Best places to go in the New Year

The summit of the Puy-de-Dôme

The summit of the Puy-de-Dôme is stunning in the winter months

Once Christmas and New Year have passed, you might find yourself feeling those winter blues. But with so many wonderful destinations in France, there are plenty of things to look forward to during January and beyond.


The underground river of Labouiche

Where in France? Ariège, Occitanie

Drive from Calais: 1,047km / 9h 30m

Chateau De Foix

Visit the nearby Château de Foix

Discovered purely by chance by a local doctor in 1908, the underground river of Labouiche, or the Rivière Souterraine de Labouiche as it is known locally, has been open to the public since 1938. It’s actually Europe’s longest navigable underground river that’s open to the public, so it’s really quite unique. You can take a tour along roughly 1.5km of the river in a barge that your guide will pull through caves and chambers by ropes hanging from the cavernous ceiling.

The caves are 60m below the surface, so as you can imagine the geology surrounding the river is fascinating. On the tour, you’ll be guided through a labyrinth of varying landscapes, culminating in the beautiful waterfall Cascade Salette, plunging into a crystal clear turquoise pool.

If you want to stay in the area, the nearby town of Foix is a charming choice. The beautiful 10th century Château de Foix dominates the town’s skyline, and houses a fascinating museum, dedicated to the history of the surrounding Ariège region. The tickets are inexpensive, and you can get discounts for students and families. In the winter months there are even further reductions, so make sure you check before visiting.


The Puy-de-Dôme volcano

Where in France? Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Drive from Calais: 717km / 6h 50m

Puy-de-Dôme

Take in the stunning views from the summit of the Puy-de-Dôme

Yes, you read that correctly. A volcano in France. But don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted for around 10,700 years, which makes it one of the youngest dormant volcanoes in the Chaîne des Puys region. The Puy-de-Dôme volcano stands at 1,465m, and although it isn’t the highest peak in the region, it is certainly the most iconic and should feature high up on the list of must-visit destinations for any outdoor enthusiast.

The Puy-de-Dôme attracts around half a million visitors every year who come to walk up the ancient Roman footpath to the summit where the views of the 40km chain of volcanoes in the surrounding area are simply breath-taking. If you don’t fancy the hike, there is a railway you can take to the top, where you’ll find a visitor centre explaining the history and geology of the area, as well as shops and restaurants.

For any historians amongst you, the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the God Mercury are not to be missed. They were discovered in 1873, and excavations revealed the site to be 3,600m², making it one of the largest temple sites in the western Roman Empire. Mercury was the God of travellers, which meant that this temple, situated along the Roman road Via Agrippa between Lyon and Saintes, was incredibly important in its heyday.


Truffle hunting in Périgord

Where in France? Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Drive from Calais: 771km / 7h 20m

Sarlat

The town of Sarlat is famous for its foodie market selling truffles

Famous for its truffles, Périgord is a region of France, surrounding the idyllic old town of Périgueux. The Périgord region is divided into four areas, Noir, Blanc, Vert and Pourpre, or black, white, green and purple, respectively, and is renowned for being something of a foodie hub. The area is famous for duck and goose products, as well as being the heart of France’s truffle region.

Truffle season in the Périgord region runs from November to April, making the New Year the best time to visit and take part in a truffle hunt. Hunts are guided by some of the world’s best truffle experts, who will lead you along secret woodland trails accompanied by their specially trained dogs or pigs to unearth these little nuggets of black fungus.

If scrambling around in the woods when it’s cold doesn’t sound like your thing, there are also plenty of local truffle markets where you can get your hands on these rare delicacies. The markets tend to peak in activity between December and February, with January being the most popular month, as this is when black truffles are at their most fragrant. The truffle markets of Périgord attract foodies the world over, including famous chefs, so keep an eye out for celebrities among the crowds!

If you’re planning a visit for mid-January, don’t miss out on the Sarlat Truffle Festival, known locally as the Fête de la Truffe. There are loads of fun workshops you can take part in to learn all about truffles, how best to find and identify them, and get to know all their little intricacies. You can also take local cookery classes so that you can learn the best ways to make the most of the truffles’ delicious flavour.

There’s no better way to beat the winter blues than to explore somewhere new and exciting. If you’re feeling inspired to set off on a New Year adventure, book your tickets with us early to take advantage of the best fares.