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Have you ever dreamed of exploring the glorious French countryside, wandering from village to village, poking around ancient churches and long-abandoned châteaux, and finishing each day with a delicious meal and a glass of local wine?
Then you may want to consider one of the popular walking holidays in France!
Walking in France allows you to not only see the rural landscapes from a new perspective, but also switch off from the digital life and go back to a simpler time.
While some walking trips in France have a more luxurious package, others can be incredibly budget friendly.
There are many walking holiday in France, so we asked our walking expert, Melinda Lusmore, to share with you a different kind of travel experience you can expect, as well as her top tips and favorite routes.
So when you’re ready to start exploring the villages in France through long-distance walking, keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
Sounds like an amazing adventure to me.
- What To Expect From Walking Holidays in France
- Best Walking Holidays in France
- 1. Aumont-Aubrac to Figeac (Chemin de Saint-Jacques)
- 2. Martel to Racamadour
- 3. The Burgundy Canal
- 4. The Historic Tour du Mont Blanc Trail
- 5. Hiking the GR10 in Pyrenees National Park
- 6. The Alsatian Wine Route (Alsace Vineyard)
- 7. GR 34 and GR 223 (Normandy & Coast of Brittany)
- 8. GR5 Larche to Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore (Côte d'Azur)
- Tips for Walking in France (Safely and Considerately)
- Final Thoughts on Walking Holidays in France
- Save It On Pinterest
What To Expect From Walking Holidays in France
For many people, long-distance walking conjures up images of badly blistered feet, lining up to secure a bed in the refugio and sharing a room each night with a dozen snoring strangers.
Movies such as Wild (the story of Cheryl Strayed’s life-changing journey along the Pacific Crest Trail) and The Way (where Martin Sheen carries his son’s ashes along the Camino de Santiago) tell a warts-and-all story.
But others can be incredible inspiring. Travel memoirs such as Tracks by Robyn Davidson make walking long distances sound life affirming and spiritual – albeit one where such minor annoyances are far outweighed by the lessons learned and the friendships forged along the way.
But, in France, where competition for a bed each night is far less frantic, long-distance walking can be a memorable, almost leisurely experience.
Of course, some walking tours in France have more luxury offerings, featuring Michelin-starred dinners and cushy hotel rooms.
But generally, there will still be the occasional hiccup—such as the hotel bathroom with no blinds on the windows and towels no bigger than a tea-towel —but you can guess which night we still laugh about today!
Walking is the perfect way to immerse yourself in all the charms of rural France.
Luckily, the French also love to trek and there are hundreds of well-marked walking trails to follow.
No matter where you’d like to go—the vineyards of Burgundy or Champagne, the breathtaking valleys of the Dordogne, the rugged coastline of Brittany or a nice, easy FLAT walk alongside a canal, there is likely to be a walking path with your name on it.
All walking paths in France are overseen by the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP) and maintained by volunteers.
Long-distance paths, or Grand Randonnées, are referred to as GR paths—such as the GR65 Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle which takes walkers from Le-Puy-en-Velay in central France to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, starting point of the Camino de Santiago.
Are Walking Trips in France for Everyone?
A walking trip in France may not be for everyone – you may find some trails require you to live without your homely comforts and others are just incredibly strenuous and exhausting.
I would say that walking holidays are not for those who don’t enjoy basic amenities in their accommodation, or are reasonably unfit. You don’t need to be a gym-buff to do a walking holiday, but you should have good cardio fitness.
However, whichever trail you do, you will come to appreciate the everyday things you now take for granted—access to public toilets, an endless supply of band-aids and the ability to buy a cup of coffee whenever the urge strikes.
But walking in France offers the opportunity to make new friends with similar goals (please God, help us to find our hotel before dark tonight) and to offer advice to complete strangers on subjects you know nothing about (we’ll be taking this shortcut alongside the river).
Who is long-distance walking for?
A long-distance walking holiday in France is for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness (or you can do a lot of short days) and a love of the outdoors.
If you prefer your active holidays unplanned and unstructured, then pack your sleeping bag and set out each morning with no goal other than reaching a village 25 kilometres (15 miles) away – or more if the weather is good and you’re feeling fit.
Perhaps you are more like me and like to stop at every ancient chapel, lean against the stone walls and ponder the hands that built them a thousand years earlier; to climb every medieval tower, look out through observation slits and imagine invading armies charging up the hill.
You may want to plan an itinerary which includes a mixture of long and short walking days and lazy afternoons for relaxing or exploring.
Will your walk be part of a longer visit to Western Europe? Don’t want to carry your dancing shoes on the trail?
Then you may benefit from booking a walking tour so you can have all your big bags taken care of for you.
Or if you are planning self-guided walking holidays, then pre-book your accommodation and book a luggage transfer so your suitcase is transferred ahead to the next hotel.
Time your visit right and you’ll be able to stock up on a trail mix of locally grown fruit, fresh figs, olives and nuts at the weekly market or pick up a fresh baguette and some locally produced cheese for a picnic lunch.
Best Walking Holidays in France
Now you know what to expect from a walking holiday in France, it’s time to show you my favorite routes.
Below are some walking trails I enjoy, which can be done as either self-guided options or as a walking tour.
1. Aumont-Aubrac to Figeac (Chemin de Saint-Jacques)
- Distance: 163 km
- Time to Complete: 8-10 days
Follow the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy, walked by pilgrims for the past one thousand years on the way to the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
This route is breathtaking, and takes you through the beautiful and diverse landscape of the Massif Central region, with stunning views of rolling hills, lush forests, and charming villages along the way.
The 163-kilometer route is dotted with historic landmarks, such as the impressive Sainte-Eulalie-d’Olt village, the medieval town of Estaing, and the picturesque Conques Abbey.
In addition to the natural and cultural attractions, walking from Aumont-Aubrac to Figeac provides an opportunity for personal growth and reflection.
The long distance hike allows you to disconnect from the fast-paced digital world and connect with nature and yourself.
2. Martel to Racamadour
- Distance: 127km
- Time to Complete: roughly 9-10 days
Explore two châteaux (and the remains of a third), the underground lakes and caves of Gouffre de Padirac and six of France’s ‘most beautiful villages’ while walking from Martel to Rocamadour.
The route takes you through the stunning countryside and picturesque villages of the Lot region of France, with breathtaking views at every turn.
One highlight of the journey is the historic town of Martel, known for its beautiful architecture and lively market scene.
From there, the path winds through charming hamlets and sprawling vineyards, offering a glimpse into the rich culture and traditions of the French countryside.
As you approach Rocamadour, the landscape becomes more rugged, with steep valleys adding to the sense of adventure.
The quietude of the countryside allows hikers to unplug from the stresses of modern life and find peace in the beauty of the natural world.
3. The Burgundy Canal
- Distance: 240km
- Time to Complete: 6-8 days
Visit seven châteaux, eleven churches, one abbey and two of the ‘most beautiful villages’ in France along the Burgundy Canal.
Walking along the Burgundy Canal in France is a truly delightful and unique experience that will transport you back in time.
The path runs from Migennes to Saint-Jean-de-Losne, and takes you through some of the most picturesque towns and villages in the Burgundy region, with plenty of opportunities to sample delicious local cuisine and wine.
The route follows the canal, which was built in the 19th century to transport goods and raw materials between Paris and Lyon.
Today, it provides an idyllic backdrop for hikers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Along the way, you can explore historic sites such as the Abbaye de Fontenay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the charming town of Dijon, known for its mustard and Gothic architecture.
You can also try local delicacies, such as boeuf bourguignon, escargots, and coq au vin, paired with delicious wines from the surrounding vineyards.
The Burgundy Canal walk combines natural beauty, rich history, and delectable cuisine in a way that only France can offer.
Since the route is mostly flat, it’s also a popular cycling route, so keep an eye out for bikers.
4. The Historic Tour du Mont Blanc Trail
- Distance: 170 km
- Time to Complete: 7-11 days
Walking the historic Tour du Mont Blanc Trail takes you through some of the most awe-inspiring alpine landscapes on the planet, with breathtaking views of the Mont Blanc massif, the highest mountain in France, and the surrounding peaks.
The route starts and ends in Chamonix, a picturesque mountain town known for its outdoor sports and lively atmosphere.
From there, it winds through charming villages and rugged mountain passes, with plenty of opportunities to take in the local culture and cuisine.
Along the way, you will encounter stunning glaciers, crystal-clear lakes, and fragrant wildflower meadows, providing a feast for the senses at every turn.
There are some steep ascents and rocky terrain on this trail, so should only be tackled by the most experienced hikers.
However, it’s a must-do for any hiker looking to challenge themselves and experience the natural beauty of the French Alps.
If you have time, take a detour to see one of the highlights of the route, the waterfall near La Fouly.
This 10-day trek will take you through the Alps from France to Italy and Switzerland along the Tour du Mont Blanc. This challenging hiking circuit will reward you with mesmerizing views of glaciers, steep valleys, and, of course, Mont Blanc itself. See more details here.
5. Hiking the GR10 in Pyrenees National Park
- Distance: 866km
- Time to Complete: 45-60 days
The GR10 trail in the Pyrenees National Park in France is one of the longest and most challenging walks in the country.
The 866-kilometer route takes you through some of the most stunning and diverse mountain landscapes in Europe, with breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, lush forests, and crystal-clear lakes.
The trail winds through charming villages and ancient hamlets, offering a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Pyrenees region.
Along the way, you can sample delicious local cuisine, including hearty stews, fresh cheeses, and artisanal bread.
The GR10 trail is not just a hiking trail but a pilgramage. It’s the perfect trail for those looking for quiet, solitude, and a chance for personal growth and reflection.
The trail is demanding and requires long hours of hiking, which will require mental and physical endurance.
The journey can be challenging at times, but the sense of accomplishment upon completing the trek is second to none.
6. The Alsatian Wine Route (Alsace Vineyard)
- Distance: 170km
- Time to Complete: 8 days
The Alsatian Wine Route is a delightful walk through the Alsace vineyards, that has been open to the public for more than 70 years.
The route combines scenic beauty, rich culture, and delectable wine in a truly unique way.
The trail begins in the town of Marlenheim, and finished in Thann.
Along the way you will encounter charming half-timbered houses, Gothic churches, and lush vineyards, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.
If you don’t fancy doing a self-guided walk, you can find small group tours here.
7. GR 34 and GR 223 (Normandy & Coast of Brittany)
- Distance: 869km
- Time to Complete: 23 days
If you’re looking for a long coastal walk, then the GR 34 and GR 223 in Normandy and Brittany is a popular route.
These long-distance hiking paths connect to one another, allowing visitors to walk from Roscoff in Brittany to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin in Normandy.
This is a chance to witness France’s stunning coastline with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and rugged cliffs.
8. GR5 Larche to Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore (Côte d’Azur)
- Distance: 79.9km
- Time to Complete: 6 days
The Côte d’Azur region is most famous for its warm Mediterranean waters that line the French Riviera.
But it’s also home to some breathtaking mountainous hikes that offer the chance to explore the stunning landscapes of the Mercantour National Park.
The trail takes you through rugged valleys, alpine meadows with lavender fields, and snow-capped peaks, with breathtaking views at every turn.
The journey starts in the quiet village of Larche, with its charming stone houses and traditional architecture.
From there, the path winds through the heart of the Mercantour National Park, offering a chance to encounter rare wildlife such as chamois and ibex.
As you approach Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore, the landscape becomes more rugged, with sharp cliffs and deep gorges adding to the sense of adventure.
Finally, you will arrive at the quaint mountain town of Saint-Dalmas-Valdeblore, known for its rich history and traditional way of life.
Tips for Walking in France (Safely and Considerately)
All holidays flow a little more smoothly when you can say hello to the locals and have a basic understanding of the culture. Long-distance walking brings its own set of challenges, so:
- Always take as much water as you can carry comfortably and refill your water bottle whenever you have the chance. REMEMBER: if water is marked as non potable, do not drink it.
- Bakeries and grocery stores will close around noon for lunch and may not reopen until three in the afternoon. If you can, stop at the boulangerie for a baguette and a tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart) on your way out of town each morning.
- Be sure to time your walk so you have time in the evening to explore your destination. Find a nice restaurant with a view and enjoy the local cuisine.
- The usual rules of etiquette apply when walking in France – always take your rubbish with you and leave gates, open or shut, as you found them.
- And finally, smile a lot and say Bonjour Monsieur or Bonjour Madame to everyone you encounter.
- Know when to go. The best time of year to do walking holidays is in April or October, which are just outside the summer seasons and is when the trails are quiet, and yet the weather is still warm and dry.
- Make sure you book travel insurance that has financial protection in case you have an injury or need to leave your tour early.
Final Thoughts on Walking Holidays in France
France is a country with a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural beauty, which makes it the perfect destination for a walking holiday.
As you can see by now, there are countless picturesque regions to explore on foot, from the rolling hills of Provence to the rugged coastline of Brittany.
Walking holidays offer the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture, as well as to enjoy the idyllic scenery at a leisurely pace.
We hope this guide helped you plan your next walking holiday and gave you some inspiration for trails to do.
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Have you ever considered a walking holiday in France? Or, do you have a story to share? Let us know in the comments.