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The best up-and-coming regions in France

Most travellers who have ticked Europe off their bucket list have roamed the palace of Versailles, inhaled the fragrant lavender fields of Provence and sipped their way through Bordeaux. For 20 years Discover France has been taking travellers off the beaten path for authentic experiences in the country’s lesser-known regions. Here are the outfitters favourite destinations: Instead of Provence… try Cathar Country National Geographic named France’s Cathar Country as a “Best Trip 2014” and Discover France couldn’t agree more! Highlights of the “Languedoc Carcassonne to the Coast” trip include Carcassonne-UNESCO site, staying over in a medieval castle, Peyrepertuse castle and Queribus castle, Corbières wines, ends in one beach of the Mediterranean coast near Spain where the surrealists and fauvists hung out with one another. There are far fewer tourists in Cathar country than in Provence. Cathar Country is known for its brutal and romantic history with the Crusades against the valiant Cathars, the invention of courtly love and the troubadours who immortalized these codes in song. Beyond sparse crowds and rich history, the beautiful stone villages, spectacular climate and beautiful scenery make this destination stand out. Cathar Country Instead of Versailles… try the Loire Valley Why follow the crowds to Versailles when travellers can have some of the region’s most fabulous castles to themselves? Among the most interesting palaces in Loire Valley are Chambord, the castle of Francois I, and Chaumont sur Loire, Catherine de Midici’s chateau before she exiled the King’s lover there. Loire Valley has so many more attractions than Versailles. Travellers will find a large selection of wines (Saumur Champigny, Chinon, Gevrey Chambertain, Meursault), troglodytes, castles(Villandry, Ussé, Langeais), and the Fontevraud abbey. Chambord, Loire Instead of Bordeaux… try Burgundy The wine and vineyards of Bordeaux are very well known but Burgundy/Bourgogne was the first area in France to make quality wine and certainly Grand Cru. These days, Burgundy has far fewer tourists so travellers have a chance to be immersed in local culture. Adventurers will love beautiful Beaune village, the epicentre of the region. Burgundy Instead of Normandy… try the Dordogne Several villages in Dordogne are classified as being one of the “most beautiful village in France” (Limeuil, La Roque Gageac, Castelnaud la Chapelle, Belves). In fact, this region has oneof the highest concentrations of these gems. Dordogne is one of the most rural areas in France boasting high quality wine and gastronomy. This is a really the up-and-coming area that has yet to be discovered by the crowds. Dordogne Instead of the Alps… try the Pyrenees The Pyrenees are more natural and scenic and travellers won’t have to share them with the large crowds that flock to the Alps. The Pyrenees are stunning and travellers will have endless opportunities to interact with locals. The region is also French Catalonian and offers guests a truly unique cultural experience. Pyrenees Images: Shutterstock

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. They all sound charming, probably also due to my love for France. I stayed for several weeks in Vendee and Allier departments and can testify that there many wonders outside of Paris. The Cathar country sound most enticing…

  2. Anytime I hear about traveling to France, I now think about 50 Shades of Grey and how excited the main character was to hear that Mr. Grey would be taking her there. “The SOUTH OF FRANCE?! WHOA!?”.

    France is a lovely place, though. And htey make some divine food.

  3. I have a place in the Dordogne and can testify to the beauty and tranquillity. It’s a huge and diverse region, divided into 4 regions all with different landscapes, styles and cuisines. Along the Dordogne River to the South you have the beautiful villages mentioned above, some of the oldest caves in the world and stunning landscapes. It also has the highest concentration of tourists and is hell in August. To the North it is rolling farmland, much less spectacular scenery but still some beautiful villages like Aubeterre & the most fantastic local produce you can imagine. Well worth a visit in Spring or better yet early Autumn when it s truly spectacular.

  4. Hi,

    I have traveled to France quite a few times now. I´ve been to the bigciteis like Paris but also went to St. Tropz and surrounding area. I find your list quite helpful when it comes to new ideas. I have never heard of the Loire Valley. In my next trip to France I will go there and I might give you some feedback about my visit. By the way, you are using great pictures!

  5. I also think Pas de Calais is under rated. It’s just a hop and a skip from the UK and has some amazing villages where you can go on a day trip and of course stock up and fill the boot with wine and cheese on the way home :)

  6. I agree, there are lot’s of regions that are often overlooked by visitors to France. Many people skip Picardy and Normandy as they rush to alternative destinations when they themselves are regions full of history and culture. The Vendee and Jura are also two other regions where more attention should be paid with plenty of walking in the Jura and plenty of cycle routes in the Vendee. Best way to see all of these in my opinion is by camping in France is it offers a huge degree of freedom to explore!

  7. @John (above) – I can strongly recommend the Loire Valley having visited myself. Amazing views, great weather and very reasonable prices in comparison to many of the better-known parts of France for tourists.

  8. Very informative article. I am planning a trip to france soon. This piece of information is definitely going to help me decide my siteseeing and exploration options (thumbsup) :)

  9. France is amazingly rich in its diversity, you could travel there a hundred times and still find something new. The Ardèche, The Vercors and the Drôme Provençal are stunningly beautiful and benefit from less tourists than areas further south. The stunning Massif Central with its long dead volcanoes is breathtaking, and the beautiful Cevennes in the northern Languedoc is really worth a detour. Off in one month for a month, can’t wait for my fix!

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