When most imagine France, they picture the Eiffel Tower and cosy bistros with a faint ‘bonjour!’ here and there. They think of colourful flower markets and piping hot baguettes with bottles of Bourdeaux. Or maybe they imagine the medieval streets of Lyon or the war-ridden beaches of Normandy – and they are all right. In addition to its incredible history and cuisine scene, though, the natural beauty of France just can’t be beat. Here are the seven best national parks and natural regional parks in France.
Best National And Natural Regional Parks In France
1. Pyrenees National Park – Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitania
Spread across the natural border between France and Spain is the Pyrenees mountain range and within that, Pyrenees National Park. The scenery is simply unbeatable with emerald mountains, turquoise lakes and a climate that seems to be perpetually Spring. There is no shortage of local wildlife, either. Spend your time hiking the hundreds of nature trails while looking out for Pyrenean frogs, minks and even bears.
2. Mercantour National Park – Provence Alpes Côte-d’azur
Mercantour is one of France’s most diverse national parks with olive groves, alpine valleys, snowy woods and everything in between. In addition to gorgeous alpine scenery spread between the Mediterranean and Southern Alps, Mercantour has quite a bit of history. At this national park, you’ll find 15th-century chapels with elaborate hand-painted frescoes, and that’s not even the best part. The area is also home to 36,000 prehistoric rock and cave carvings which can be found in the park’s Vallée des Merveilles.
3. Port Cros National Park – Provence
Tucked away between Marseille and Saint Tropez is one of France’s best natural parks – Port Cros National Park. In addition to over 51 kilometres of trails that cover beachside cliffs and tons of incredible flora and fauna, there are five military forts on the grounds only reachable by foot.
4. Vanoise National Park – Savoy
Sprawled across the Maurienne and Tarentaise valleys, Vanoise National Park is known for it’s soaring peaks and incredible day hikes. With over 500 km of trails and roads, you’ll never run out of hikes from day treks to long hauls. Along with the numerous mountains topping over 3,000 m, there is a wide variety of glaciers and wildlife.
5. Ecrins National Park – Auvergne and Provence
Ecrins National Park is home to over 150 mountains and 60 lakes just dying for someone to explore them. The peaks are snow-capped and perfect for skiing, and the valleys below are dotted with wildflowers and lush green beds. With more than 150 summits and over 10,000 hectares of glaciers, the region is overflowing with stunning scenery.
6. Armorique Natural Regional Park – Brittany
Stretching from the rough Atlantic coast to the hilly countryside, Armorique is the highlight of Brittany. The natural area has everything you can imagine from the cobalt waters off the coast, the hills of Monts d’Aree and mysterious rocks known as the Lagatjar Alignment. Think Stonehenge but France, and over 130 mega stones.
7. Auvergne des Volcans Natural Regional Park – Auvergne
A 30km chain of 80 extinct volcanoes makes up this ancient natural area in Auvergne. In addition to millennia-old volcanos, there is a massive variety of other geological delights. Think steep-sided cliffs, glacial pools, hot springs, steams and so much more.