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More on ecotourism
Ecotourism in France - environment friendly holidays
France's natural environment, and how to enjoy it
Holidays in the country? An opportunity to get away from it all, from the hustle and bustle of city life and the pressures of work? Wondering where to go? Search no further, France is the answer.
With about 108 people per sq.km, France has a national population density only a quarter of that of the southeast England - yet France and southeast England are neighbours. No wonder so many people in England (and for that matter, people living other densely populated areas like the Netherlands) feel tempted to make the journey across the Channel or across the border, in search of the great French countryside.
And there is so much of it. France is the biggest country in Western Europe, twice as big as Great Britain but for approximately the same population: and it doesn't take a mathematician to work out from that, that France has a lot of countryside.
In the north, the French countryside is made up of flat land or rolling hills, remarkably similar in parts to the countryside of southern England - but with far less people and less traffic on the roads than in the south of England. But much of northern France is rich agricultural land; the wilder countryside is further south.
France offers fabulous opportunities for hiking and cycling too. There are hiking trails all over France, with a particularly good network in the hills and mountains of southern France. Some of the most popular areas for hiking are France's regional parks ; these are more or less the same as national parks, but under the responsibility of the regions, not of the French National Parks association. There are areas designated as regional parks in every region of France, some of them with particular attractions such as their scenery, their wildlife or their bird life.
There are also great opportunities for cycling in France. With tens of thousands of kilometres of country roads, and a couple of thousand kilometres of dedicated cycle routes, France is a great country for those who like to leave no carbon footprint when they travel. Cycling is particularly popular in northern France and in the Loire valley - which has plenty of fairly flat cycle routes: the French Atlantic coast is also popular for cycling, and there are cycling routes all the way from the Loire to the Pyrenees.
Fortunately, France - although mostly rural - is Europe's leading holiday destination, and virtually every part of France caters for visitors; even the rural parts of France are well provided in small eco-friendly hotels and bed and breakfasts, not to mention holiday cottages, known in France as Gites. In addition France has more campsites than any other country in Europe, and these include not just large campsites, but also a lot of small campsites - even very small campsites in rural areas. The popularity of some hiking trails, specially the more long distance ones such as those following the old Pilgrim's ways to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, has enabled small hotels and guest houses to survive in villages and isolated farms along the route; and in places where there is little other accommodation, hikers' hostels known as "gites d'étape" have been set up.
Whether for tent camping, or camper vans, France offers a wide choice of opportunities for campers.
Guide to the Auvergne
Information about franceCheap car hire in France
Happy camping! And don't forget the countryside code. Respect the natural environment, don't throw litter, clear up after you have camped or had a picnic, don't make unnecessary noise, and don't disturb wildlife.
Don't take motor vehicles (that means 4x4s, quads or motorbikes) on paths and tracks that are meant for ramblers and hikers, or otherwise unsuitable. Four-by-fours, quads and bikes cause serious damage to footpaths, which in turn causes erosion and makes them very difficult for ramblers; they also cause pollution, and spoil the peace and quiet of the countryside, which are among its great assets, and among those that most ramblers and hikers enjoy most. If you want to get your kicks by roaring round the countryside making as much noise as possible - and let's face it, some people do - find tracks and areas that are specially designated for this type of activity. In France, many departments have maps indicating the routes and tracks that are open to quads, motorbikes and four by fours.
Links above will provide you with information about the main popular, historic or natural tourist attractions in France.