Life in France isn’t just baguettes and poodles; there are tons of opportunities to get active while exploring la belle vie française. Ski down some of the biggest mountains in the Alps. Capture the perfect photo of stone ruins atop Mediterranean cliffs. Paddle down the Tarn river with canyon walls towering above. Stay in a cozy mountain hut atop alpine peaks. Whether you’re a die-hard francophile or are just looking for an unforgettable summer abroad, an adventure in France is sure to get you fired up.
For a country that’s slightly smaller than the state of Texas, France packs a lot of interesting terrain into a small package. You can go from the mountains to the sea in a matter of hours, with miles of idyllic countryside sandwiched in between. Each region is perfectly suited for a different activity; whether you want high-altitude adventures, sandy beach living, or an urban experience brimming with culture, France has got your back.
Paris is no doubt at the top of many traveler’s lists, and for good reasons. The lively, modern French capital is considered a hub for fashion, art, and culinary trends. Get active by exploring the city’s historical sites on a bicycle tour or join thousands of others for Pari Roller, a weekly rollerblading soirée around the city. Don’t forget to stop by the neighborhood marché to load up on cheese and charcuterie for a picnic lunch along the Seine!
When you tire of the city, head out to les Alpes; France’s slice of this European mountain range is loaded with outdoor adventures. Get your bearings in a mountain town like Annecy or Chamonix before heading out for world-class skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or climbing. Spending all day in the mountains makes for big appetites, so take advantage of hearty regional specialities like tartiflette and raclette. You’ll soon understand there is no such thing as too much cheese!
For those who prefer sand and surf, la Méditerranée is the place to be. This famous coastline runs from Spain to Italy and has no shortage of palm-lined boulevards and laid-back vibes. Check out upscale Nice or the university town of Montpellier when you need a break from the waves. The entire coast boasts ruins that date back to Roman times, so make sure you take a helping of history along with your ratatouille.
If you can’t decide on one location, or even just one country, many adventure programs include France on multi-country European tours. Spend the summer visiting Spain, Italy, Switzerland, or Germany in addition to your French séjour and return home with a smorgasbord of European experiences!
Adventure Travel in France
Life in France is similar to many other countries, but for some reason, it just feels sweeter. Friends linger over dinner, month-long vacations are a fact of life, and almost everyone gets outside on the weekend to enjoy a moment en plein air. The French are experts at finding and appreciating leisurely moments, and the country is filled with opportunities for you to do the same.
Most adventure programs in France are run in small groups, allowing you to meet other travelers and take advantage of adventure activities in an intimate setting. For high school and college students, student tours are a popular way to see the sights and visit France’s notable tourist spots. These tours often include a set itinerary filled with activities such as hiking and paddling, as well as extreme adventures like ziplining or paragliding.
Other adventures in France focus on one specific activity, allowing you to get outside while also familiarizing yourself with French culture. Hiking adventures are popular so travelers can opt for forested walks along cool rivers in the Dordogne region or intense mountain climbs and gîte (lodge) stays in the Alps. Others may prefer to spend time cycling along country roads in Provence, enjoying a slower pace of life surrounded by lavender fields and stone villages.
Horseback riding is a national pastime and can be done in nearly every region; the country is packed with trails that are perfect for riding in any season. If you can’t get enough powder at home, check out a skiing camp that will have you riding massive lines in no time. Many adventures in France also include a homestay or language lessons to help you get the most out of your French experience.
Adventure programs in France are mostly short-lived affairs, packing a whole lot of activity into just two to eight weeks. For most students, this is perfect for a summer abroad, and luckily the weather tends to cooperate, providing warm weather and long, sunny days. If you just can’t get enough, you can always return on a longer study program at either the high school or college level too.
Costs & Affordability
Once you’ve decided that an adventure in France is right for you, the next step is figuring out how to finance it. France isn’t necessarily an expensive country, but those Euros can add up pretty quickly if you’re not careful. Luckily, budgeting and some research can make the costs of adventures in France more manageable.
Costs vary by program, but be prepared to spend around $3,000 for a two-week trip and up to $7,000 for a month or more. Most adventures in France include lodging, meals, and local transportation, but not airfare. Remember to budget for souvenirs, snacks, and personal items, too. Food costs are similar to those in other Western countries, and you can pick up un café and pastry for just a couple Euros.
You probably don’t have a couple thousand dollars just lying around, but there are ways to raise money to pay for your adventures in France. Travelers who are students may be able to earn credit for their time abroad, and use financial aid or scholarships to pay for certain programs. Otherwise, nothing is as effective as a part-time job and a savings account. It may take some time, but when you’re rushing through a gorge at full-speed on a zipline, you’ll probably conclude it was worth it.
Accommodation & Visas
Lodging in France is one thing travelers don’t need to worry much about; rooms are abundant and the biggest headache will probably be carrying your bags up three flights of stairs. Though quarters may be small, accommodations are generally quite comfortable in France.
Travelers in France most commonly stay in hotels, guest houses, or hostels. Be prepared to share rooms with others in your group (aka. you may need to bring some ear plugs), but you’ll also have a great opportunity to make friends with others from around the world.
You likely won’t need a visa to visit France, as long as your stay is under 90 days and you’re visiting for tourism purposes. There are exceptions to this rule, depending on your citizenship and the specific program, so be sure to verify this with your tour organization before departure. For more information on visas, be sure to check out GoAbroad’s French Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
If you’ve never traveled abroad before, France is great for novice travelers. Getting around the country is fairly easy, and most locals are happy to help you out (though attempting your question en français is always appreciated!). Common items you might need during your trip are widely available, and the cuisine will keep you full and happy.
Adventure programs in France are a great opportunity to try something new. You’re in a different country, with strange people, and it’s the perfect time to take a chance. Never tried surfing, eating escargots, or paragliding? There’s no better time than now. Just say oui!
While traveling in France is not difficult, be aware of the differences in French social interactions. Staring at others is common, but smiling at strangers is considered strange. What you interpret as rudeness may be a culturally appropriate response and actually not insulting. Take a moment to research cultural norms before you depart; this will help you understand your experience better and save you from many potential faux pas.
Spending time in France is a dream for many, and having the chance to dig deep into the landscape and culture is an immense opportunity. While you’re out there exploring, take the time to appreciate France’s beauty and history as you learn about its unique culture. It’s a complex country with many layers, and your first visit is sure to leave you wanting to return for more.