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Where in France can you get away from the crowds this summer?

Where in France can you get away from the crowds this summer?
France has some stunningly beautiful areas that are frequently ignored by tourists. Photo: Thierry Zocolan/AFP
France is opening up to tourism for fully vaccinated travellers, but the French are also being urged to holiday in France this year - which means that some parts of the country may be even busier than a normal summer.

Les vacances, c’est en France (the holidays, they’re in France) declared president Emmanuel Macron, urging the French to support the country’s battered tourist industry by staycationing this year.

Reservations in popular tourist destinations are already up 30 percent on last year as French people book their holidays while fully vaccinated international travellers are also allowed back in from Wednesday.

EXPLAINED This is how France’s traffic light system for vaccinated travellers works

The upshot being – some places could be pretty busy this year.

So if you’re looking for a more peaceful break, or you would just feel more comfortable staying away from crowds, here are some suggestions of areas to head for and those to avoid.

According to BFM.TV, reservations in France are up by more than 30 percent compared to 2019, while holiday booking website PAP Vacances recently published a list of the most sought after places.

Those holidaying in August (the most popular time of the year for French people to travel) seem to be mostly heading south to the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region with the département of Var – which includes Saint Tropez  – the most popular area.

The beaches of the French Riviera could be even more crowded this summer. Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP

The list of most in-demand areas from PAP Vacanes is:

  1. Les Issambres, Var
  2. Sainte-Maxime, Var
  3. Capbreton, Landes
  4. Lège-Cap-Ferret, Gironde
  5. Lacanau, Gironde
  6. La Teste-de-Buch, Gironde
  7. Hyères, Var
  8. Saint-Raphaël, Var
  9. Porto-Vecchio, Corse-du-Sud
  10. Fréjus, Var 

Assuming that you want to avoid the crowds, here are a few things to think about when booking your holidays.

READ ALSO 10 of the best Covid-compliant activities in France this summer

Seaside v countryside

Whilst the list above includes a number of sought after beach resort destinations, summer house rentals have also seen an even bigger boom.

Some people are looking to book a large space for their family and friends, with many turning to the countryside – as opposed to the seaside – for better prices.

According to NotreTemps.com, houses located inland cost an average of €172 per person for the week, compared to €207 for a place by the sea. Inland areas such as Gordes and Sorgues, both located in the stunning Provencal countryside, are continuing to experience a boom in rental reservations this summer.

On the other hand, according to NotreTemps, accommodation in mountainous and urban areas has been neglected, so maybe consider a hiking trip to the Pyrenees or a trip to one of France’s stunning smaller towns such as Annecy or Avignon.

READ ALSO Morvan: Why you should visit one of France’s most beautiful and least-known areas

Remember France’s ‘forgotten’ areas

For obvious reasons, seaside resorts are popular for holidays, but France also contains some stunning countryside and in some of the sparsely populated central départements you really can get away from it all.

Creuse, Corrèze and Cantal all have beautiful scenery and wide open spaces and we are particularly fond of Auvergne, with its rugged mountainous areas and delicious cheesy mashed potatoes.

READ ALSO 10 reasons to visit France’s Auvergne area

Choose an adventure holiday

To really take advantage of all that fresh air and natural beauty, why not have a cycling holiday along some of France’s many cycle routes?

READ ALSO Vineyards to canals – 7 of the best cycle routes in France

There is also great hiking – particularly in the Alps and Pyrenees – and numerous holidays offering activities for the adrenaline junkie from whitewater rafting to abseiling.

Or think about staying in a hotel

According to Femina.fr, only 6 percent of French holidaymakers will choose to stay in a hotel. With the likes of AirB&B dominating the holiday accommodation market, and 72 percent of travellers deciding to stay in holiday villages or campsites, this could be the year to get a bargain if you do fancy a hotel stay.

Maybe take the train

With no need to share a space with strangers or wear a mask, it’s no surprise that the number one mode of transport this summer is expected to be the car

But this means that during the summer months, France’s roads and motorways will likely be full of traffic jams.

BMF.TV reported that although 8/10 French travellers want to travel by car, they do believe there’ll be more people on the roads this year.

Horrifying, 36 percent of French people also say they fear that with limited ability to travel over the past 18 months, they may have seen a decrease in their driving skills – and it’s not the French are famed for being good drivers at the best of times.

With only 8 percent expected to take the train and SNCF’s announcement this week of considerably cheaper train travel for all ages, taking the train might be a quieter and more affordable way of getting to your desired destination – as well as avoiding roads full of traffic-jams and crazed French motorists.


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