Yes, we all know about the gorgeous cities in France! There’s a whole heap of cities such as; Paris (with all its secret spots), Bordeaux (with its historic centre) and Nimes (With its southern French charm) that always catch my eye – but France is so much more than just its cities. The whole landscape is awash with a vast network of totally stunning national parks in France that you just have to explore. Especially, if it’s your first time venturing into the French countryside.
It’s so easy for our minds to go straight to things like the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower or all that amazing cheese (god, that amazing cheese always gets me 😍). In other words, those big-hitting spots and things that everyone knows as typically French mean that we sometimes bypass some of France’s lesser-known natural landscapes.
I promise you, there’s a huge array of stunning landscapes and national parks in France that you’ll totally fall in love with.
Take a look at 9 of the best national parks in France.
1.) See the petroglyphs at Mercantour National Park
Mercantour National Park is one of the national parks in France that you have to visit. Perched in the south-east of France, close to the border of Italy – it’s one of the more unique National parks that’s dominated by the natural landscape.
The park itself has over 600km of hiking trails that wind through tiny villages and over forested hills. Best of all, if you head to the summit of Mont Bégo you’ll even stumble across some petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings) from the Bronze Age.
There are literally thousands to see, depicting everything from animals, weapons and Bronze Age people. It’s so incredible to see.
2.) Explore Vanoise National Park
Vanoise National Park is one of the very first National Parks in France and one spot that you shouldn’t miss.
The park itself is about a two-hour drive south of Chamonix and stretches across a vast landscape of flora and fauna filled the land.
The Park itself is actually part of a much larger project that actually extends into Italy, where the national park continues as Gran Paradiso National Park. Together, they make one of the largest alpine national parks in the world.
Oh, and don’t forget, Keep your eyes peeled for the resident wolves, lynx and native birds that hover around these woods.
3.) Hike at Ecrins National Park
Ecrins National Park is located in the south-east of France and is home to towering mountains, rolling meadows and rushing streams that make it one of the prettiest national parks in France.
The whole landscape is incredible for hiking in the summer months and, if you’re looking for a more ‘off-the-beaten-path’ adventure, then keep your eyes peeled for the impressive Barre des Écrins (which is the most southerly alpine mountain in all of Europe) and the Needles of Chabrières.
4.) See the waterfalls at Pyrenees National Park
Straddling the French and Spanish border the Pyrenees National Park boasts tumbling waterfalls, endless forests and sky-high mountains. If you’re a Mountain climber, you’ll love this spot so pack your carbineers (or, more realistically, sign up for a beginners’ climb in the park).
If you’re looking for something a little more gentile, pop over to the visitor Center in Etsaut which has a whole heap of time-specific information on trails and routes to see some of the prettiest falls, like; Cirque de Gavarnie.
5.) Ramble through Calanques National Park
One of the youngest national parks in France, Calanques sits in the southern regions and was only very recently awarded National Park status – but that doesn’t mean it’s any less amazing than the others. Heck no!
The park covers a coastal stretch that includes limescale rocks and a marine area. The best thing about this park is that it’s only a short drive from the bustle of Marseille, meaning you can easily have a twin-centre trip of culture and nature.
6.) Explore the Mediterranean at Port-Cros National Park
Port-Cros is one of the national parks in France that’s pretty unique! Not only is it a national park, but it’s also a marine park which makes it so different from the other protected areas in France.
The national park itself sits on the Mediterranean island of Port-Cros, just south of the mainland and is quite easy to visit by boat from Saint-Pierre Marina in Hyères’. Costs vary for the boat but tend to be around €40-ish (you can check the schedule, here).
Although swimming and beach time is allowed in the National Park, it’s strictly enforced and you can only bathe in a few designated spots – so make sure you listen when you arrive on the island. No one likes a fine!
7.) Explore the UNESCO protected, Cevennes National Park
Cevennes sits in southern France, amidst rolling mountains and stunning landscapes that totally make this one of the national parks in France that you have to explore.
The park is dotted with small local villages (providing excellent lunch spots), excellent hiking trails and unspoiled river gorges that are totally picturesque. Best of all, the whole region is protected, not just by French law but also by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
This rugged terrain is gorgeous. Oh, and don’t forget about the picturesque limestone caves of Aven Armand and the gorgeous village of Sauve (which is about 800 meters away from the park).
9.) See the gorge at Verdon Natural Regional Park
Okay, I know, technically not one of the national parks in France, Verdon Natural Regional Park is still a protected spot that you have to see when searching for idyllic natural parks. I mean, the Verdon Gorge alone makes this regional park totally worth a visit.
Make sure to stop off at Notre Dame de Beauvoir, explore the Verdon Gorge and hike through this stunning landscape. I promise, that you won’t be disappointed!