Walking in France: Step out on the wild side

The Serra route, Calvi, Corsica

Samantha David shrugs on her backpack and laces up her hiking boots

Walking holidays are ideal in the autumn or spring. The heat and holidaymakers have either not yet arrived or subsided; prices are cheaper and there is still plenty to enjoy. There is no wonder they are increasingly popular, appealing to people wanting ‘slow’ holidays or keen to be part of the ‘green tourism’ boom. As well as also offering good exercise, they are a fabulous way of getting up close and personal with everything France has to offer, be it coast, country or city.

It is easy to create your own itinerary using a map and booking accommodation independently. Alternatively, ready-made itineraries are available. You can even simply sign up for a day’s hiking – if you want to experiment and see if you like it. Most rural tourist offices have information about guided hikes in their area, and some also have maps you can use to go on a self-guided walk.

The network of GR (Sentiers de Grande Randonnée) paths in France runs to about 60,000kms – and then there is the PR (Chemins de Petite Randonnée) network and a host of other smaller trails maintained by local associations and mairies.

GRs are marked by a short red band above a matching white band, and PRs with a yellow one, often painted on tree trunks or fence posts, particularly at crossroads.

GRs are numbered in the same way as roads and the network makes it possible to travel right across the country.

This massive resource means that France offers walks suited to every taste, physical ability and budget: guided or self-guided, based in one place with multiple walks around the base, fast-paced, gentle stroll, or maxi-challenge. If you do not want to walk with a backpack, you can even get someone else to drive your luggage to the next hotel on your itinerary.

Discover ‘real’ France

Emily Bailey, the French Regional Manager of InnTravel, which organises walking holidays, says that walking holidays are part of a trend. “People are looking for a more authentic experience and walking holidays really get you in touch with France. You smell mint and rosemary underfoot, fresh grass. Even in the rain you get ...

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