After kicking off in the Netherlands, the Tour de France cyclists are currently pedalling their way through France. The route passes through some of the most scenic regions of France, where there’s plenty to discover in between watching the race.
Here are our top 10 picks for sites to look out for along this year’s route:
Abbeville – Le Havre
Baie de Somme
The beautiful Baie de Somme is a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Picardy coast and home to the lively resort of Le Crotoy, as well as a nature reserve that plays host to thousands of migrating birds.
Rennes – Mûr de Bretagne
Mont St Michel
One of the major landmarks on France’s northern coast, Mont Saint-Michel dates back to the sixth century and served as both a monastery and prison before becoming the popular tourist attraction it is today.
Vannes – Plumelec
Close to Vannes are the standing stones at Carnac – France’s answer to Stonehenge. These ancient megaliths are thought to have had religious or cultural significance when they were erected, over 6000 years ago.
La Pierre Saint-Martin – Cauterets
Pyrénées National Park
The Pyrenees mountain range is one of the most captivating and majestic in Europe. A demanding stage of the Tour, it rewards onlookers with stunning views and, when leaving the crowds behind, the chance to see a host of wildlife such as marmots and birds of prey.
Lannemezan – Plateau de Beille
Château de Montségur
One of the last Cathar strongholds, Château de Montségur was the site of a ten-month siege, which, in 1244, led to the demise of the religion. It is now a place of legend, having been believed to be both site of the Holy Grail and the waymarker for the lost treasure of the Cathars.
Muret – Rodez
Canal du Midi, Toulouse
The Canal du Midi is a feat of 17th century engineering that links Toulouse to the town of Sète on the Mediterranean coast. Having taken 15 years to complete, it facilitated trade through the Languedoc for over a century before becoming a favourite setting for a relaxing boat cruise.
Rodez – Mende
Cevennes National Park
A sparsely populated area of France, the Cevennes has a remote, rugged feel with dramatic landscapes punctuated by evidence of human habitation. Dry stone walls, disused abbeys and farmland all give the region an extraordinary timelessness.
Mende – Valence
Valence old town
The old town of Valence is ideal for a spot of historical sightseeing. Of particular interest is the Maison de Tetes, a 16th century house decorated with representations of time, fortune, medicine and more. Close by, the Roman cathedral and narrow medieval streets offer plenty of interest to curious visitors.
Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – La Toussuire
Once a popular destination for the wealthy due to the healing properties of its waters, Aix-les-Bains is a spa town that offers thermal baths and hydrotherapy to revitalise visitors. For those looking for something more active, there are lots of water sports to enjoy, or simply relax on one of the beaches surrounding Lake Bourget.
Sevres – Paris
One of the most spectacular palaces in France, Versailles is a lesson in royal ostentation. Discover the famous Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Grand Apartments and the beautiful gardens that extend far beyond the château’s walls. A word of caution though: queues get very long in the summer, so it’s best to arrive early.
Landmarks selected by French specialist travel operator, Belle France
For more information about handcrafted walking and cycling breaks and river and canal cruises across France, visit www.bellefrance.com or telephone 01580 849104.