SHARE
COPY LINK

TOURISM

The 10 quietest areas in France to visit this summer

France's secluded areas are in demand after the coronavirus health crisis caused a surge in the number of people wanting to swap city buzz for space and greenery. We took a look at the least densely populated places in France to see what they have to offer tourists.

The 10 quietest areas in France to visit this summer
The Sainte-Catherine church and a bridge over the Ander river in Cantal, one of France's least densely populated départements. Photo: AFP

 

After the coronavirus pandemic turned socialising, travelling and life in general in their heads, holidays in sheltered, off-the-beaten-track spots are seeing a surge in popularity.

Holiday agencies in France's secluded areas have seen a surge in demand from tourists – both international visitors and French residents – eager to explore less popular destinations.

Here are some of the least densely populated départements in France, which are also are rich with natural treats that make them well worth a visit. 

 

10. Lot

With some 173,700 inhabitants, Lot is the 10th least densely populated département in France. It is situated in the south, about two hours north of Toulouse by car, and features lush greenery, rivers, valleys, underground caves and vineyards. 

It's a feast of nature and food. Lot's restaurants make dishes based on its black truffle, white velvet rocamadour cheese and saffron. It's also a place for wine tasting, with the Cahors vineyards showing how the area's famous “Black Wine” is made.

 

 

 

 

READ ALSO: The 12 least touristy parts of France for a peaceful visit this summer

 

9. Haute-Corse

Situated not on the French mainland but on the French island Corsica, Haute-Corse is known for its white beaches and sparkling blue ocean. There's about 170,000 inhabitants spread over the area, which covers the northern half of Corsica island and spans across several picturesque smaller towns, the regional natural park and the Monte Cinto mountain (2,706 m). It's a place to swim, ski, hike and climb.

 

 

 

 

8. Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

This département is just north of Nice and Marseille, far out on the southwestern tip of the Cote-d'Azur region. About 161,600 inhabitants are spread out on the area, which is made out of hills, valleys and remote villages, although it does see more visitors in summer.

The weather can be pretty harsh with cold winters and thunderstorms in the summer, but there are also many sunshine hours in all seasons and temperatures get hot in summer.

 

 

 

7. Ariège

Located in the southwestern French region Occitanie, Ariège is a rural département on the coastline with two big rivers running from north to south, home to some 150,000 inhabitants. The steep Pyrenees mountains make it a good destination for hikers, skiers and climbers, but it's also a place to kayak in the river or visit some of the old historic towns – or even to spot real-life wolves at the park Maison des loups (House of wolves).

 

 

 

 

6. Corse-du-Sud

This is the southern part of Corsica, which looks just as nice as the north. There's lots of different spots to visit here, Porto-Vecchio is known as the “city of salt” thanks to its fine-sanded beaches and salt marshes, and Sartène is known to be traditionally Corsican. This is a place to slack on the beach, eat local cuisine and don't forget to check out the capital, Ajaccio, where Napoleon was born.

Entre #nature et quiétude, succombez à notre résidence en #Corse du Sud. ???#GaïaVoyages https://t.co/qV9PneyEw1 pic.twitter.com/mfjoTEehQ8

— Gaïa Voyages (@gaia_voyages) August 23, 2016

 

 

5. Cantal 

Named after its cheddar-like cheese, Cantal has a rugged landscape, with unspoiled towns and villages, a perfect stop if you want to explore the real off-the-track parts of France.

The département lies a little south of the middle of France, in the Auvergne area, known for its rich cheeses, wine and ham.

Cantal is home to less than 150,000 inhabitants and is hilly and mountainous with good routes for hiking, cycling and horse riding. It's dotted with lakes and has a rich architectural heritage with lots of castles, churches and chapels.

 

 

4. Territoire de Belfort

This is a tiny département, the fifth smallest in size in France, located in the far east on the German border. Because of its proximity to the Vosges, Jura and the Alsace and Rhone Valley, there are plenty of outdoors activity to explore. But Belfort, while tiny, has and important history – it was annexed by Germany – which is conserved in its monuments, ramparts and citadels. 

 

90. Territoire de Belfort : Lion de Bartholdi @BelfortOfficiel
Le symbole de résistance de la ville est le principal monument à voir dans ce tout petit département. pic.twitter.com/JddpnYMc86

— Tété (@thdu21) June 24, 2020

 

 

3. Hautes-Alpes

Far south-west, Hautes-Alpes can be found on the southeastern French border to Italy, located in (and named after) the Alps. It is sparsely populated and does have a lot of tourism already, mostly in the winter. Still, there are plenty of reasons to pay a visit to Hautes-Alpes – which boasts breathtaking landscapes, with tall mountain peaks, glaciers and rivers.

 

 

 

 

Cows in Creuse. Photo: AFP

 

2. Creuse

Creuse, a département in central France, has a lot more trees than inhabitants. Around 120,000 people live here but the largest town, Guéret, counts less than 14,000 inhabitants. In additions to its forests, Creuse is rich with castles, abbeys and Celtic monuments, and a chapel where a local legend claims Joan of Arc prayed around 1430. The landscape is full of prairies, lakes and forests with lots of different hikes for visitors.

 

 

 

1. Lozère

With a population of barely 76,500 people, Lozère, south of France, is France's least populous département. 

If you Google it, you'll see pictures of mountains, seemingly never-ending fields – and cows. Cattle farming is the main economic activity in the region, in addition to tourism. This is a place to go if you want to get far away from everything that is roads and buildings (these account for less than 1 percent of the total land, the vast majority of which is forest or open land). It looks deliciously peaceful.

The climate is hot and its big rivers makes Lozère one of the top trout fishing spots in France. 

 
 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

SHOW COMMENTS