La Route Est Belle: 7 Epic Road Trips to See the Best of France
La Route Est Belle: 7 Epic Road Trips to See the Best of France - Wind Through Wine Country
Of France's many treasures, its iconic wine regions rank among the most alluring. Criss-crossing vine-striped hills and stopping at cozy wineries along the way creates an experience as rich as a vintage Grand Cru. Though many such drives exist, one rising favorite is the Route des Vins d'Alsace. Snaking below the majestic Vosges mountains in northeastern France, this route offers the chance to taste outstanding white wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminer straight from their source.
Traveling this route feels akin to wine tasting in a storybook. Fairytale villages with half-timbered houses appear around each bend. In Riquewihr, brightly painted buildings cluster below the ruins of a medieval castle. Kaysersberg enchants with a rainbow of pastel homes lining its babbling river. Ribeauvillé charms with its cobblestoned main street and hilltop castle. And everywhere, vines cascade down slopes toward welcoming wineries and cozy winstubs serving up flammekueche, the region’s paper-thin pizza.
Beyond the villages, stunning natural scenery abounds. The undulating vineyards unfurl toward the dark green forests of the Vosges. Looming above it all are the contoured crests of the mountains themselves. The Route des Crêtes offers an especially scenic drive overlooking the patchwork of vineyards. Hiking trails also let you experience the landscape up close. Climb through forest to the rocky outcroppings of the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, worth visiting for the panoramic views alone. The ruins echo with history, having been built in the 12th century, burned in 1462, restored in 1900, then used as a Nazi post in World War II before opening as a museum.
No doubt much history has unfolded over glasses of Alsatian wine through the centuries. Records of vineyards here date back to the 4th century BCE when the Romans cultivated vines. Winemaking thrived under monks in the Middle Ages. Alsace has passed between France and Germany, with each leaving their mark. The Route des Vins officially launched in 1953 and today over 100,000 people drive it annually.
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- La Route Est Belle: 7 Epic Road Trips to See the Best of France - Wind Through Wine Country
- La Route Est Belle: 7 Epic Road Trips to See the Best of France - Pedal Alongside Pink Flamingos
- La Route Est Belle: 7 Epic Road Trips to See the Best of France - Soak in the Rugged Beauty of Corsica
La Route Est Belle: 7 Epic Road Trips to See the Best of France - Pedal Alongside Pink Flamingos
Of all France’s birds, none capture the imagination quite like flamingos. Though not native, these spindly pink visitors flock to the Camargue, France’s wetlands near the Mediterranean. Here they feast on brine shrimp in the salt flats, bobbing their S-curved necks and posing like ballerinas. Seeing them firsthand makes for an unforgettable experience. The best way to spot them? By bicycle.
Cycling the marshy flatlands allows you to cover ground quietly. As you pedal the bumpy backroads between salt pans, rice fields, and marshes, you’re likely to encounter flamingos feeding or nesting. Local guides know the best areas, leading you to canals and ponds dotted with the birds’ signature pink. Since they’re wild, nothing guarantees a sighting. But longtime visitors report frequent flamingo viewings, especially during breeding season from April to July.
Even without flamingos, cycling the Camargue offers rare natural beauty. White horses graze marshy pastures, descendants of those ridden by French cowboys called gardians. In the reed-fringed marshes and glassy salt ponds, you’ll find herons, terns, ducks, and more birdlife. The diverse ecosystems lets you pedal through a range of landscapes in one ride. Head inland and you’ll cycle amid fiery yellow rice fields. Near the coast, marshes and lagoons open up, the ocean breeze in your hair. Always there’s big open sky, making you feel a world away.
While cycling, keep an eye out for historic Camargue churches. Their exteriors are modest, but inside you’ll find magnificent carvings, statues, and artifacts. Most date to medieval or Renaissance times when communities built churches at the heart of their villages. Peek inside Saintes Maries de la Mer, a place of pilgrimage for Roma people. Or visit Saint Luc Church, its walls made of reeds in ancient Roman style. Just be sure to park your bike outside first.
To soak up more regional history, add a visit to the walled medieval town Aigues-Mortes. Here you’ll find towers, turrets, and cobbled lanes to wander. Or witness bull games at a ranch; cowboys show off their skill riding white Camargue horses around feisty bulls. Between excursions, sample local cuisine. Indulge in tender Camargue rice or salted bull meat, paired with full-bodied regional wines.
La Route Est Belle: 7 Epic Road Trips to See the Best of France - Soak in the Rugged Beauty of Corsica
Of France's many treasures, the rugged natural beauty of the island of Corsica stands out as exceptionally stunning. With its rocky cliffs plunging into the piercing blue Mediterranean, snow-capped granite peaks piercing the clouds, and windswept beaches of golden sand, Corsica encapsulates a wildness that enchants. Exploring the island by car allows you the freedom to soak in these landscapes at your own pace. As you cruise coastal roads twisting above picturesque villages, you'll understand why Corsica has earned its nicknames of Île de Beauté (Island of Beauty) and Montagne dans la mer (Mountain in the sea).
One of the top attractions is the UNESCO World Heritage listed Scandola Nature Reserve on Corsica's west coast. Here, vibrant cliffs in shades of orange, red and yellow rise from the sea. Seabirds swirl above and endangered species like peregrine falcons and Corsican red deer inhabit the maquis-shrubland. Visitors rave about the boat tours that bring you right beneath the towering cliffs for a true appreciation of their grandeur. The colors shine most vibrantly at sunset, so an afternoon cruise is ideal. Beyond Scandola, the coastal drives themselves feel like an attraction, each bend revealing new vistas. The windy road between Galéria and Porto showcases heavenly coves perfect for swims. Mausoleums carved into seaside cliffs pay homage to Corsica's ancient history.
Venturing inland, the island's mountainous heart impresses. The spiky granite peaks of Monte Cinto, Monte Rotondo and Monte d'Oro climb over 8,500 feet. Alpine landscapes unfurl with pine forests, cascading waterfalls and glassy lakes like Lac de Melo. Experience the grandeur up-close by hiking through the valleys and into the clouds. Trails vary from easy lakeside ambles to multi-day treks traversing mountain passes. Many visitors make the challenging ascent to the summit of Monte Cinto for panoramic views across Corsica and even to Sardinia on clear days.