The following itineraries are designed to lead you up, down and round about la belle France – picking out the crème de la crème of the country’s cities, valleys and mountains, vineyards and coastline.
Crossing off the iconic sights takes up most visitors’ first few days, but leave time for soaking up that legendary Parisian chic while relaxing in pavement cafés and squares.
The chocolate-box port of Honfleur makes the obvious base for day-trips to the Bayeux tapestry, D-Day Beaches and Le Mont St-Michel.
3 Loire Valley
Use Amboise as your pied-à-terre in the beautiful Loire Valley, famed for its fairy-tale castles.
An abundance of medieval clifftop castles, prehistoric cave art and sublime local cuisine account for the enduring popularity of the Dordogne.
Take in a couple of the southern Lot’s bastide towns and Cathar castles en route to the magnificently turretted Carcassonne.
6 Arles, West Provence
The elegant Pont du Gard and beautifully preserved theatre at Orange are just two of the many Roman vestiges within reach of Arles.
7 Gorges du Verdon, East Provence
String together as many villages perchés as you can on the high road across the Var to the awesome Gorges du Verdon.
8 The Alps
A jaw-dropping journey north through the heart of Europe’s highest mountains culminates with the snowfields of Mont Blanc.
9 Nancy, Lorraine
A serene and refined city, Nancy has one of the most elegant places in Europe – Place Stanislas.
Travel back to the capital via the sobering monument to World War I’s fallen at Verdun.
1 Saumur, Loire
Known for its cool-climate-style whites, such as Sancerre, Vouvray and Muscadet, the Loire’s varied wines are best sampled from the pretty town of Saumur.
2 St-Émilion, Bordeaux
St-Émilion is an ideal springboard for visiting the famous châteaux around Bordeaux.
3 St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Pays Basque
In the Pyrenean foothills, St-Jean is a delightfully picturesque medieval town where you can taste the luscious sweet wines of nearby Jurançon.
4 Béziers, Languedoc
The sun-drenched land sweeping from the Mediterranean coast is the world’s largest wine-producing region, and Béziers, its capital, is perfectly placed for tasting forays to Collioure, Banyuls and Faugères.
5 Bandol, Côte d’Azur
Low rainfall and oodles of sunshine are the hallmarks of the region to the east of Marseille, where the fishing village of Bandol is home to the flagship wine; reds and rosés rule the roost here.
6 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Provence
The wines produced around this ancient village in the southern Rhone are legendary – and expensive.
7 Beaune, Bourgogne
Burgundy boasts more AOP designation wine than anywhere else and the medieval town of Beaune is the recommended base.
8 Colmar, Alsace
The Fecht Valley, just west of Colmar, is striped with steeply shelving vines – source of Alsace’s finest Rieslings and Gewürtztraminers.
9 Épernay, Champagne
France’s champagne capital, Épernay, is the place to sample the country’s best bubbly.
1 Les Falaises d’Etretat, Normandy
The chalk cliffs, needles and arches of Étretat inspired Monet, Courbet, Flaubert and Maupassant in their day, and now offer a superb, if dizzying, coastal walk.
2 Les Volcans d’Auvergne
With their grassy slopes, cratered summits and ridgetops, the extinct volcanoes running across the Massif Central create a mountain environment unlike any other.
3 Grande Cascade de Gavarnie, Pyrenees
France’s tallest waterfall crashes 423 metres from the awesome Cirque de Gavarnie in the Pyrenees.
4 Gorge de l’Ardèche
Kayak down the magnificent Gorge de l’Ardèche, lined by 300-metre-tall limestone cliffs. Famous landmarks include the Pont d’Arc, the largest natural bridge in Europe.
5 Lavender fields, Provence
Immortalized in the paintings of Van Gogh and Cézanne, the lavender fields of the southeast are at their most fragrant in early summer.
6 Golfe de Porto, Corsica
The red porphyry cliffs of Corsica’s wild northwest coast rise from a bay of exquisite cobalt blue to a wall of snow-streaked granite mountains.
7 Les Gorges du Verdon, Vaucluse
France’s own Grand Canyon forms a spectacular trench in the Provençal limestone.
8 Mer de Glace, French Alps
Hop on the rack railway from Chamonix for a stupendous view of Europe’s largest glacier.