10 Must-See Spots in France for the Adventurous Backpacker

10 Must-See Spots in France for the Adventurous Backpacker

France, with its stunning landscapes, historic sites, and vibrant cultures, offers an unparalleled experience for the adventurous backpacker. From the rugged coasts of Brittany to the snowy peaks of the Alps, France’s diverse regions boast an array of destinations that cater to every adventure seeker’s dreams. Here are ten must-see spots that promise an unforgettable journey through this enchanting country.

1. Mont Blanc, Chamonix

The majestic Mont Blanc stands as Western Europe’s highest mountain, offering breathtaking views and thrilling outdoor activities. Backpackers can embark on the famous Tour du Mont Blanc, a challenging hike that circles the massif, traversing through France, Italy, and Switzerland. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Chamonix also serves as a premier destination for skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering.

2. Calanques National Park, Marseille

Nestled between Marseille and Cassis, the Calanques National Park features dramatic limestone cliffs plunging into the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. The park’s rugged terrain is ideal for hiking, climbing, and kayaking. The Calanque d’En-Vau, with its secluded beach and crystal-clear waters, is a must-visit spot within the park.

3. GR20, Corsica

Often hailed as one of the toughest long-distance hikes in Europe, the GR20 trail in Corsica offers a challenging yet rewarding experience for seasoned backpackers. The trail stretches across the island, showcasing diverse landscapes from dense forests and craggy peaks to beautiful lakes and streams. Completing the GR20 is a badge of honor in the backpacking community.

4. The Dordogne Region

The Dordogne region is famed for its picturesque villages, medieval castles, and prehistoric caves. Backpackers can paddle down the Dordogne River, explore the ancient Lascaux cave paintings, or hike the numerous trails that crisscross this verdant area. The region’s rich history and stunning landscapes make it a captivating destination.

5. Gorges du Verdon

Often referred to as Europe’s Grand Canyon, the Gorges du Verdon is a spectacular river canyon known for its vibrant turquoise waters. Adventure seekers can indulge in whitewater rafting, paragliding, and bungee jumping, or take a more leisurely approach by kayaking or hiking along the rim of the canyon to soak in the awe-inspiring views.

6. Pyrenees National Park

Straddling the border between France and Spain, the Pyrenees National Park offers a diverse range of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, and mountaineering. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife and features dramatic landscapes, from towering peaks to lush valleys. The GR10 trail, which traverses the French side of the mountain range, is a highlight for backpackers.

7. Brittany’s Coastal Paths

Brittany’s rugged coastline is best explored through its network of coastal paths. These trails offer stunning ocean views, access to remote beaches, and the chance to discover the region’s Celtic heritage. The Sentier des Douaniers, or Customs Officers’ Path, stretches along the coast and provides a unique way to experience Brittany’s natural beauty and cultural richness.

8. The Camargue

The Camargue, situated in the Rhône River delta, is Western Europe’s largest river delta and boasts a unique landscape of salt flats, marshes, and lagoons. It’s a paradise for nature lovers, famous for its wild horses, pink flamingos, and abundant birdlife. Cycling or horseback riding through the Camargue offers an immersive way to explore this unique ecosystem.

9. Volcanoes of Auvergne Regional Natural Park

The Auvergne region is home to the largest natural park in mainland France, centered around the Chaîne des Puys, a chain of dormant volcanoes. Hiking the Puy de Dôme offers panoramic views of the volcanic landscape, and the park’s numerous trails provide access to craters, lakes, and thermal springs, making it a geology enthusiast’s dream.

10. The Alps’ Adventure Sports

For the ultimate adventure, the Alps offer endless opportunities for thrill-seekers. In the summer, backpackers can go rock climbing, paragliding, and mountain biking, while the winter months bring world-class skiing and snowboarding. The town of Annecy, with its picturesque lake and proximity to the mountains, serves as an excellent base for exploring the Alps’ adventure sports.

Recreating the Experience

Adventurous backpacking through France can be a life-changing experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some tips to recreate this adventure:

Pack Light and Right: Choose a comfortable, durable backpack and pack only the essentials, focusing on multi-functional gear and clothing appropriate for the varied climates of France.

Plan Your Route: Decide on the spots you want to visit and plan your route accordingly. Consider using France’s excellent train system for longer distances and local buses or even hitchhiking for shorter segments.

Accommodation: To keep costs down, stay in hostels, campsites, or use platforms like Couchsurfing. Many of the national parks and rural areas offer designated areas for wild camping, but always check local regulations.

Safety First: Always let someone know your itinerary, especially when undertaking challenging hikes or remote treks. Invest in a good travel insurance policy that covers adventure sports.

Embrace the Local Culture: One of the joys of backpacking is immersing yourself in the local culture. Try regional specialties, learn a few phrases in French, and engage with locals whenever possible.


Q: Do I need a visa to backpack through France?

A: EU citizens do not need a visa. Non-EU citizens should check France’s visa requirements, which vary depending on your nationality and the length of your stay.

Q: Is France safe for backpackers?

A: France is generally very safe for backpackers. However, always exercise common sense, especially in cities, by safeguarding your belongings against pickpockets.

Q: What’s the best time of year to backpack through France?

A: The best time depends on your chosen activities. Summer (June to August) is ideal for hiking and coastal paths, while winter (December to March) is perfect for snow sports in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Q: Can I work in France to fund my backpacking trip?

A: Non-EU citizens will typically need a work visa to legally work in France. Another option is looking into work exchange programs, like WWOOFing, which offer food and accommodation in exchange for work.

Embarking on a backpacking adventure through France offers not just the thrill of exploration but an opportunity to connect deeply with the natural beauty and cultural richness of this diverse country. Each of these ten must-see spots promises its own unique set of challenges and rewards, crafting an unforgettable journey for the adventurous backpacker.

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