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Most Beautiful Sights and Natural Wonders in France

From picturesque gorges to the Alpilles mountains, you’ve got to see these sights in person to believe them

Make no mistake about it; France lives up to the hype. This famous country means a lot of things to a lot of people, but there are plenty of reasons why it remains one of the most visited places on the planet. The cities are iconic (how many dream of falling in love in Paris?), the beaches are elite, and the rural villages are as picturesque as rural villages get.

And yet all that stuff just scratches the surface of France’s charms. This place is overspilling with beautiful stuff, from its natural landscapes filled with lavender fields, gorges and lakes to its man-made wonders like its towns and feats of engineering. France is a brilliant place to simply see – hence why we wrote up this list. Below is the absolute cream of France’s aesthetic crop: the most essential, gorgeous, awesome sights in this fabulous country.

The best things to see in France

1. Sentier des Ocres

Reds, oranges, yellows: the Sentier des Ocres abounds with flamboyant hues you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in this serene (and very green) corner of France near Aix-en-Provence. Resembling a much smaller version of Monument Valley in the States, the Sentier comprises two marked paths through a disused ochre pigment quarry in Rousillon in the Vaucluse region. Spread over 30 hectares and renowned for its 20 or so different shades of ochre, it’s an unexpected sight ripe for your next Instagram post.

2. Gorges du Tarn

Tucked between the Causses plateaux and the Cévennes mountains, the Tarn canyon is a picturesque adventure and camping holiday hotspot split across the Lozère and Aveyron departments in the south. The striking gorges lend themselves to kayaking, diving and rock climbing, while the nearby plateaux are popular with amateur cavers. Bed down for the night in the pretty seventh-century village of Saint-Énimie, founded by a saint cured of leprosy in nearby waters. And be aware that sly griffon vultures are known to scavenge in these parts – so watch that picnic!

3. Volcans d’Auvergne

The puys of Auvergne are rounded hilltops formed by hardened magma from a chain of dormant volcanoes. The star attraction in the 395,000-hectare Auvergne Volcanoes regional nature park, the Chaîne des Puys, the Monts Dore, the Cézallier and the Monts du Cantal make a peculiar yet unique setting for hikes, cycle trips and hot-air balloon rides. Don’t miss the unearthly Pavin crater lake.

4. Plateau des Mille Étangs

Known by locals as ‘Little Finland’, the Plateau des Mille Étangs in the Vosges region is a sprawling labyrinth of some 850 ponds formed after the retreat of the area’s glaciers 12,000 years ago. The étangs cover around ten hectares each and are surrounded by intertwining meadows, streams and forests. Any fishing or water sports fans will evidently be in their element, and there are decent footpaths and cycling routes. Make sure to drop by the thermal baths at nearby Luxeuil-les-Bains and the Notre-Dame du Haut chapel designed by modernist master Le Corbusier.

5. Les Baux-de-Provence

More than a million visitors flock to this spectacular Provençal village every year, and for good reasons. The spectacular location on a rocky outcrop in the Alpilles mountains makes Les Baux-de-Provence an ideal spot to take in the region’s sprawling southern plains. Relatively near the photogenic town of Arles – where Vincent van Gogh spent a year just before his death – the village’s cobbled alleyways are home to a beautiful thirteenth-century castle and the Musée du Santon, a strangely fascinating museum dedicated to santons, wax and glass figurines traditionally made in the surrounding area. Nearby, you’ll also find the Carrières des Lumières, a former bauxite quarry-turned-digital art centre run by the same folk behind Paris’s pioneering Atelier des Lumières.


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