The 5 Best Places for Hiking in France

..& Luxurious Places to Relax, Post-Walk

For lovers of the great outdoors, France is a remarkable place to explore. The country’s diverse terrain includes rugged, invigorating seaside cliffs, sublime and pristine mountains, rolling vineyards and even a dramatic sand dune that could be mistaken for the setting of Lawrence of Arabia. Read on for 5 of the most beautiful, unforgettable places to head for hiking in France. When you’re after an off-the-beaten-path tour of the country, these destinations can’t be beat. We also offer a few suggestions on where to kick back and relax with a glass of wine, or enjoy a restful night of self-pampering, after a day of rugged adventures.

Marie Tesson in vineyard founder of Exclusive France Tours

Marie Tesson


France’s incredibly diverse landscapes– from rugged seaside cliffs to pristine mountains– offer nature lovers endless variety. If hiking in France is on your bucket list, know that there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors, and still end your day in comfort and luxury.

Gorges du Verdon

Embarking on a nature-focused tour of Provence? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all gently rolling lavender fields and gorgeous Riviera towns overlooking the Mediterranean–even though those sorts of landscapes offer some wonderful opportunities for gentle strolls, too! More intrepid hiking enthusiasts will find a true physical challenge and a wilder sort of beauty in the dramatic Gorges du Verdon.

This is the site of France’s deepest gorge, filled with waters of a striking and pure turquoise blue. In addition to trekking through the gorge’s many trails and enjoying sweeping views for miles around– for example, Point Sublime is, well, just that-– hikers can also cool off and enjoy exploring the area by kayak or bike.

Read related: Biking Around France– Our Suggestions

The gorge was formed by Alpine rivers rushing downstream and slowly eroding the ancient limestone hills. In addition to gorgeous greenery, the area is also abundant with wildlife, including many species of birds. Birders appreciate opportunities for up-close-and-personal encounters with eagles, hawks, vultures and other birds of prey.

Where to Take Off Your Hiking Boots?
We especially recommend a stay at the Bastide St Georges, a luxurious yet rustic 4-star hotel situated in close reach of the Gorge and all its natural wonders. Featuring large rooms and suites with beautiful views of the green hillsides, full spa and wellness centre with indoor and outdoor pools, and an onsite restaurant specializing in delicious Provencal cuisine, this is an ideal place to rest and recuperate after a day exploring the area. It’s also quiet and romantic– perfect for the adventurous couple spending a luxury honeymoon in France. This would also be an excellent, rustic and original setting for a romantic marriage proposal in France.
Wineries around Bergerac, implanted on either side of the wild Dordogne river, have suffered somewhat from a perception of mediocrity– or at the very least a hazy identity. But as this excellent feature from Decanter points out, there are many vintners producing excellent and distinctive wines, giving rival Bordeaux appellations a run for their money and solidifying a clearer regional winemaking identity. Others have noted (somewhat scandalously) that the best wines of Bergerac are similar in style and quality to many of Bordeaux’s.

Like its more famous neighbour, Bergerac and its surrounding towns benefit from ideal climatic conditions for winemaking: temperate weather, fertile clay and limestone soil fed by a river and rich in mineralit, plenty of sunlight and rain– which together create balanced climatic conditions under which the vines can flourish.

Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (High Pyrenean Trails)

This one’s certainly not for the fainthearted, but is an excellent and epic choice for more ambitious hikers. The High Pyrenean Trail (HRP in France) is perhaps the most stunning and wild trek the country has to offer. It snakes through the upper Pyrenees mountains east to west, zigzagging back and forth across the French and Spanish borders– and offers unforgettable views over the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean at either end.

Stretching for an epic 800 km and demanding some 40 km of ascent to reach the top, the trail is unmarked in many places, meaning you either need to be a very experienced trekker or go along with an expert guide. It’s certainly possible to do only part of the trail– it would take an astounding 45 days or so to complete the entire route. Still, for hikers hoping to touch wild nature in France and benefiting from the luxury of several weeks away, this can be a worthy goal.

Where to Take Off Your Hiking Boots?
Since this route is so long, there are many options for places to stay, depending on your desired route. When we create a bespoke itinerary for you, we will choose among only the most extraordinary hotels and inns along the route, offering amenities such as luxurious suites with mountain views, spas and wellness centres, pools, and onsite gastronomic restaurants offering regional cuisine and wines. Leave it to us: we’l make sure your trek is filled with both adventure and luxury. After all, what could be better than arriving at an oasis of peace and relaxation after a hard day of conquering the mountains and natural elements?

The Cirque de Gavarnie on the HPT

Tour du Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is such a mythical mountain that it was the object of poetic obsession for nineteenth-century writers including Percy Bysshe Shelley. In his iconic poem named after the mountain, he muses on its natural wonders and almost terrifying power:

In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.

It’s no wonder it continues to inspire so much awe and wonder: this is simply a legendary and magical place in the Alpine mountain system. The Tour du Mont Blanc stretches for some 170 km, including around Mont Blanc itself. A full exploration takes four to five days, and is not especially recommended without a private guide. Not only can hiring a local guide help you to better appreciate the wonderful flora and fauna that you’ll encounter as you wend through the breathtaking mountain trails; it’s also safer to be accompanied by a true expert.

Many hikers begin their adventure on the Italian or Swiss side, eventually crossing over into France. Throughout the year you’ll get to witness snowy peaks on Mont Blanc: a dazzling and sublime sight from any vantage point. Of course, climbing above the base of Mont Blanc itself is not recommended as weather conditions there, including avalanches, pose great dangers to even experienced trekkers.

Where to Take Off Your Hiking Boots?
There are many exceptional hotels to choose from in the area, including the 5-star Hotel Hameau Albert I, in Chamonix-Mont Blanc, a luxurious mountain haven with gastronomic restaurants, world-class spa featuring hot water pools and stone massages, and incredibly fresh Alpine air. Another excellent choice is the Hotel Mont Blanc (also 5 stars), an iconic Alpine resort with sweeping mountainside views, excellent local cuisine, relaxing spa with Clarins treatments, and much more.

Your private guide will help you find the perfect accommodations in the area, whet your’e looking for something rustic and cozy or a palace plunged in the midst (and mist) of the mountains.

St-Jacques de Compostelle Pilgrimage Routes

While many of the adventurous souls who embark on part or all of the famed St-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage routes in France do so as part of a spiritual and religious quest, it’s an epic trek that even those who belong to another or no religion can find exhiirating and inspiring. Created in the 12th century when such quests had their heyday, these routes move through France all the way to northern Spain, where St Jacques (St James in English), an apostle of Jesus, has his tomb at Compostelle. In Spanish, the pilgrimage routes are referred to as the “Camino del Santiago”; in English, “St James’ Way”.

Running for hundreds of kilometres from three different starting points in France (Paris, Vézelay or Arles), as well as from Geneva in Switzerland, the paths converge at the Pyrenees mountains for the final stretch into Northern Spain and Compostela. Along the way, “pilgrims” witness all variety of natural wonders, from the Alps to the river-dominated lands of the Loire Valley. Whether you choose to attempt part or all of one of these routes, and no matter how long your journey takes, you’re all but guaranteed to have an adventure worthy of a medieval tale of old.

Where to Take Off Your Hiking Boots?
As with the High Pyrenean Trail, there are countless possibilities for comfortable and luxurious lodgings along the pilgrimage routes. When we carefully design your high-end itinerary, we’ll make sure you hang your hat at some exceptional hotels and inns. After all, even pilgrims can benefit from the comforts of a top-of-the-line mattress, delicious food and wine and relaxing surroundings. This will all ensure you feel restored and ready for the next leg of your grand adventure….

A Shell - Symbol of St Jacques de Compostelle

The Dune du Pilat: Where Sea, Sand & Sky Meet

Looming over the Bay of Arcachon on France’s beautiful west coast, the Dune du Pilat is Europe’s highest sand dune. It stands 110 meters high and some three km across, and offers breathtaking vantages over both sea and sky. As part of a west coast adventure in France that includes hiking along the coastline, a stop at this natural wonder is certainly a dramatic and unforgettable way to enjoy the area. Even for more ambitious hikers pursuing the mythical Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage route from Paris, part of which cuts inland from Bordeaux near the Arcachon bay, a visit to the lovely town of Pyla-sur-Mer and its awe-inspiring dune is a wonderful option. Climbing the dune just before sunset is highly recommended: the colors can be awe-inspiring. Don’t be fooled, though– it’s more challenging to climb to the top than it may look! Also make sure to explore the many gorgeous (but comparatively easy) trails around the Arcachon bay.

Where to Take Off Your Hiking Boots?
For lovers of both adventure and luxury, Pyla-sur-Mer is another ideal destination. Although small, it harbours two extraordinary hotels designed by Philippe and Ara Starck– and both are worth beelining to after a long day of exploring the dune and surrounding coastal walks.

La Co(o)rniche offers breathtaking and dramatic views over the dunes and the bay; most of the rooms are equipped with large terraces from which you can enjoy private contemplation and relaxation. To relax your sore muscles, reserve a session at the hotel’s luxurious Ren spa.

Just a couple of minutes down the road lies the Haaitza hotel and spa, a 5-star hotel inaugurated in 2017. More traditional than its sister hotel which is more avant-garde, the Haaitza was redesigned from a much-beloved luxury hotel of the same name first opened during the 1930s, and popular with many French and global celebrities. Ara Starck’s mesmerizing stained glass reflects water, sand and sky and the light is constantly changing, echoing the natural show outside. Relax in the onsite spa, also featuring treatments by Ren, and indulge in a gastronomic meal with wine pairings to conclude your day of adventure.

The Beautiful Dune du Pilat

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Book a Private Hiking Tour Around France

Feel more comfortable with an expert guide to lead the way on a hiking holiday of France? Are you after concierge-level service and recommendations for places to stay, eat and unwind after a long day of physical effort? If so, contact us right away. Whatever season and preferred landscapes you’re aiming for, we’ll design a bespoke and entirely private adventure for you. Who says rugged outdoorsmanship and luxury can’t go together? Our goal is to prove to you that they absolutely can, and do.

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