Pay a visit to France’s finest natural wonders
From spectacular waterfalls to sublime rock formations, mother nature’s best work in France is truly compelling
From Brittany to Corsica, France has some of the most stunning and varied scenery in Europe, ranging from mountain peaks, dramatic gorges and marshy delta areas to sand dunes which wouldn’t look out of place in the Sahara. Here are some of our favourite marvels...
Les Aiguilles de Bavella
These massive granite teeth, 50km north-west of Porto-Vecchio, Corsica, rise to 1,600 metres and the views of them are almost as stunning as the views from them. They offer walks and hikes for all abilities; there is even a wheelchair-accessible path.
The rock formations vary from light red through to a deep grey, scattered with pine forest and mixed vegetation. In the summer months the lower slopes are carpeted with wild flowers.
Wildlife in the French Alps
The Alps are breathtaking in winter, but once the snow has melted and the skiers have gone, Alpine wildlife takes over. Ibex can be seen posing casually on the peaks, eagles soaring above them while foxes, mountain hares and wild boar go about their business in the pine woods and high pastures. The marmot is probably the most iconic Alpine resident, however. These cute creatures are related to squirrels, but larger – up to 50cm long with a tail of up to 16cm.
Côte de Granit Rose
Rock formations between Plestin-les-Grèves and Louannec in Brittany are rosy pink, and at sunset even the sand looks like it is blushing.
The entire Pink Granite Coast is composed of little coves and bays ideal for bird watching, shrimping and family picnics. The area is also a favourite with photographers.
There are various beaches, ports and lighthouses along this stretch of coast, and must-see villages such as the very pretty Ploumanac’h.
Dune du Pilat
Just an hour from Bordeaux, in La Teste-de-Buch, the 3km-long, 500 metre-wide, 108 metre-high Dune du Pilat is Europe’s tallest sand dune, and is moving inland at a rate of between one and five metres per year. Located south of Arcachon, it attracts sunbathers and paragliders but in July and August you might get stuck in traffic getting there, so June and September might be better times to visit.
La Grande Cascade de Gavarnie
The glacier water feeding this extraordinary waterfall comes from the Spanish Pyrenees and drops 423 metres into the Cirque de Gavarnie (Haute-Pyrénées) via two main tiers. As the water hits the rocks at the bottom of the first tier, a plume of freezing water arches into the sky, creating a cold micro-climate at the base of the cascade, which is especially welcome in summer. Get there by following the mule-track from the village of Gavarnie – it is an 11km walk there and back from the village.
Les Falaises d’Etretat
The extraordinary, 90 metre-high chalk cliffs in Etretat (Normandy) are only a stone’s throw from Le Havre, 32kms to be exact, and definitely merit a detour. Three natural archways have been formed over the years, sticking out into the sea like giant Gothic church arches. Close beside them is a 70 metre-tall conical rock formation called ‘l’Aiguille’ (the Needle).
Les Salins d’Aigues Mortes
The Camargue delta area is well known for its white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos. The piles of melons, the rice paddies, the French cowgirls and cowboys have all become iconic images of this part of southern France. Lesser known, however, are the iron-red salt flats stretching as far as the eye can see. The salt occurs naturally, as does the bright pink algae which colours the sea water.