Top Things to Do along the Route des Vacances 

Top Things to Do along the Route des Vacances 

Our pick of the many delights and distractions you’ll encounter on the Route des Vacances, from one of Europe’s largest arboretums to the former home of the F1 French Grand Prix. Note: This article is part of a bigger magazine feature called “Taking the Slow Road to the French Riviera.

France’s Route nationale 7 links Paris to Menton, passing through Lyon, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Cannes, and Nice. It is also known as Route bleue (The Blue Route) and (sarcastically) the Route de la mort (Road of Death) thanks to the summer traffic jams on the way to the beaches in the South of France. Until the 2005 reforms, it was the longest route nationale in France, spanning 996 km.

Get up close with nature at its most majestic on the Route des Belvédères © AD2T


Sancerre and the Canal latéral à la Loire

Take an 80km detour from the N7 at Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire onto the D955 to Saint-Satur then D920 and D45 to Mornay-sur-Allier, returning to the N7 via the D2076 at Saint-Pierrele-Moûtier. You’ll take in the wine village of Sancerre, the Cyclorail du Sancerrois, and the outstanding village of Apremont-sur-Allier (a Plus Beau Village) while following the pretty Canal latéral à la Loire.

Route des Belvédères

Directly off the N7 at Gervans, north of Tain-l’Hermitage, is the access to the Route des Belvédères, a short detour into the vine-clad hills of the Côtes du Rhône, where you’ll be met with exceptional views of the River Rhône, the hills of the Ardèche and the fruit orchards of the Drôme, as well as a chance to spy on the area’s birdlife. Stop off at observation points Belvédère du Puy de Serves, Belvédère des Méjeans and the Belvédère de Pierre-Aiguille.


Hike or cycle to Mont Vinaigre – it’s the perfect chance to stretch your legs © M. Rougy/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourism


Choose forest-bathing or dogsledding in Fontainebleau

Prepare for the long journey ahead with a soothing ‘forest bathing’ session in the Forêt Domaniale de Fontainebleau. If you’d prefer more exhilarating action, go dog-sledding through the forest with national champion Christian Perlwitz.

Fly high above the Loire Valley

Take a 30-minute flight in a light aircraft and see the Loire Valley and the surrounding vineyards from above with the Aéroclub de Cosne-Courssur-Loire. Or book a one-hour flight for the chance to fly the aircraft.

Take a stroll in the Arboretum National des Barres or join a guided tour © Caroline Mills

Hike or cycle to Mont Vinaigre

At 641m, Mont Vinaigre is the highest peak in the Massif de l’Estérel. It’s easily accessible on foot or by bike. Park at the viewpoint of Col du Testanier, 12km northeast of Fréjus, then set out on the 6.6km path via the Route du Malpey. You’ll have panoramic views of the Bay of Cannes, Fréjus and Saint-Tropez from the summit. An early start is recommended to watch the sunrise. Shorter walks are also possible from the Col du Testanier.

Watersports on the Riviera

Look to your fun side and view the Promenade des Anglais in Nice while parasailing. Several companies operate along the beach, where you can also choose tubing, banana boating and jet skis. Elsewhere along the coast, you can learn to sail with the Club Nautique de Nice, hire a kayak or paddleboard in Èze and go scuba diving off Cap Ferrat.

Motor fans will love Magny-Cours International Circuit © Nievre Tourism


L’Arboretum National des Barres

One of the largest arboretums in Europe, and holding the national collection of France, this botanic garden at Nogent-sur-Vernisson holds three separate collections of trees from five continents. Wander at leisure, take a guided visit (daily at 3pm) or take part in one of the many seasonal events held here.

Magny-Cours International Circuit

Motor-racing fans will be drawn to Magny-Cours, in the Nièvre department, the former home of the F1 French Grand Prix that still attracts world-class events such as the World Superbike Championships. If you’d rather be on the track than trackside (and you’re not fed up of driving yet!), book a Car or Bike Track Day, or an F1 Driving Experience.

From France Today magazine

Lead photo credit : Sancerre, renowned for its wine, is well worth a detour – leave room in the boot for a few bottles direct from the vineyards © Shutterstock

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Caroline is a freelance writer with a focus on European travel. She has toured all areas of France, but none more so than the Loire Valley where she finds the combination of rich historical culture, rural landscape and exceptional architecture – not to mention outstanding wine – an irresistible lure to return again and again. Says Caroline, "With the focus over the next three years on the Loire Valley's connection to Leonardo da Vinci, lovers of art, architecture and French culture are in for a treat when visiting the region with the many additional events and activities on offer." Caroline is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers.

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