CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Fun ideas for active weekend breaks in France

PUBLISHED: 15:25 14 September 2016 | UPDATED: 10:42 15 September 2016

Cycling the Vélodyssey ©TORSET Pierre - CRTB

Cycling the Vélodyssey ©TORSET Pierre - CRTB

Archant

Need a mini-break to the great outdoors? Get active in France for a change of scenery one weekend and get a dose of exercise while you’re there

Cycling

With so many pretty and safe cycle paths and the birth place of the Tour de France, France is a great cycling country which accommodates all cyclists’ needs. If you want to bring your own bike, you’ll have to drive or take the Eurostar but it’s probably easier to rent one once you’re there. The prettiest cycle routes follow rivers such as the Loire à Vélo or even the coast like the epic Vélodyssey. There’s even a special train service for the Loire à Vélo in the summer where you can take your bike for free. But you should also try the lesser known cycling routes that take you through French vineyards or cross country.

Read more: Picturesque cycle routes across France to try this summer

Kayaking in the Gorges du Tarn ©ThinkstockPhotosKayaking in the Gorges du Tarn ©ThinkstockPhotos

Canoeing

If you’d rather not get entirely wet but still want to enjoy the beauty of the French rivers, then canoeing is a great option. With either two-people canoes or single kayaks, you can cover a fair distance in just a few hours’ time. Many canoe hire companies drop you off at the starting point and you simply have to canoe down stream where the van will be waiting to pick you up. For definite wow factors, head to the Ardèche Gorges and the Verdon Gorge but the small local rivers will be less crowded and equally as charming.

Hiking in the Pyrénées with the Midi d'Ossau in the background ©ThinkstockPhotosHiking in the Pyrénées with the Midi d'Ossau in the background ©ThinkstockPhotos

Walking

France has many great walking routes to suit all levels but they all have breathtaking scenery to offer. From day-hikes on the GR paths, to longer weekend-long treks with stopovers in mountain refuges, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The best spots for walking and hiking are usually in the French mountain ranges over the summer, such as the Tour du Mont Blanc, but for walking paths that are available all year, try one of the many regional parks that dot the country and the forest footpaths, or the stunning coastal paths like the Côte de Granit Rose in Brittany.

Read more: 5 easy walks in France with spectacular views

Canyoning in the Gorges de Galamus in Pyrénées Orientales ©VassilCanyoning in the Gorges de Galamus in Pyrénées Orientales ©Vassil

Canyoning

Not for the faint-of-heart, canyoning involves hiking, rock-climbing and scrambling, with some added hair-raising abseiling paths and squeal-inducing jumps into deep, natural pools. Equipped with wet suits and helmets, canyoners evolve in an often stunning and unspoilt environment among rough gorges and fresh, clear mountain rivers. Canyoning is mostly for the fitter travellers who aren’t afraid of heights but it’s great fun and the source of serious adrenaline. You’ll also get to see a region’s natural wonders from a unique perspective. Corsica has some incredible canyoning spots but you can also go to Ardèche, or Alpes-Maritimes.

Swimming at the baignade Montrichard in the Cher River ©Gerard JalaudinSwimming at the baignade Montrichard in the Cher River ©Gerard Jalaudin

Wild swimming

As pleasant as swimming pools can be, there’s something special about plunging into a cool river for a quick dip. Wild swimming is much more common in France than in the UK and there are many designated river or lake ‘beaches’ called baignades which are controlled for cleanliness and supervised by a lifeguard. Although mountain lakes are probably some of the most beautiful in the country, they’ll also be very chilly so if you prefer a gentle splash, head for some of the pretty lakes in the Morvan park in Burgundy or the rivers in the South-West and the Ardèche. Be ware to stay within the swimming perimeters on rivers and don’t swim alone if you choose to swim at an unsupervised spot.

Read more: Are these the best swimming pools in France?

Rock climbing near Milhac in Lot ©Jean RoussieRock climbing near Milhac in Lot ©Jean Roussie

Rock Climbing

For those of you who are very fit and wanting to experience some adrenaline-inducing sport, there’s always rock climbing, and with loads of impressive cliff faces and dramatic rocky outcrops, France has plenty to offer. Some of the favourite spots are the Tarn gorges, rock-climbing paths in the Alps with unique vistas on the Mont Blanc or in the Ecrins national park, and the vertical walls facing the Mediterranean in the calanques near Marseille and Cassis. There are plenty of climbing clubs in France to look out for.

A tricky rope course on a tree walking path ©ThinkstockPhotosA tricky rope course on a tree walking path ©ThinkstockPhotos

Tree walking

If climbing a vertical wall is not your cup of tea, then you could try tree walking. Tree walkers are safely strapped in a harness which you buckle onto a wire which is strung up between trees to follow an acrobatic path near the treetops. Participants complete different activities and exercises between the trunks while suspended several meters above the ground. With different levels to suit everyone, it’s a great child-friendly activity. Any substantial forest you’ll come across will probably have a tree walking centre.

Read more: Fun activities for children in France

Scuba diving off the beach of Korejou near Plouguerneau, Finistère ©TORSET-Pierre CRTBScuba diving off the beach of Korejou near Plouguerneau, Finistère ©TORSET-Pierre CRTB

Scuba Diving

Although France may not be the first place you can think to go diving, there are some beautiful sites where you can explore the underwater world. If you’re not a frequent diver, then a simple first dive session will give you a taste of the joys of diving as, usually, you will not go below 6m. You can dive off the coast of Brittany and Normandy where you can see some fascinating shipwrecks or head for the warmer Mediterranean waters and some of the marine natural reserves of the French Riviera.

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

More from Travel

Friday, December 7, 2018

These welcoming and wonderful Christmas markets are just a short trip across the Channel away, so what are you waiting for?

Read more
Thursday, December 6, 2018

When it’s cold outside, indulge your love of French food and drink at one of these stylish pop-ups and events closer to home

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Discover the Christmas delights of northern France with our top five Christmas markets in the region

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From lakeside jazz festivals to chestnut fairs, get stuck in with these events taking place across France in December 2018

Read more
Thursday, November 22, 2018

You can ditch the airport queues and long drives, and hit the rails instead, says Daniel Elkan. The French Alps has an abundance of ski resorts that suit families, easily accessed by train.

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Budget travellers can pay nothing to stay at bed and breakfasts around the world during Barter Week in exchange for manual, creative or teaching activities

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Find out when your favourite French ski resort opens and closes this year and start planning your ski trip to France

Read more
Winter trips
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Find out what events are taking place in France to commemorate the Armistice centenary.

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

The full route of the 2019 Tour de France was announced in Paris on 25 October

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

From hot air balloon gatherings to scallop festivals, there’s always something fun and unique going on in France in November

Read more
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now