France’s countryside has always offered much for lovers of the outdoor pursuits, and its variety is what keeps holiday makers returning.
There’s rivers, forests and gorges to choose from as well as pure Alpine playgrounds to find. France has a special mix of tranquil beauty spots and testing adventure sports destinations to test the best of us.
There’s no doubt about it, the Ardeche river gorges are the highlight of the activity regions. This stunning nature reserve known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’ is fully geared up for adventure.
Many of the activities take place in the Ardeche National Park. The best times are spring and summer, as access in the winter can be difficult. Activity holidays in France are the perfect way to pack as much adventure into your trip as possible. Here’s our Top 10 Activity Holidays in France
Kayaking the Ardeche Gorge
Kayak enthusiasts come from all over the globe to sample the windy waterways of the Ardeche Gorge.
This grade 2 river with limestone cliffs and steep canyon walls is a must for anyone from a novice to an experienced kayaker. It’s the perfect place for those who want to experience the thrill of kayaking for the first time, but with the option to push it to the next level.
Try a weekend river trip through one of the most famous stretches or extend your stay by staying in a Bivouac overnight before battling the rest of the exhilarating rapids through the famous Pont D’Arc.
Walking and Rambling
Walking and rambling in the Ardeche mountain regions take you past volcanic hills to crater lakes, and past buildings made of slate-like stones. Refuel with a picnic stop in the pine forests of Vilefort at stunning viewpoints of this enchanting area.
You can opt to go self-guided or take a guided walk in the evening to get a new perspective on the forest surroundings of Ardeche. Walking holidays are generally for a week and are often favoured during May, June and September when the weather is cooler.
If you prefer to be on land, the Ardeche area is perfect for cycling enthusiasts with hundreds of open trails and routes to choose from. Vineyards in the east and mountains to the west offer a variety of vistas with trails tempting you off-road…
Ardeche has some of the best riding in the whole of the country, with long or short routes to suit your fitness levels. You can even cycle all the way to the Mediterranean coast or the French Alps if you’re feeling really fit.
Fancy climbing down streams and jumping from waterfalls? Canyoning combines river jumping and scrambling across canyons in stunning scenery. The best canyoning can be found at Chassezac River, where the rocks and fast-flowing water create the ideal canyoning mix. For safety reasons, you will need an experienced instructor with you; it’s not a place to go it alone.
One of the best ways to explore the region is by horseback. There’s over 1000kms of riding paths within the Ardeche region to discover. Gallop past olive groves, secret dales and valleys or through beautiful French estates in the spectacular countryside of Dordogne.
If you’re not too confident on horseback, equestrian centres will provide you with an experienced instructor to accompany you through your ride. Riding holidays typically last from three nights to a week.
Go ape on a day full of zip lines and rope challenges where you can leap through the trees like a flying fox. Overcome your fear of heights by swinging through the jungle like Tarzan in these outdoor activity courses. With expert advice on hand, you even get to practice your rope skills before taking the challenges of treetop assault courses. Just remember to harness up beforehand!
There’s plenty of places to climb in Ardeche with more than 700 rock climbing routes. Climb the limestone cliffs of the Chassezac Gorge then abseil, spy-style down the crags into the caves below. Just two hours away is Buoux with some of the best climbing that Europe has to offer. If you want the freedom to go even higher, Ceuse pushes you to an altitude of 1600 metres before returning a stunning view over the Gapencais landscape.
Try carp fishing in the Dordogne valley, one of France’s hottest destinations. This beautiful lake is within acres of secluded woodland and caters for all types of angling. However, if sitting by a lake isn’t challenging enough, try spearing or harpooning your fish at a Mediterranean dive school. You even get to keep any caught for your supper!
Try your hand at sailing along the rugged coast of Brittany for large currents and tides, or for shelter from the Atlantic Ocean, sail the inland waterway of Rade de Brest, sampling the French restaurants along the way.
The Aulne River is a attractive cruising ground through countryside and valleys to the picturesque port of Launay. There’s so many ports to choose from you’ll need a very long holiday to see them all!
France isn’t just great in the summer season. Snowy mountains brings the thrills of downhill skiing or snowboarding. There are over 300 ski resorts in France with many clustered around the Alps and the Pyrenees. The most popular being the Three Valleys. Try Meribel for more runs or Megeve for traditional mountain villages.
If you’ve only got a few days to spare for your visit, there’s plenty of short activity breaks to keep you entertained – plus no previous experience is necessary as experts are on hand for your adventure safety.
Combine your trip with a blend of French culture, food and history to make it that extra special. But you don’t have to do it all in one go; with so many natural regions waiting to be explored, you’re likely to return.