short guide to the
south of France
the French Riviera to the Pyrenees
See also; city guides: Nice
France; what's where....
Click any yellowed area on the
map to open up a more
detailed page or
For more detail, see Languedoc
d'Azur regional pages.
The area that makes up what the
French refer to as "le
is generally speaking the most popular tourist region in France, and
needs little introduction. It consists of the
coastline and its hinterland, from the Italian to the Spanish
borders, and is made up of two French regions, PACA or
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur to the east of the Rhone, and
Languedoc Roussillon to the west of the Rhone.
. The coastal region is very busy in Summer,
and travelling to the south of France by car on a summer Saturday can
be a nightmare experience; but the region has masses to offer, in terms
of climate, history, and landscape.
("la Côte d'Azur") is a small part of the south of France,
the thin coastal
strip from around Cassis (east of Marseille) in the west to the Italian
border in the east. It is a coastline that gets very crowded in summer,
though on account of the rocky coastline, there are still some quiet
and peaceful spots to be found.
However much of the actual coast of the French
Riviera is fairly heavily built up in many parts, and
accommodation is expensive, particularly in the most famous resorts
like St. Tropez, Cannes or Nice.
The mountainous hinterland, on the
other hand, the "Alpes de Haute Provence" the "Hautes Alpes"
the "Alpes Maritimes", is
very attractive, with its small villages and towns, many of them
perched precariously on hillsides or beside trickling rivers that
become raging torrents in the springtime. The southern Alps are
different from the northern Alps – drier, more rocky, and
less crowded. Briançon, capital of the High Alps department,
is the highest small city in Europe. And the Gorges du Verdon
deepest in Europe.
the southern Alps
Those who do not want to
spend their holidays being mass-grilled on a beach will prefer areas
inland from the coastal strip, notably to the hills and mountains of Provence,with
their dry landscapes and deep river gorges and valleys, or the valleys
of the Cevennes, more wooded and rural, or the
inland areas of the Languedoc.
The historic area of Provence (which used to include land to
west of the Rhone as well as the east) has a lot of historic cities,
such as Avignon with its famous bridge, Arles with its
Roman remains, the Camargue,
university town of Aix en Provence.
in the Languedoc
is the area to the west of the Rhone; it is known on the one hand for
its long sandy beaches, and on
the other for its huge
vineyards and "garrigue", arid rocky Mediteranean hills with their
scrub, aromatic bushes and occasional fields. The most historic city is
superb Roman remains. High Languedoc includes
flank of the Massif
Central mountains, a dry mountainous area a bit
different to upper
Provence, and cut through by deep valleys such as that of the Tarn.
Nimes' Maison Carrée - a finely preserved Roman temple
The Languedoc coast offers large expanses of sandy beaches,
popular modern resorts such as Cap d'Agde or Le Grau du Roi. For those
looking for lots of life and restaurants and bars, the Languedoc coast
has plenty to offer; but with its some 200 km of sandy coasts,
Languedoc also has some fairly uncrowded beaches, even in high summer.
southern end on the Languedoc includes the eastern end of the Pyrenees,
a natural land barrier between France and Spain. The foothills of the
Pyrenees are a beautiful mild part of France, famous for fruit and
flowers. It is an arid part of France that was frequently fought over
in the Middle Ages, and the famous "Cathar castles"
stand witness today to this troubled past. the eastern Pyrenees can be
discovered by taking an exciting journey on the historic Yellow train
up into the mountains.
For further west, towards the Atlantic, see Gascony .
Toulon, Cannes, Nice
the south of France:
See details on regional information pages: