5 reasons to holiday in the south of France
The south of France has been a popular holiday destination for decades, not least because of its sunshine record and glorious beaches. Artists and writers have been inspired by its landscapes for centuries, and it offers a range of attractions for both sunseekers and active travellers. Here are six of the best reasons to holiday in the south of France.
Walking and cycling
Walking or cycling through scenery that bewitched the likes of Van Gogh and Matisse is truly a tonic for the spirit. The dramatic Lubéron mountains in Provence and French Pyrenees provide challenging trails that take in sights like the Gorges du Tarn, the Cathar Castles, and charming hilltop villages such as Buoux and Saignon.
Other tracks and lead through sun drenched olive groves, past fields of sunflowers and along the beautiful Mediterranean coast.
One of the south’s most famous cycle paths runs alongside the Languedoc-Rousillon’s Canal du Midi, as it winds through Carcassonne and Narbonne to the coast. From Toulouse to Sète, it’s a 240km ride through fertile landscapes and pretty villages. The Upper Languedoc has a voie verte, a converted railway line, that winds along the Thoré River and provides a scenic alternative to the more renowned canal route.
Evidence of southern France’s long and eventful history is present everywhere. Provence’s most famous structure is the Pont du Gard, a magnificent feat of engineering achieved by the Romans in the first century. Today, an on-site museum traces the history of the aqueduct with multimedia and reconstructions.
Over in the Languedoc is the fortress city of Carcassonne, whose citadel was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Overlooking the River Aude, it has a fairytale silhouette with rounded turrets and ordered battlements.
Other impressive structures include the twin-tiered Les Arènes amphitheatre in Nîmes, which was once a key Roman outpost, and the 14th century Palais des Papes in Avignon, which played host to no fewer than nine Popes, and today houses art exhibitions and theatre performances.
Food & wine
Bordering the Mediterranean coast, the south of France enjoys a reputation for fine seafood. A trip to Marseilles isn’t complete without a dish of bouillabaisse, the city’s classic, rich seafood broth typically served with thick slices of bread. Along the coast, a traditional dish from the town of Sète is Bourride de Baudroie, a fish stew made with locally caught monkfish.
The cuisine naturally includes lots of Mediterranean vegetables, and sweet treats such a nougat and crème Catalan, a variation on the better known crème brûlée, are particularly popular.
As France’s largest wine region, Languedoc Roussillon is the perfect place to attend a wine tasting. A huge number of grape varieties and blends are brought to life by enthusiastic wine makers, who take a more innovative approach to their craft than more northerly producers. As such, the wines are diverse and packed with flavour.
It goes without saying that the beaches of Côte d’Azur are some of the most famous in Europe. Its golden sands and glittering waters are nothing short of irresistible to many, and rightly so: the Cap d’Antibes, the beaches around the Calanques and the Var coast are all stunning.
In the Languedoc, the Cap d’Agde is a haven for sunseekers, with nine beaches ranging from the remote St Vincent beach to the longer shores of Rochelongue and La Tamarissère.
Reaching from Languedoc-Roussillon into the Auvergne, the Cévennes National Park is one of southern France’s most beautiful and rugged landscapes. Its timeless feel has been captivating tourists for centuries, most notably Robert Louis Stevenson, who travelled there with a donkey in 1878.
To the east of Avignon lies the Lubéron, a place dominated by sundrenched olive groves, cheery orchards and lavender fields, where the mistral wind adds a freshness to the air. Charming villages are nestled hills, among them Saignon with its distinctive silhouette.