Nature Spotting

A surprising wealth of natural wildlife can be found in France, from alpine wolf tracking to whale-spotting in the Pays Basque.

France is home to some truly incredible natural parks

When you think of France and the French countryside, your mind might not immediately think of birds of prey, wild mammals, dolphins and whales. France, however, is a great place to go nature spotting. There are fantastic nature reserves to explore, and even when I’ve been taking a casual stroll during spring and summer, I’ve often come across beautiful birds and insects. Check out my favourite spots for nature spotting, plus the kinds of animals and birds you can hope to see!

Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique

Brittany has so much to offer, and I’ve travelled there time and time again when visiting France. Reaching into the Celtic Sea, the large Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique has a variety of landscapes to enjoy. Take a stroll along sandy beaches on Brittany’s west coast, trek inland along the river, through marshlands and over hilltops to explore one of my favourite protected areas in France.

Find your sanctuary at Huelgoat in Brittany.
Find your sanctuary at Huelgoat in Brittany.

If you’re brave enough to trek through the marshes, watch out for the carnivorous plant, the sundew. This beautiful but deadly plant preys on unsuspecting insects, capturing their prey with colourful stalked glands. While exploring the river, you can find European otters and beavers, as well as an impressive variety of different seabirds. In the north-west of the park, you’ll find Huelgoat. This commune is home to stunning rock formations, waterfalls and rivers, and legends say that King Arthur hid his treasures in the nearby cave, La Grotte d’Artus.

Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez

Located within France’s famous Auvergne region, the Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez has some of the most diverse natural wildlife that you’ll find in France. Made up of rolling hills and mountains, whenever I visit this part of France it takes my breath away. Most of it remains unspoilt, so you can trek through Mother Nature feeling like the world is yours to explore. See if you can spot deer, wild boar, stoats, wild cats and perhaps even the timid black grouse.

Spot deer on the moors of the French countryside.
Spot deer on the moors of the French countryside.

When it comes to bird spotting, you’re in the right place. Look to the skies to see kestrels, black kites, eagles and hawks, and see if you can spot them as they swoop down to catch unsuspecting prey. This natural park is one of the largest protected areas in France, and I often stay in the middle of the park, in the commune of Ambert, using it as a hub to explore the rest of the region.

France’s Auvergne Region boasts stunning rolling hills and mountains.
France’s Auvergne Region boasts stunning rolling hills and mountains.

Parc Naturel Regional Perigord Limousin

Spanning both the Haute Vienne and Dordogne departments of France, the Parc Naturel Regional Perigord Limousin is known for having a multitude of different species of flora and fauna. In the spring and summer, I love walking to see the stunning varieties of orchid, which are quite rare. It’s a good idea to wear waterproof shoes, whatever the weather, as this park has a fantastic selection of waterfalls, lakes, brooks and rivers just waiting to be explored.

Explore secret caves and see if you can spot a dozen different bat species, and look closely at the water surface to find beautiful reptiles. Bird watchers will be in paradise, as the park is said to have over 110 different species of birds, so bring your binoculars! The park’s meadows, caves and forests have been home to mankind since the Old Stone Age, approximately 3.4 million years ago, and this is supported by incredible dwellings and tools, which have been found within the park.

Inspired to go nature spotting in France?

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