Exploring the Road Less Traveled in France: Five Regions to Visit (2023)

France, a country known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, has been experiencing an upturn in Covid-19 cases recently. While the situation is not terribly dramatic, it has led to concerns both in France and abroad. The British government, in particular, has imposed quarantine measures on travelers returning from France. However, amidst these pandemic health concerns, there is also a strong desire among the French to return to a sense of normalcy and enjoy their summer. It's a delicate balance between prudence and restraint, with measures like wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and using hand sanitizer, while also supporting the economy and engaging in activities like dining out, going on holiday, and meeting friends at the beach.

For those looking to experience France in the future, when travel restrictions ease, it may be wise to consider exploring regions with lower incidences of the virus. These less-visited areas offer a chance to immerse oneself in the beauty and charm of France while minimizing potential health risks. In this article, we will highlight five such regions that have had among the lowest Covid-19 cases in France.

1. French Basque Country: Where Tradition Meets Natural Beauty

Nestled in the Pyrenees, the French Basque Country is a region that has managed to keep the coronavirus at bay. Its rugged mountains and picturesque coastline create a stunning backdrop for exploration. The Basque identity is deeply rooted in this land, with its white houses adorned with oxblood-red woodwork. The villages here have been the foundation of Basque culture, from farming and contraband to fishing and emigration to America. For a seaside retreat, Guéthary and St Jean-de-Luz offer beautiful beaches and a charming atmosphere. Inland, St Jean-Pied-de-Port is a must-visit, especially on market day when the mountain folk gather. The Basque Country is a place where tradition and natural beauty intertwine, providing a unique and authentic experience.

2. Roussillon: A Sun-Drenched Paradise

Perpignan, the capital of Roussillon, is a city known for its fierce sun, vibrant temperament, and festive atmosphere. It is also famous for being the place where Salvador Dali claimed the town's railway station to be the center of the universe, although the claim itself is more whimsical than factual. Perpignan is a gateway to French Catalonia, a region that has gained more panache in recent years. As you venture further south, you'll encounter a coastline dotted with rocks and coves, charming seaside resorts like Collioure and Banyuls, and vineyards that give way to majestic mountains. The region offers a variety of activities, from climbing and rafting to exploring the St Martin-de-Canigou monastery. And of course, don't miss the opportunity to savor the local specialty: anchovies.

3. Lot: A Journey Through Time

Figeac, often hailed as the finest small town in France, is a medieval and Renaissance gem that has preserved its architectural heritage remarkably well. Walking through its streets feels like stepping back in time, with the Célé River flowing alongside the town. Figeac is also the birthplace of Hollywood's Latin lover, Charles Boyer, and is home to the museum of Jean-François Champollion, the local lad who deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics. Exploring the Lot region means immersing yourself in the rich history and natural beauty of the area. The Pech-Merle cave, with its ancient paintings dating back 29,000 years, is a testament to the region's prehistoric past. Further along the Lot valley, St Cirq-Lapopie perches on rocks, offering breathtaking views. Other notable destinations include Conques, with its stolen monastic treasure, and Rocamadour, a village clinging to the cliff face.

4. Finistère: Coastal Charms and Breton Legends

The Brittany coast is a place of wonders, with its turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and dramatic cliffs. In the northern part of Finistère, you'll find Roscoff, a charming port town that was once a hub of maritime trade. Today, it boasts numerous crêperies and a rich seafaring history. As you travel along the rugged coastline, you'll encounter the Pays-des-Abers region, known for its stunning landscapes. A ferry ride to the island of Ouessant reveals a windswept isle that was traditionally inhabited by women while the men were away at sea. Inland, the Monts-d'Arrée region is shrouded in Breton myths and offers a glimpse into the region's folklore. With its natural beauty and cultural heritage, Finistère is a captivating destination for those seeking an authentic Breton experience.

5. Vienne: A Tranquil Haven for the Discerning Traveler

Vienne, located in western France, is a county that appeals to those with a mature outlook and a preference for tranquility. The city of Poitiers, with its outstanding architectural landmarks, serves as a gateway to the region. The cathedral, adorned with intricate statuary and reliefs, is a testament to the city's rich history. As you venture east, you'll discover the picturesque Anglin and Gartempe valleys. Angles-sur-Anglin, with its charming château, and the abbey church at St Savin, featuring world-renowned Romanesque frescoes, are just a few of the region's highlights. The Vienne region offers a sense of continuity and calm, allowing visitors to escape the noise and vulgarity of modern life. A visit to the Futuroscope theme park in Poitiers provides a delightful blend of history and futuristic entertainment.

Conclusion: Discovering the Hidden Gems of France

While the Covid-19 pandemic has brought challenges and uncertainties, it has also presented an opportunity to explore lesser-known regions of France. By venturing off the beaten path and visiting areas with lower incidences of the virus, travelers can experience the beauty, history, and culture of France while minimizing health risks. The French Basque Country, Roussillon, Lot, Finistère, and Vienne are just a few examples of regions that offer a unique and authentic experience. Whether you're seeking natural beauty, historical landmarks, or a tranquil escape, these hidden gems of France are waiting to be discovered. So, when the time comes to travel to France again, consider taking the road less traveled and embark on a journey of exploration and discovery.


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