for hang-gliding and paragliding, while the limestone caves of southwest France, and the gorges and ravines of the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Massif Central, offer some of the most exciting caving experiences.
There are many local clubs that organize full- or half-day outings, and also offer beginner courses.
Horse Riding – One of the best (and also one of the oldest) ways to explore the French countryside is on the back of a horse. The flat and windswept Camargue in the Rhone Delta is the most famous (and the most romantic) region for riding. Also popular are mule and donkey trekking, along the trails of the Pyrenees and the Alps.
Water Sports/Activities – The south of France has an extensive coastline that has been developed for recreational activities. Along the Mediterranean coast, activities like boating, sea-fishing and diving are very popular. The wind-lashed western Mediterranean is an ideal spot for windsurfers.
Brittany on the Atlantic coast offers sailing activities while Biarritz in the north is perfect for surfing. Corsica and the Côte d’Azur – with a number of World War II-era wrecks – are popular for diving.
Outdoor Photography – If you are an adventure/outdoor photographer, then you are not limited to any activity or destination. From the mountains to the beaches to the caves, you will find moments, places, people and – most importantly – stories, to click and share, wherever you go!
Have yourself an exciting French adventure!