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France overtourism: five alternatives to the most popular destinations

The French government says 80% of tourists in France focus on just 20% of the country

Argeles-Sur-Mer is often described as an alternative to the French Riviera Pic: Irina Papoyan / Shutterstock

With France the world’s most-visited country, its government has set out a plan to regulate tourist flows at the most popular sites. 

Tourism Minister Olivia Gregoire said she wanted to guard against "overtourism" that she said is threatening "the environment, the quality of life for locals, and the experiences for its visitors".

The French government says that 80% of tourists focus on just 20% of the country, including the Eiffel Tower, Mont Saint-Michel and the French Riviera.

With that in mind, here are some alternatives to France’s most visited attractions.

1. Swap the Eiffel Tower… for la Tour Montparnasse

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the world and is celebrated for its views over Paris. 

While it may be on a lot of people’s travel wishlists, anyone wanting to climb the 300-metre-high structure will have to endure the long queues first. 

What is more, there are other places in the French capital where you can get a good panorama.  

Short of having a rooftop terrace - the Parisian dream! - the department store Galeries Lafayette offers a magnificent view over Paris. It has the added bonuses of being free and having the Eiffel Tower included in the view.

However, if a tower experience is what you crave, the Tour Montparnasse offers panoramic views of the city and boasts “the most beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and all of Paris from 210m high!” 

2. Swap the Riviera… for the Vermillion Coast

The French Riviera - or the Côte d'Azur in French - has always been popular with Anglophone tourists.

Its appeal only seems to be growing with the explosion of “How to spend the perfect day in the south of France” videos on social media. 

However, what these videos do not tell you is that in the summer, trains, restaurants and bars there are overflowing with visitors. It often means that it is difficult to travel by train or get a table at your dream restaurant.

The Vermillion Coast - or Côte Vermeille in French - is located at the foothills of the Pyrénées and offers a slightly more relaxed approach to a summer holiday than you might find on the Côte d'Azur. 

Like the French Riviera, it offers an irresistible coastal and mountainous landscape, with plenty of beautiful seaside villages and beaches. 

Located so close to Spain, you can also reach Barcelona and the French city Montpellier within about two hours, while Perpignan can be reached from the village of Argelès-sur-Mer within 25 minutes.

Read also: Bucket list trip along French Riviera in memory of romantic husband

3. Swap Les Calanques… for La Côte Bleue

While La Côte Bleue and Les Calanques are located nearby each other, the former is the lesser known of the two and therefore a good alternative to the latter. 

Not only is the hype around La Côte Bleue slightly less, it also has its own calanques (rocky inlets) and offers a similar experience with less of the fuss. 

During the summer, access to Les Calanques and La Côte Bleue is regulated so it is important to check details of your trip the day you plan to visit. 

You may also be required to book a time in advance to visit, as sometimes visitors are limited by number. 

Read also: Five of France’s most beautiful coastal walks to try this summer

4. Swap the Ardeche gorges… for the Eyrieux Valley

The Ardeche is a favourite with holidaymakers, well known for its good weather and dramatic gorges. 

Every year it sees an influx of tourists, so why not swap it for the “secret” valley of Eyrieux located in the north of the Ardeche? 

It is the perfect place for an active holiday, with cycles along the Dolce Via or canoe trips down the river. It is also up and coming on the food scene, with picnics made from local produce available from the former Chalencon station.

Read also: Ardèche prepares to welcome its first stopping train in 50 years 

5. Swap Mont Saint-Michel… for Solesmes Abbey

As a world heritage site, it is little wonder millions of tourists flock each year to the abbey dramatically topping a hill in Normandy. 

It is so busy, in fact, that sometimes authorities encourage people to postpone their trips, with photos showing hoards of people trying to climb the hill.

A good alternative is the Solesmes Abbey in western France’s Sarthe Valley. As well as also having a 1,000-year history, the abbey remains part of religious life today and is home to 40 monks. 

Related articles

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