Holidays in the south of France are always special. Beautiful views, medieval castles, mouth-watering cuisine and amble sunshine set the scene for an unforgettable trip.
With roads which take you up into the mountains, through forests, and alongside spectacular beaches it's no surprise that road trips in the south of France are popular.
What is the best road trip in the south of France? The answer to this question depends what you are after. The south of France is incredibly diverse in terms of landscape. We have chosen four distinctly different routes which explore different elements of what the region has to offer...
French Riviera Road Trip
The French Riviera is a classically beautiful region of France. Its stretches of golden coastline, azure waters, glamourous hotels and restaurants, and fantastic year-round weather, make it a perfect holiday destination and one of the best road trips in Southern France.
The stretch of coastline is quite short and is possible to do as a day trip. Monte Carlo to St Tropez, which covers most of the French Riviera, is only 75 miles long and takes around 3 hours. However, there is so much to see in this part of France that road trip should be done over at least a few days.
The route starts in Monte Carlo, which is a stunning location. Aside from casinos, the 19th-century architecture, the exclusive marina, and luxury shops, make it a must-see. You can then drive to nearby Nice, which is 13 miles away, and explore the old town, visit the Musee Matisse (Henri Matisse was a Nice resident), or go for a swim or hike.
From Nice you can drive to Cannes in 45 minutes. Famed for its film festival, sandy beaches, upmarket boutiques, and luxury hotels, it is a rich town to explore. The next stop is in Frejus, 20 miles away, which has a beautiful cathedral and some interesting museums. The final stop is the jet-setters coastal town of St Tropez, known for its beaches and nightlife, which is an hour's drive away.
The Route des Grandes Alpes: discover the French Alps
The variety of landscapes which includes lush forests and snow-tipped mountains makes this 425-mile alpine route one of the best road trips in France. Whatever the season, the scenery is breathtaking.
The route was constructed between 1909 and 1937 in order of the French Touring Club, the route was designed to open up the French Alps to tourism. The official road number is D902.
Starting at Lake Geneva the route winds through numerous mountain towns and ski resorts, passes over the peaks of the French Alps, and ends in Menton. For those who love both skiing and driving, this south of France road trip is ideal.
The road starts at Thonon-les Bains and heads over the Col des saises. It passes through Beaufort and crosses the Col de I’Iseran. The route continues through the French Alps at high altitudes, including the Cols de la Bonette, which has the highest paved through road in Europe.
You can stop to ski at any of the reputable ski towns such as Chamoix and Morzine. If you travel there in the summer there are endless opportunities for hiking.
Dordogne River Valley
The renowned Dordogne River Valley is famed for its incredible landscapes, hundreds of medieval castles, and world-class vineyards. One of the great drives through France, the river route has something for everyone.
The Southern France road trip starts in one of France’s oldest cities, Clermont-Ferrand and finishes in Bordeaux, the total distance is 253 miles.
Clermont-Ferrand is surrounded by extinct volcanoes and the area is fantastic for hiking and backpacking. The prehistoric summits offer jaw-dropping views.
The next stop is 93 miles away in Tulle. The scenic D922 goes through the Chastreix Sancy Nature Reserve and Park and the views are fantastic. Tulle itself is surrounded by vineyards which are excellent for wine-tasting.
Bergerac is 90 miles further along the Dordogne route. This is a great place for kayaking, picnicking, and swimming in the river. The town of is one of the largest in the region and known for its art and history.
The final stretch of the driving is from Bergerac to Bordeaux. The D936 takes you through a number of picturesque villages and the Lac Bleu, an azure lake with a picnic area.
Bordeaux is known locally as “Little Paris” and is full of opportunities for visitors. The 11th-century Saint Andre cathedral and the Gothic saint Michel Basilica are UNESCO world heritage sites and the wine and gastronomy are out of this world.
The Spanish Border: Perpignan to Biarritz
Exploring the south of France along the Spanish border is a stunning drive. The route takes you over the Pyrenees and allows you to see medieval castles, as well as enjoy an array of incredible dishes.
There is so much to see in this part of France. From start to finish the route is around 350 miles and takes around 7 days to complete, allowing for time to enjoy the stops.
The south of France tour starts is Perpignan, the most Spanish of the French cities. Fantastic beaches, the caves and castles of ancient Roussillon, and the Gothic La Loge de Mer, leave plenty to do.
Driving north will take you on stunning journey through the Narbonnaise Natural Park, which homes over 2,000 species of plant and numerous hiking routes, and then you will be in ancient town of Bezier, the next stop. Bezier dates back to 575BC and has a number of interesting ruins and museums.
The next stop is the medieval castle town of Carcassonne which is 90 km west of Bezier. The castle itself is the main attraction, the medieval town is beautifully preserved within the castle’s walls.
After Carcassonne the route continues west into the spectacular Pyrenees, where can soak up the scale of the mountains. The D117 takes you on a scenic route to Lourdes, if you want to spend more time and travel higher up there are numerous smaller roads you can take off the main road.
The final leg of the road trip takes you from Lourdes to Biarritz. The final stop is on France’s beautiful Basque coast, a major surf destination with sandy beaches and sweeping views of the Bay of Biscay.