1. HIT THE BIKE TRAILS
With five mountain ranges and some of the world’s most varied terrain, France can’t be beaten for mountain biking and downhill cycling. Les Deux Alpes has over 100km of marked biking trails and 28 downhill tracks. Those in search of a challenge can put themselves to the test by taking on the ominously named ‘Circle of Death’ in the Pyrénées, a 200km route navigating four mountain ascents and 4,000m in altitude. Off the beaten track, you’ll discover 150km of trails in the Jura Mountains, including the epic Grand Traverse.
2. A ROUND OF GOLF
The arrival of spring melts the snowy caps of the Alps into mountainous rivers, coaxing out carpets of wild flowers and revealing a lush landscape which perfectly lends itself to golf, a most leisurely summer sport. The Rhône-Alpes region boasts an unrivalled variety of 64 golf courses, situated on the banks of crystal-clear lakes, at the heart of vineyards or amid the mountain range itself – so spectacular is the scenery that it’ll be hard to concentrate on your backswing! For more secluded resorts, flat courses and equally stunning views, the Pyrénées are a golfer’s paradise and all just a short drive from Toulouse.
3. TAKE A HIKE IN THE HILLS
There are few more liberating thrills than scrabbling up the final stretch of an alpine summit, to find yourself faced with an endless expanse of mountains, forests and lakes – and it’s virtually impossible to find a more picturesque backdrop than the towering French Alps. A hiking holiday in the lush Pyrénées also provides spectacular scenery, with companies such as Borderline Holidays even offering guided butterfly and wild flower walks through mountain meadows. With a cool breeze bringing you the heady scent of wild flowers and the warm sun saturating your skin, you’ll feel close to heaven.
4. CANYONING ADVENTURES
Unleash your inner daredevil on an adrenaline-fuelled adventure, rafting and canyoning your way through the mountains! Combining climbing, abseiling, jumping and swimming, canyoning means navigating mountainous gorges by foot, crossing any waterfalls, rocky passageways and deep crystalline pools in your path. Now offered by adventure sports companies all over the south of France, canyoning is growing in popularity even among the less adventurous. Aventure Active provides ‘easy canyoning’ routes in the Galamus Gorge for anyone who’s worried about pushing their limits too far. However, although no previous experience is necessary, novices should brace themselves: white water rafting/canyoning trips aren’t for the faint of heart!
5. HEAD TO FRANCHE-COMTÉ
Think of French mountains and the Alps immediately spring to mind, but to stick to this well-trodden tourist trail would be to overlook France’s best-kept secret. Just north of Rhône-Alpes, the Franche-Comté region stretches from the foothills of the Vosges Mountains to the much grander Jura range, straddling the Swiss border and overlapping the southern tip of Alsace. Franche-Comté promotes itself as a haven of ‘green tourism’, as summer storms keep the landscape lush and verdant even in the heat. Camp, trek and cycle your way through its flower-filled meadows, not forgetting to sample some Comté cheese en route!
6. AWESOME AUVERGNE
Although not a traditional tourist destination, in recent years the Auvergne has seen a surge in popularity, with visitors discovering the wealth of camping, hiking and
outdoor activities the it offers. The region’s landscape is dominated by the most imposing volcanic range in Europe, interspersed with freshwater pools, thermal springs and the continent’s largest oak forest. In all, 80 dormant volcanoes align over a 40km ridge, their summits reaching 1,465m in altitude and the Sancy Massif claiming the title of highest point in central France. The Auvergne’s attractions include Vulcania theme park, with its volcano-oriented rides and an IMAX cinema, and the 120 metre-high Garabit Viaduct designed by Gustave Eiffel, which spans the lush Truyère Valley.
7. SELF-DRIVE HOLIDAYS
You’ve already piled into the car and driven over via the Eurotunnel or ferry so why not start as you mean to go on and have a driving holiday? France is your oyster from behind the wheel, its emptyautoroutes are bliss compared to busy roads at home, and touring by car is a great way to explore as much of France as possible, with incredible mountain panoramas emerging at every turn. If you prefer to fly for the first leg of your journey, Drive Through France hires out cars and provides tailor-made, themed driving routes, too.
8. MOUNTAIN CLIMBING
France is the European camping capital and it isn’t surprising that it’s hugely popular with our Gallic cousins, as there are superb sites with excellent facilities in every region of the country, often in the most stunning of locations. Could there be a more spectacular start to the day than unzipping your tent to welcome in the fresh mountain air, with the colossal sight of Mont Blanc towering above you. Campsites vary from budget to glam – think yurts, chalets and camper vans. The Rhône-Alpes and the Pyrénées are most popular regions for mountain camping, and there are also numerous less well-known but equally attractive options in the Jura Mountains.
9. VILLAS, CHALETS & GÎTES
Glam up your summer mountain experience by renting out a gîte, villa or ski chalet. Prices can drop substantially when renting off-season, and some family-run companies even offer luxury summer holiday packages which may include airport transfer, a personal chef and chauffeur, a pool, spa facilities and a range of catered or self-catered options. With every last detail left in safe hands and expert guides organising your chosen activities, you can focus on making the most of what the mountains have to offer and enjoy some precious, uninterrupted family time.
10. INDULGENT GASTRONOMY
France’s mountains are home to some of its richest and most highly acclaimed gastronomy – sampling the traditional Savoyard cuisine found at the heart of the Alps is enough to base your entire holiday around. A hedonistic blend of melted cheese, cream, cured meats and hearty potatoes, mountain cooking exemplifies comfort food at its most sublime. Whether you’ve earned it with an action-packed day of mountain sports or chosen to throw any notions of healthy eating aside and treat yourself to an indulgent foodie extravaganza, a food-themed mountain holiday will tantalise your taste buds with real indulgence.