French National Parks

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If you're looking to visit one of France's beautiful National Parks, check out this guide to three of our favourites.

Sights

Beautiful protected parks

The number of National Parks is France is forever expanding, and now boasts an impressive list of ten beautiful parks. With sky-high ski slopes during the winter, and blissful fields of green during the summer, they make for the perfect holiday setting, whatever the season. What’s more, with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle you’re only a 35-minute journey across the Channel from venturing off to these beautiful, protected parks.

Écrins National Park

As you make the seven-hour drive to Écrins National Park from Calais, you’ll pass the wonderful cities of Dijon and Lyon, providing you with the chance to take a break from driving and to explore. Made up of seven different mountain valleys, Écrins National Park is a large expanse of forests, rocky cliffs and fascinating wildlife.

A mountain view in the Écrins National Park

A mountain view in the Écrins National Park

What to do

If you decide to visit during winter, then skiing will be the main activity on your agenda, however, during the warmer months hiking is a popular choice. Those who maintain and protect have developed around 700-kilometres of hiking trails, providing visitors with everything from a couple of hours of walking to several days of trekking; just choose a trail that suits your skill level.

What to see

The seven valleys of Écrins are Briançonnais, Champsaur, Embrun, Oisans, Valbonnais, Valgaudemar and Vallouise. Each valley offers its own varying levels of difficulty and stunning views, for hikers and guided tours. The Briançonnais Valley, for example, provides hikers with easy trails that cross through villages, past streams and farming fields, where lambs graze on the grass. Alternatively, the Valbonnais Valley offers much longer trails that are safe and easy for families, and give them the chance to explore beech-fir covered forests.

Accommodation

There are many sites in and around the park that offer warm and cosy accommodation. If you fancy going camping this summer with your family, be sure to make a stop at Indigo Vallouise, a camping site within the Vallouise Valley. Don’t worry if you don’t have your own tent and camping kit, as you can rent all of that from Indigo Vallouise’s shop. The nearby village has a bakery that sells freshly baked croissants, and on top of camping and hiking, you’ll get to take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool, play tennis, and even enjoy a game of volleyball.

Calanques National Park

Located in the south of France, between Marseille and Cassis, Calanques National Park not only boasts a warm Mediterranean climate, it’s also surrounded by stunning turquoise sea, jagged white cliffs and secluded creeks.

The beautiful Calanques National Park

The beautiful Calanques National Park

What to do

Like the many of the other parks, hiking is one of the more popular activities of choice. Choose from the various trails that have been mapped out, and take the time to discover the areas incredible natural biodiversity, both on land and out at sea. At the tourist information centre, you will find plenty of information on the many rare species to look out for on your cliff-top hikes.

As well as hiking, be sure to take part in plenty of water sports, from scuba diving in the reefs to paddling through the water in kayaks, which is a great way to discover the many areas of the park whist still having fun.

What to see

With the warm Mediterranean climate, you’ll be able to take part in diving, and explore the fascinating marine life that lives within the national park. Plunge into the water, and swim in and out of the shoals of fish, bottlenose dolphins and loggerhead sea turtles, gliding past the brightly coloured coral. And, as you clamber over the white cliffs, keep an eye out for the striking Bonelli’s eagle.

Accommodation

Unfortunately, camping within the park is forbidden, but there are plenty of places to stay in nearby Marseille and Cassis. Why not stay at one of Marseille’s quaint B&Bs, where you can revel in the views of the mountainous landscape, the beautiful sea and enjoy plates of delicious Provençal food.

Vanoise National Park

Another beautiful area of France, the Vanoise National Park offers visitors the chance to try out a range of exciting outdoors activities, as well as an opportunity to observe the fascinating wildlife that inhabits its valleys.

Hiking in the Vanoise National Park

Hiking in the Vanoise National Park

What to do

As well as hiking trails, there is also the opportunity to explore the park and its surrounds with paragliding and cycling tours, as long as you abide to the park’s rules of looking after the environment. Paragliding isn’t actually allowed directly in the park for fear of scaring away the rare birds, but there are many options nearby. The same applies for cycling, but there are many alternative cycle routes and trails listed for visitors to enjoy, which pass through the nearby towns of Bonneval-sur-Arc and Champagny-en-Vanoise.

What to see

There are many beautiful animals that have claimed the mountainous landscape of Vanoise National Park as their home. As you make your way through the green grasslands, and rocky mounds you’ll encounter a number of native animals, including marmots, voles and chamois as well as magnificent golden eagles, black grouse and eagle owls that soar through the sky.

Not only will you have the chance to spot a variety of species, you’ll get to walk through numerous blueberry and juniper plants, as well as forests of larches, Arolla pines and mountain pines.

Accommodation

After a long day of hiking, why not enjoy a relaxing stay at the Chalet Les Frenes. This chalet is located in the nearby ski resort of Chamonix, which is only a one-hour and 14-minute drive from the valleys of Vanoise National Park. With incredible views of the lush, green Chamonix valleys, it’s the perfect location for a summer away with friends and family.

Getting there and around

To get to Écrins National Park from Calais, you will drive via the cities of Lyon and Dijon, which should take less than eight hours to get there.

If Calanques is the national park for you, then be prepared for a slightly longer, but more scenic journey of nine-and-a-quarter hours. Be sure to stop by Reims and Dijon along the way.

And last but not least, if your destination of choice is the beautiful Vanoise National Park, then get ready for another lightly longer drive of eight-hours, which will also give you the chance to rest and recuperate at Grenoble and Lyon.

No matter where you’re heading, get your journey off to the best start with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle; the fastest and most convenient way across the Channel. Happy driving!

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Photo credit: A mountain view in the Écrins National Park - The beautiful Calanques National Park - Hiking in the Vanoise National Park - Lac du Combeynot - Olan Ecrins National Park - Bans face nord - Calanque de Morgiou - Pic du midi ossau -

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from £23
Prices start from £23 per car, each way* *£23 Day Trip & Overnight - Ticket must be purchased as part of a 2 day return. Return must be completed by midnight (local time) on the second calendar day. Book your travel now