The 10 best spots in France for nature lovers

  • Inspiring places
  • France
  • 7 min read
The 10 best spots in France for nature lovers

France is home to some truly incredible nature parks, filled with flora and fauna. Here’s a few of our favourite spots.

When you think of France and the French countryside, your mind might not immediately think of birds of prey, wild mammals, dolphins, and whales. France, however, is a great place to go nature spotting.

There are fantastic nature reserves and national parks to explore, and even taking a casual stroll during spring and summer you may come across beautiful birds and insects. Check out our favourite spots for nature spotting, plus the kinds of animals and birds you can hope to see.

Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique

Reaching into the Celtic Sea, the large Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique has a variety of landscapes to enjoy. Take a stroll along sandy beaches on Brittany’s west coast, trek inland along the river, through marshlands and over hilltops to explore this lovely part of France.

If you’re brave enough to trek through the marshes, watch out for the carnivorous plant, the sundew. This beautiful but deadly plant preys on unsuspecting insects, capturing their prey with colourful stalked glands. While exploring the river, you can find European otters and beavers, as well as an impressive variety of different seabirds. In the north-west of the park, you’ll find Huelgoat. This commune is home to stunning rock formations, waterfalls and rivers, and legends say that King Arthur hid his treasures in the nearby cave, La Grotte d’Artus.

Find your sanctuary at Huelgoat in Brittany

Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez

Located within France’s famous Auvergne region, the Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez has some of the most diverse natural wildlife that you’ll find in France. Made up of rolling hills and mountains, most of it remains unspoilt, so you can trek through Mother Nature feeling like the world is yours to explore. See if you can spot deer, wild boar, stoats, wild cats and perhaps even the timid black grouse.

When it comes to bird spotting, you’re in the right place. Look to the skies to see kestrels, black kites, eagles, and hawks, and see if you can spot them as they swoop down to catch unsuspecting prey. This nature park is one of the largest protected areas in France, so it is best to stay in the middle, in the commune of Ambert, using it as a hub to explore the rest of the region.

Parc Naturel Regional Perigord Limousin

Spanning both the Haute Vienne and Dordogne departments of France, the Parc Naturel Regional Perigord Limousin is known for having a multitude of different species of flora and fauna. In the spring and summer, you can see the stunning varieties of orchid, which are quite rare. It’s a good idea to wear waterproof shoes, whatever the weather, as this park has a fantastic selection of waterfalls, lakes, brooks and rivers just waiting to be explored.

Explore secret caves to see if you can spot a dozen different bat species and look closely at the water surface to find beautiful reptiles. Bird watchers will be in paradise, as the park is said to have over 110 different species of birds, so bring your binoculars! The park’s meadows, caves and forests have been home to mankind since the Old Stone Age, approximately 3.4 million years ago, and this is supported by incredible dwellings and tools, which have been found within the park.

Spot deer on the moors of the French countryside

Parc Naturel de la Brenne

Founded in 1989, Parc Naturel de la Brenne is in the Rosnay region of France, around six hours from Calais by car. Despite its young start, the park’s history dates the land back to the middle ages, with the lakes and ponds used for fishing by the monks of the abbeys at nearby Fontgombault, St.-Cryon and Meobecq. Today it’s a haven for wildlife, especially birds, with around 2,300 species living here, 27 of which are protected.

Explore on foot, by bicycle, or even on horseback as you discover meadows, forests, and the iconic wetlands. If you want to take your time, you can stay in quintessential French cottages that are dotted around the park, waking up surrounded by peaceful landscapes and wildlife.

Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park

Lying across the departments of Puy-de-Dôme and Cantal, this is mainland France’s largest nature park, covering 395,000 hectares. Many come to see the Puy-de-Dôme (an inactive volcano) and to walk up the ancient Roman footpath to its summit for views of the 40km chain of Auvergne volcanoes in the surrounding area.

This is the perfect place to hike, as the landscape is challenging in places, but has many routes suitable for families, all with impressive views thanks to the peaks and valleys. The Chaudefour Valley nature reserve is where you can see an incredible number of wildflowers, which attract butterflies in spring and summer.

France’s Auvergne Region boasts stunning rolling hills and mountains

Ardèche Mountains Regional Nature Park

You can experience six different landscapes here, the Boutières, the Vernoux plateau, the Sucs region, the High Cévennes, the Piémont cévenol, and the southern Cévennes, each just as captivating as the others. Dotted among them are medieval castles, villages with friendly locals, and an appreciation for the history of the area, shown in local cuisine and crafts. In fact, the traditions and skills are celebrated in various museums such as the House of the Chestnut (Maison du Châtaignier) at Saint-Pierreville and the Bourlatier farm at Saint-Andéol-de-Fourchades.

For those who love to combine nature with ultimate relaxation, the park is also home to three spa resorts, Neyrac-les-Bains, Saint-Laurent-les-Bains, and Vals-les-Bains, each using local flora and fauna in their treatments.

Ballons des Vosges

The Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Park covers the three former regions of Alsace, Franche-Comté and Lorraine, offering 14 peaks to hike, bike, or soak up views from. The Vosges Mountains are covered in a variety of woodland landscapes, with wildlife such as grey wolves, peregrine falcons, and deer spotted frequently.

There are numerous well-marked trails here, including some that are themed around the park’s history and culture. Some are focused on local food, such as the Cheese Route, while others celebrate some of the park’s 350 historic monuments including Les Trois Châteaux, tombs from the 11th and 12th centuries.

stone bridge on a pebbled beach next to a river surrounded by trees and hills under a sunny sky

Camargue Natural Park

This unique natural space is a wild and flat expanse of land between two arms of the river Rhone. If you’re not a fan of the hillier parks listed, then this is the perfect antidote. Rice fields, salt marshes, lakes, and reed marshes are all here, each will beautiful wildlife to spot as you explore.

Pink flamingos are just one of the many ornithological delights, many birdwatchers come to photograph here because it’s a peaceful atmosphere allowing them to get up close. You’ll also see herds of Camargue bulls, taking their time to graze and this area is where the ancient breed of horse, Camargue horse, is found. One of the oldest breeds in the world, their white hair makes them look particularly magical as they gallop through the shallow waters of the marshes.

The Cévennes National Natural Park

The Cévennes in the South of France is a treat for lovers of nature and history, as several hiking trails will lead you through Medieval villages, complete with cobbled streets, unique architecture, and picture-perfect views.

The National Natural Park here offers unspoiled countryside, with crystal-clear rivers, limestone gorges, and plenty of activities. Take a canoe out on the Ardèche and stop for picnics on the bank or a dip in the cool waters. Or, if you’re the adventurous type, the limestone and granite rock formations are often dotted with rock climbing enthusiasts.

Of course, you can simply relax amongst the greenery here too, spring and summer in the park produce a vivid show of over 1,700 flowering plants like Lady’s Slipper orchids, lilies and wild daffodils.

a fenced off path through trees leading into the distance

Landes de Gascogne Natural Regional Park, Aquitaine

In the south of Gironde, to the east of the Atlantic coast and the banks of the Arcachon basin, the Gascon Landes Regional Nature Park covers at least 315,000 hectares. Many come for the enormous forest, which has an ecomuseum at its centre, where visitors can learn about local materials and how they were used to create furniture, food, and much more, as far back as the 19th century.

A must-see are the lagoons in the park. These ancient ponds are created from strong winds building dunes that have grown their own unique flora and fauna and there are around 2,000 of them dotted across the park.

Inspired to go nature spotting in France? Start your trip with LeShuttle

No doubt you’ll want to visit at least all of the above natural spaces, we don’t blame you. LeShuttle can take you from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes, and from there you’re all set to become an intrepid explorer.

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