Mont Saint-Michel

France cultural and natural diversity is amazing. I’ve traveled and visited a lots of places in France but there are still so many I would love to see or revisit. Since I live in Australia, I don’t have the opportunity to go back as often as I wish but at every trip back home, I make sure that after visiting family and friends, I allow some time in my trip to visit some amazing new places. 

If I have to choose, the following 10 places are on my priority list so far! 

1 – A night at the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, Hautes-Pyrénées

As a child, I was waking up every morning with the view, from my bedroom window, of the  Pic du Midi de Bigorre, a hundred kilometres away. I took the funicular from the St-Lary ski resort a couple of times and enjoyed the amazing view of the Pyrenees mountain ranges but I’ve never find the opportunity to stay overnight. As an amateur astronomer, this is definitely the first thing I want to do back to France: watching the sunset, aperitif, dinner with local produce, astronomy discovery, visit of the scientific areas, night in a double room, breakfast at 2,877m…can’t wait!

Soiree etoilee au Pic du Mdi

Photo by Paul Compère. www.picdumidi/soireees-etoilees/

2 – Gouffre de Padirac, Lot

From high altitude to underground and a bit different from the main French tourists attractions is a trip to the Gouffre de Padirac, the first underground world site situated near the town of Gramat in the Lot department. For many people it is a trip to remember. After a straight descent by lift or on foot down to a depth of 103 metres below the ground, you are taken to a trip in a small boat on the underground river through majestic galleries with huge stalactites and stalagmites and illuminated underground pools. Some people describe it as a magical experience. Not to be missed if you visit the region.

Gouffre de Padirac, Lot


3 – Grottes de Lascaux, Dordogne

In the same region, are the grottes de Lascaux, cave paintings, which are around 17,000 years old, home of some of the most finest prehistoric art in the World. I’ve always wanted to visit the site since I learned from it in primary school! For obvious preservation reasons, a cave replica has been created but it doesn’t matter, just to be there and step back in time and imagine the cavemen painting those walls will be amazing.

Grottes de Lascaux

Photo by Sisse Brimberg for National Geographic.

4 – Rocamadour, Lot

Just 20 kilometers away from the gouffre de Padirac is the village of Rocamadour, a popular destination for pilgrims and visitors, overlooking the Alzou valley. Last year, the village has celebrated 1,000 years of pilgrimage,  1,000 years that pilgrims from around the World are visiting this sanctuary and Notre Dame de Rocamadour! Aside from the religious interest, the architecture, the site, its history and sublime view makes it unique and worth a detour.

Rocamadour, Dordogne

Photo by Dominique VIET, Office de Tourisme Vallée de la Dordogne

5 – Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

A UNESCO natural and heritage world site since 1979, the Mont Saint-Michel is one of the main tourist attraction in France with more than 3 millions visitors a year.  I’ve got vague memories of my first visit there (i was 12’s year old) and when I return,  I plan to walk away from the daily crowds and stay overnight. It must be a complete different world. It is you and the 46 permanent resident of the island. I want to enjoy the mystic atmosphere of the place, walking in its narrow paved streets at sunset, wait for the tide to surround us and enjoy a beautiful sunrise.

Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

Photo by Philippe Brun / Baguenaude Photo France

6 – Omaha Beach, Normandy

I’ve been to 6km long Omaha beach, one of the  D-Day landing beaches and the most fought on June 6th 1944, many years ago. A visit to the War memorial and Museum and to the beautiful cemeteries is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  Normandy is a great historic region of France and a place that I want to come back to with my family.

Omaha Beach, Normandy

Sculpture of Les Braves by Anilore Banon via zan61.deviantart.com

7 – Gorges du Verdon, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

The “French Grand Canyon” is spectacular and Europe most stunning. There is plenty to do in this region: great bushwalks, a swim in the azure waters of the St-Croix lake, rafting and climbing, hot-air balloon flight, visiting the Provencial villages and the lavendar fields near the Valensole plateau. A 1 to 2 weeks stay for a complete Provence immersion will be a must.

Gorges du verdon

Photo by Gerard Therin.

8 – Palombaggia Beach, Corsica

I always wanted to go to Corsica. “L’île de beauté ” as French called it,  has always fascinated me…the landscape, the culture, the food, the History (Napoleon was born in Ajaccio). It is still quite an unspoiled  destination and remote. A dream for people who want to stay away from the overcrowded French Riviera.

Plage de Palombaggia à Porto-Vechio-Corse

Photo from www.u-pirellu.com

9- Aiguille du Midi,  Haute-Savoie

It is the third  most natural attraction in the World, so I will clearly missed out on something spectacular!  The Aiguille du Midi is at 3842m. You reach it after a 20 minutes climbs with the cable car, the highest in Europe. At the summit, the panoramic  terrace offers an breathtaking 360°view over the Mont- Blanc and the principal peaks of over 4000 m. It must be an unforgettable experience.

Terrasse panoramique, Aiguille du Midi

Photo by Jark Petterson

10 – Arenes de Nimes, Gard

Built in the 1st century AD and inspired by the Coliseum in Rome, the Nimes amphitheater is one of the most preserved Roman monument. Used twice a year to host bullfights, a visit to the arena might be really informative but I’m mostly interested in seating there among the 19,999 others to enjoy a concert night or a sport event. It must be amazing!

Les arenes de Nimes.Photo by L. Boudereaux.

If you’ve been several times to France already or first time traveler, what are your must-see places? Don’t hesitate to share in the comment section below.