September 8, 2015

Walking the Tour du Mont Blanc is a truly special experience

As someone who lived in France for a long time, I’ve seen quite a lot of the country, from the magnificent architecture in Paris to the turquoise waters of the Côte d'Azur, but nothing compares to the simple pleasure of walking in the French countryside. Autumn, as the leaves begin to turn and the air becomes crisp, is one of my favourite times of the year to get outside and explore. For those of you visiting France this Autumn, or at any time of the year for that matter, here are my top four walking trails. Enjoy!

Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of France’s most famous routes, and even a brief walk along this 170km trail will show you why. The route circles the infamous Mont Blanc, covering ground in Switzerland and Italy, as well as France, and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. In France, the trail goes from the Little Saint Bernard Pass – on the French-Italian border – and passes through Beaufort, Passy and Argentière (to name just a few) on route to the Swiss border in the north. A few years ago, when I visited the area, I stayed in Chamonix and spent a few days doing short hikes, to the north and to the south, along the trail. Les Houches is a beautiful town just south of Chamonix, and it can be reached in just 1.5 hours, while Vallorcine, a tiny, unspoilt village, is a 3.5-hour walk to the north.

 Yellow signs lead the way on the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Yellow signs lead the way on the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Routes des Grands Crus

The Routes des Grands Crus is the perfect trail for wine-lovers (including me!), as it takes you through Burgundy, one of France’s main wine-producing regions, offering plenty of opportunity to sample a glass or two along the way. The trail begins in Dijon and takes walkers south to Santenay, passing through 33 towns and villages, including Nuit-Saint-Georges and Beaune. I’d recommend choosing somewhere as a base and, from there, taking daytime hikes up and down the trail. You could even drive between the towns, staying for a couple of nights at each, and spend the days walking different parts of the route.

 Walk the Routes des Grands Crus and stop at vineyards along the way.
Walk the Routes des Grands Crus and stop at vineyards along the way.

The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is located in the middle part of the Loire River in central France, and it’s known as the Garden of France due to its abundance of orchards, vineyards and agricultural fields. There are many walks to choose from in the area, ranging from short and sweet 2km walks to harder 15km hikes. I’ve been to the Loire Valley enough times to not remember the exact number, but each time I try to explore somewhere new. One of my favourite walks during one of these visits was along a 10km trail, which starts in Bueil-en-Touraine and heads west across the river, and then north to Villebourg and back down to Bueil. The route takes you through green pastures, past picturesque churches and, of course, along the banks of the Loire River. Beautiful.

 The Loire River is beautiful at any time of year.
The Loire River is beautiful at any time of year.

Brittany Coastal Path

In my opinion, France’s northern coast is one of Europe’s most lovely coastlines, particularly if you want stretch your legs. The Brittany coastal path, also known as the GR34 (Grande Randonnée 34), starts at Vitré and heads towards the English Channel, continuing west along the coast and finishing up in Douarnenez. Walking the entire route is probably too long for most, but you can always pick and choose the stretches you’d like to do. Experience the unique pink-hued rock formations and sand of the Côte de Granit Rose, between Plestin-les-Grèves and Louannec, and set eyes on the Côte d'Émeraude, from Cape Fréhel to Cancale, where the sea is a beautiful shade of emerald. Autumn is a great time to do this walk, as most tourists will have come and gone during the summer months, so you’ll have the trail to yourself!

 The Brittany Coastal Path takes you through the Côte d'Émeraude (the Emerald Coast).
The Brittany Coastal Path takes you through the Côte d'Émeraude (the Emerald Coast).

Grab your walking shoes…

With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, the journey from Folkestone to Calais takes just 35 minutes, so what are you waiting for? Plan your holiday to France today.

Photo Credits:
Yellow signs lead the way on the Tour du Mont Blanc - Image by Flickr user Jerome Bon
Walk the Routes des Grands Crus and stop at vineyards along the way - Image by Flickr user Anna & Michal
The Loire River is beautiful at any time of year - Image by Flickr user Jean-Pierre
The Brittany Coastal Path takes you through the Côte d'Émeraude - Image by Flickr user gwen
Walking the Tour du Mont Blanc is a truly special experience - Image by Flickr user simonsimages

You may also like

Blog homepage