Explore 5 of France’s least populated departments

Explore 5 of France’s least populated departments

Get away from the tourist crowds in these rural destinations


As France’s least populated department, Lozère is somewhere you can truly escape. It’s ideal for hikers, encompassing four mountain ranges. Other natural wonders include the Gorges du Tarn canyon, a mecca for kayakers and climbers.

Population: 75,700

Prefecture: Mende

Must-visit attraction: The Cévennes National Park for all kinds of outdoor fun

Must-try food: La pouteille, a deliciously rich beef and pork stew


Nestled in the heart of France is this bucolic department where cows outnumber people! Visit Aubusson, famous for its tapestries, and historic Bourganeuf, once the headquarters of the Knights Templar.

Population: 117,340

Prefecture: Guéret

Must-visit attraction: Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie, a textile wonderland

Must-try food: Le fondu creusois (yep, not fondue!) – often served with fries


The gateway to the Alps is home to many a beautiful commune, including Sisteron and Manosque, as well as lavender fields aplenty. You can also find what many call the world’s second biggest canyon (after the US’s Grand Canyon): the amazing Gorges du Verdon.

Population: 161,980

Prefecture: Digne

Must-visit attraction: The world-renowned lavender fields of Valensole

Must-try food: L’agneau de Sisteron, the famous local lamb boasting prestigious Label Rouge status


Paradise for skiers, Hautes-Alpes boasts ski resorts like Serre Chevalier and Montgenèvre to its name. The department also encompasses part of the Écrins National Park, an outstanding destination for outdoors enthusiasts.

Population: 141,784

Prefecture: Gap

Must-visit attraction: Briançon and its impressive Cité Vauban

Must-try food: Le tourton, a fritter-like parcel of savoury or sweet joy


Cantal’s capital, Aurillac, has the accolade of being the departmental capital furthest away from a motorway – a negative or a positive, depending on what you’re looking for! Laced with rivers and punctuated by extinct volanic peaks, it’s a magnificent landscape. It’s also renowned for its cheese produced by the local Aubrac and Salers cattle.

Population: 143,627

Prefecture: Aurillac

Must-visit attraction: Puy Mary, a 6.5 million-year-old extinct volcano

Must-try food: Le bourriol, a buckwheat pancake topped with anything from local blue cheese to cranberries


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