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11 most underrated destinations in France

Aug. 11, 2022
10 min read
Jura wine region in France
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Vacations in France often mean a weekend jaunt to Paris or a glamorous sunshine holiday in Cannes. However, there’s so much more to the country than the Eiffel Tower and the French Riviera.

Since France lifted all COVID-19 restrictions for international travelers, now could be the perfect time to plan a trip to some of the country's more overlooked and off-the-beaten-path destinations.

From rural wine regions and stunning natural wonders to secret (and not so secret) French islands, these are 11 of the most underrated destinations in France.

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The Rhone River in Avignon. (Photo by Henryk Sadura/Getty Images)

Getting there

Getting from the U.S. to France is simple, especially if you’re planning to fly to Paris and rent a car to visit other spots in the country.

United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, British Airways and Air France, among others, all fly nonstop between major U.S. cities and Paris at various times per day.

Air France operates nonstop between most major U.S. cities and French hubs such as Lyon, Marseilles, Nice, Lille and Toulouse, in addition to Paris. The airline's Flying Blue redemption rates from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) start at 22,000 miles for economy and 57,500 miles for business class for one-way flights.

Related: Paris is reopening June 9 – here’s how to fly there for just 45,000 miles round trip

Religion, art and ancient Rome: Arles, Nimes and Avignon

We couldn’t choose just one of these charming towns in southern France, so you might just have to visit all three.

Arles is home to both a Roman amphitheater and Roman theater, among other ruins. In fact, the entire area is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town’s tourism board also offers a self-guided Van Gogh Walking tour since Arles inspired more than 300 of the artist’s works in the late 19th century.

Arles, France. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

Nimes also has its fair share of Roman ruins, including an amphitheater and Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard. The city also features the Jardins de la Fontaine, a regal green space rumored to be Europe’s first public garden.

Avignon, less than an hour up the Rhone River from Arles, is home to the famous Palais des Papes, the site of the Roman Catholic Papacy in the 14th Century. Families with small children should see the area via the Petite Train, a small train that takes tourists to see Avigon’s sites.

Charming villages: Cévennes National Park

This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve located in the south of the country in Lozère is proof that France has so much to offer beyond just the south’s French Riviera.

The national park boasts natural wonders like the Aven Armand limestone cave with massively large stalagmites, and the Gorges Du Tarn, a deep canyon that towers over quaint French villages and the Tarn River.

Castlebouc and the Gorges du Tarn, France. (Photo by GlobalP/Getty Images)

With numerous hiking trails and walking routes, it’s easy to get a dose of French greenery on foot, but you can also explore the park by car. Make sure to visit the fairy tale village of La Malène, which sits in the shadow of the Gorge.

Other worthwhile stops are Castelbouc, another stunning village built into the Gorge’s rock, and Sainte-Enimie, where you can rent kayaks or canoes and paddle down the river.

Related: 6 off-the-beaten-path places to see in Europe

When art and nature meet: Giverny

Fans of impressionist painter Claude Monet should consider a daytrip from Paris to see the famous gardens of Giverny, which inspired the artist to paint his iconic water lily series. The gardens feature the iconic Japanese bridge, which art lovers may recognize from Monet’s works.

The lily pond at Giverny. (Photo by dasar/Getty Images)

While the village is famous for its gardens, art enthusiasts can also enjoy the Impressionism Museum and the Claude Monet Foundation, as well as private galleries. For a stroll, enjoy many quaint walking paths with country views in Giverny and the nearby town Vernon. They are reachable by train from Paris in less than an hour.

The wild card: Corsica

While you’ve likely heard of Corsica, you may have never considered it for a holiday. Those planning summer jaunts often select the French Riviera, Spain’s southern coast or Italy‘s famed tourist spots like Capri or the Amalfi coast.

However, Corsica is an idyllic island, especially in the shoulder seasons like September and May when it feels delightfully wild and void of tourists.

Saleccia Beach, Corsica, France. (Photo by ODrachenko/Getty Images)

For scenic views, visit the Calanques de Piana. These iconic red cliffs loom over the Mediterranean Sea and are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the Gulf of Porto.

Don’t miss the quaint Genovese-inspired harbor of Bonifacio in the south of the island, or the white sands and green pines of Plage de Saleccia in the north.

Related: Beyond Paris: Choose from these 10 beautiful French islands for your next holiday

Wine and mustard: Jura and Dijon

Jura is one of France’s smallest wine regions, producing the one-of-a-kind, almost nutty-flavored Vin Jaune. The "yellow" wine is actually a white wine that’s closer to sherry than anything else, as it’s aged under a filter of yeast called a voile.

The region’s hilly terrain makes for a perfect vacation. Drive through the verdant, rolling hills and explore the vineyards, which sit at the base of the Jura mountains. It's one of the few wine regions to host a winter wine festival. The La Percée du Vin Jaune is set for celebration in February 2023 in the village of Cramans.

Dijon, France. (Photo by Julian Elliott Photography/Getty Images)

The nearby town of Dijon (yes, home of the mustard) is an ideal base to discover Burgundy’s wines. From there, you can set off on the wine trail called La Route des Grands Crus, which runs through almost 40 different wine villages, UNESCO World Heritage sites and gorgeous, rural French landscape.

If you find the mustard intriguing, visit the Musee de la Vie Bourguignonne, where you can learn more about the history of the town and its famous, delicious condiment.

A far-flung island escape: Île d’Yeu

For a picturesque island escape, head to the Nantes region of France, where you can catch a ferry to Teu from ports such as Fromentine or Saint Gilles Croix de Vie.

If you’re an #AvGeek or you just want to arrive in style, take a helicopter to the island from La-Barre-de-Monts. You can also take air tours and flight lessons over the Ile d’Yeu.

Because it’s the second-farthest island from the French mainland, Ile d’Yeu feels more remote than many of the other French islands, perfect for explorers who want to get away from it all.

The ruins of the old castle on Ile d’Yeu, France. (Photo by Benoit Gade/Getty Images)

Ile d’Yeu has much to offer visitors including sandy beaches, more than 40 cycling routes, quiet fishing villages and ruins of historic forts and old castles. Walkers can take advantage of group walking tours in different areas of the island; they can also explore spots lighthouses, woodlands and one of the most beautiful beach coves on the island, Belle Maison.

Secrets of Alsace: Eguisheim

Colmar gets all the fame, but Eguisheim is another one of Alsace’s German-inspired villages, so try to visit them both. Popular among the French, who’ve voted the village one of the country's most beautiful, Eguisheim is home to medieval courtyards, cobblestone streets and colorful Swiss-German architecture will charm any traveler.

Eguisheim, a village in Alsace. (Photo by Bernard Languillier 2011/Getty Images)

Make sure to head up to the three castle towers on Schlossberg Hill, which overlooks the village. Eguisheim has many small wine bars, tasting rooms and wine caves. The surrounding area offers a number of beautiful domains and vineyards perfect for tours and tastings.

Nature paradise: Lac Bourget and Parc Naturel Régional Du Massif Des Bauges

The glittering coast of St. Tropez isn’t the only spot in France with a beautiful beach. An alternative to the popular Lake Annecy, Lake Bourget is one of France’s deepest and largest lakes. It features an inviting, sandy shoreline with the backdrop of the Jura Mountain range.

When you're not swimming, you can bike or stroll around the lake’s paths. You can also hike up (or drive, if you don't want to break a sweat) to various viewpoints to admire the lake from up above, such as Mont Revard on the east side of the lake.

Lake Bourget and the Rhone River. (Photo by Gregory_DUBUS/Getty Images)

Just a short drive away from the lake, nature enthusiasts can hike and stroll in the Massif Des Bauges Natural Reserve.

Related: Skip the seaside and visit these European lakes instead

Bottom line

France is full of alluring destinations, from popular hubs like Paris and St. Tropez to tiny villages, far-flung natural wonders and wild islands.

Visitors can (and should) try to see as many as possible. There’s nothing wrong with a holiday in a more popular French destination. However, if you want to sample the best of France’s hidden gems (and some of their lesser-known wines, too), check out some of the areas on this list.

Featured image by Photo by barmalini/Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases