Four amazing places to visit in France you didn't know existed.
When you think about France, the first places that come into mind are Paris, Toulouse, Chamonix, Nantes, Le Mont Saint Michel... but France has a lot much to offer, this country is full of wonderful spots for all tastes.
If you are planning to spend your vacations in France but don't want to visit the typical places, here are a few alternatives I'm sure you'll love.
The Dune du Pilat
Located near Arcachon, on the Atlantic coast, this sand mountain of 115m (377.2ft) tall and 2.7 km (1.6mi) long, what makes it the tallest dune in Europe.
You can go up to the top of the dune by using the steps next to the camp site, or if you don't want to feel as one more tourist, you can climb directly on the sand to the topmost point of the dune, and then go down by rolling on the sand. By doing so you might look like a child, but, hey! you're on vacations, you deserve some fun!
The view from the top is just stunning, specially in the evening, with the warm sunset and the sea to one side and the huge forest created by the dune, on the inland. And if you feel daring, you can always take a para-gliding class and enjoy the sense of freedom, watching the dune and the surroundings from above.
Le Palais Idéal, located in Hauterives, is a palace built in 1912 by Ferdinand Cheval, which took 33 years for him to build with his own hands, using all kinds of stuff he found along his route to work, such as shells or stones. Cheval was a postman who wanted to demonstrate by himself that anyone who works hard enough and put all his heart into something can achieve whatever he wants.
The palace is inspired in many cultures and ideologies, such as Greek mythology, the Bible, or Hinduism, among others. It has been an inspiration for artists like Picasso, André Breton, and Tinguely, and it is considered as an historical monument since 1969.
It is one of the most amazing monuments I have ever seen, specially bearing in mind that it was completely built by just one man. Here, every single detail has a meaning, everything has been put accurately on a certain place for a reason. When walking through its narrow corridors and admiring all his work from its terraced roof, you'll feel like in a fantasy tale.
If you love visiting monuments and historical buildings, then you'll love Béziers. It is one of the oldest cities of France and is located in Langedoc, near the southern Mediterranean coast.
This city is full of history everywhere with plenty of monuments and museums, such as the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral, in the highest part of the hill, or the Fine Arts Museum, with collections of worldwide famous artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Henri Goetz, or Hans Holbein.
You can also visit the Écluses de Fonserannes, a staircase lock on the Canal du midi on the outskirts of Béziers. The Canal du Midi was build as a means to join the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and the Fonserannes Lock is the most important work in this complex construction, representing the great achievement it meant for the country in the 17th century.
The Gorges de l'Ardeche
If you're into nature and sports, then this is definitely the place for you. This nature reservation is one of the most beautiful spots in the country.
Here you can do any activity you can imagine. Starting from Vallon Pont d'Arc, you will find the Chauvet Cave, which contains some of the earliest cave paintings known in France, dating around 30,000 years ago.
You can also go for a hike through its many routes, or practice adventure sports such as trekking, climbing, canyoning or kayaking, which is one of the most popular activities in the area. You can join to a group in Vallon Pond D'Arc to do some kayaking, or if you are an adventurer and prefer not to follow everyone, you can rent the kayak, take your tent and some supplies, and cross the entire river during a few days enjoying nature and freedom.