5 Regions of France to Explore by Car | Avis Rent a Car

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For many travellers, the beautiful city of Paris is the main draw of France. With its iconic landmarks, irresistible food and charming neighbourhoods, the so-called City of Love has visitors falling head over heels. But venture beyond this bustling metropolis and you’ll find endless opportunities for adventure. From the lavender fields of Provence to the extravagant chateaux of the Loire Valley, France has something for everyone. Hiring a car is by far and away the easiest way to explore. You can pick up an Avis rental at any of the country’s main airports, train stations and city centres, and France’s extensive road network makes it easy to cover a lot of ground in one trip. Need a hand planning your itinerary? Here are five regions best explored by road…

1. Côte d'Azur 

Also known as the French Riviera, the Côte d'Azur is bookended by two of France’s glitziest towns – Cannes and Monaco. The former is best known for its annual star-studded film festival while the latter is famous for its lavish casinos and one-of-a-kind motor racing circuit. The drive between the two towns can be done in about an hour, but we recommend taking your time and stopping to enjoy some of the gorgeous beaches that are synonymous with the south coast of France. Popular spots include Antibes and Plage des Marinieres, in the fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer. A lot of visitors to this region choose to base themselves in the seaside city of Nice. Here, you can combine relaxed days exploring the old town and walking the beach promenade with easy day trips along the French Riviera.

2. Loire Valley

If you’re coming to France for the history and culture, a road trip around the Loire Valley in the north-west of the country is a must. The whole region has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its abundance of grand chateaux, medieval towns and natural beauty.

An essential stop on a road trip around the Loire Valley is the Château de Chambord (2 hours from Paris). Dating back to the 16th century, this place is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, with towers, turrets and no less than 400 rooms.

3. The French Alps

The Alps might be best known as a ski destination, but this part of France has plenty to offer the rest of the year. In the summer months, you can expect lush greenery, scenic walking trails and crystal-clear lakes that beckon you in for a dip.

Within easy driving distance of both Lyon (1 hour 50 minutes) and Geneva (about an hour), Annecy offers the perfect blend of cosmopolitan comforts and outdoor adventures. The compact city centre is home to craft breweries, Michelin-starred restaurants and a traditional old town. Lake Annecy itself is the ideal place to soak up the sun on a paddleboard, sailboat or kayak.

Drive an hour and a half east on the A40 and you’ll reach Chamonix on the Italian border. This alpine town sits at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in western Europe. Even in the height of summer, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the snow-capped Alps and hike down into the Mer de Glace glacier. 

4. Normandy

A few hours west of Paris, Normandy is a great region to explore if you don’t fancy a mammoth drive. From the Norman invasion of England in 1066 to the D Day Landings in 1944, this part of France has played a major role in world history.

Head to the coastal town of Colleville-sur-Mer to visit the American Cemetery and Memorial, where you can pay your respects to the American troops who lost their lives in World War Two.

An hour and a half south-west, on the border of the Brittany region, you’ll find the iconic Mont Saint Michel – a majestic 11th-century abbey perched on a rocky inlet and surrounded by water at high tide. This place attracts three million visitors a year, so it can get busy, but the beauty of having your own car means you can visit for first thing in the morning or early evening when it’s a lot quieter.

5. Provence 

There are few places on earth as spectacular as Provence in full bloom. From mid-June to early August every year, the region’s world-famous lavender fields burst into vibrant colour – making for some unbeatable views from your car window.

Pick up a rental vehicle from Marseille Provence Airport or Avignon TGV Station and head for the D6 Route de Manosque highway. Make sure to stop off at the Valensole lavender fields (1 hour 15 minutes from Marseille; 2 hours from Avignon) – the biggest and most popular in the region – for excellent photo opportunities and the chance to sample local delicacies including lavender honey and lavender ice cream.

Having a car means you can get off the beaten track and stop at some of the smaller, quieter fields too. Often you can simply park up on the side of the road for a quick explore.

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