Activity Holidays in France
Geographic and climatic variations make France an ideal country for a huge variety of activities. All sorts of activity holidays are possible in France, from fishing, horse riding and bird watching, to hang gliding, ballooning and spelunking (cave exploration). Golf and skiing are extremely popular sports in France.
With over 120,000km of sentiers balisés (marked paths), it is hardly surprising that walking is such a popular activity in France. Whilst you may hike at liberty, you must respect the regulations laid out for French Camping Holidays, especially in the nature reserves. The two most important types of path are the GR (sentiers de grande randonnée) which are long-distance paths leading from one place to another, for example the GR10 which goes over the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. GRP paths (grandes randonnées de pays) tend to be circular, over varying distances, so that you can discover a region in more depth. Mountaineering (alpinisme) and rock climbing (escalade) holidays are organized with the Club Alpin Français.
Cycling is almost as important as skiing in France, and it is taken very seriously, especially when the Tour de France is on. For the holidaymaker, a mountain bike (VTT = vélo tout-terrain) enables you to explore some of France's varied and beautiful landscapes, either on the roads or on one of the many pistes cyclables (cycle paths). Lots of GR and GRP trails are open to bikes, but do respect the other users. There are good mountain routes around Annecy and Chambéry in the Alps, or in the Pyrenees; quiet and scenic roads can be found in the Dordogne, Loire, Brittany, Normandy or along the Atlantic coast. These are easier than the mountain paths, but no less pretty.
Surfing is best around Biarritz, where waves can reach four metres! Windsurfing is popular on lakes across the country, where you can often hire equipment too. Rivers leading from the Massif Central and Alps are popular spots for rafting and canoeing, the Gorges du Verdon for white water rafting and the Gorges du Tarn for kayaking.
Canal boating is a great way to discover the French countryside at a relaxed pace (6km per hour on canals and 10km per hour on rivers). You can expect to cover 20-25km per day. Canal boating is possible in many places, notably the Canal du Midi, around Paris, in the Dordogne, Languedoc, Brittany, Alsace and the Carmargue. Anyone over 18 can pilot a boat without a licence, but you do need a licence to fish. Locks (écluses) are usually free and a good spot to pick up some local cheese and wine. You can rent boats for four to twelve passengers and they come equipped with berths, showers, toilets, hotplates and fridges.