Cycling Destinations in France

You been watching the Tour de France for years and now its time to go and tackle some of the big climbs yourself. But where are they all? This page outlines the major climbs by area and also includes some other great destinations that you may not have heard of. Our destination pages will include all the detail on a particular area.

five people riding bikes along the Lourdes rail trail greenway in the French Pyrenees.

Where to cycle in France?

Like many people we grew up watching the Tour de France and always wanted to experience the climbs we had watched for so many years ourselves. Fast forward a number of years and we have ticked many of the famous climbs off our list and discovered the not so famous as well. This page outlines some of the main cycling area and lists which climbs are in which mountain ranges to help you plan where to go. Also included are some other riding destinations within easy reach of the Pyrenees and Alps as other options for your cycling holiday.

This page is not just for the road cyclist and will also assist those interested in cycle touring. Our last trip saw us cover 1,800km by bike across two different regions in France.

The Pyrenees

Located in the southwest of the country, the Pyrenees form a natural border with Spain between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Oceans. By car Paris is 8 hours, Bordeaux 2.5 hours and Toulouse 2hrs from the Pyrenees (Lourdes). Towns you may have heard of include Pau, Lourdes, Bagnères-de-Luchon, Ax-Les-Thermes and Foix. Listed below are some of the more recognisable climbs in the Pyrenees. This is by no means an exhaustive list of every climb on offer and our Pyrenees destination page provides detailed information on these climbs and more.

Col du Tourmalet

Hautacam

Col d’ Aubisque

Luz Ardiden

Col du Soulor

Col de Marie-Blanque

Col d’Aspin

La Hourquette d’Ancizan

Col du Perysourde

Pla a’Adet

Col de Val Louron-Azet

Port de Balès

Ax 3 Domaines

Col de Portet d’Aspet

Plateau de Beille

Col de Menté

Ax-Les-Thermes

Port de Pailhéres

The French Alps

Located in the east of country the Alps border Italy and Switzerland in places. By car Paris is 6 hours, Lyon 2.5 hours and Grenoble 56 minutes. Larger towns in the area include Grenoble, Le Borg-d’Oisans, Briançon and Chambéry. Some of the more notable climbs in this area are listed below. To discover even more rides and see what is on offer check out our dedicated French Alps destination page.

Col du Galibier

L’Alpe d’Huez

Col du Glandon

Col de la Madeleine

Col d’Ornon

La Plagne

Col de la Colombiere

Cormet de Roseland

Col des Saisies

Col e Télégraphe

Col du Lauteret

Mont du Chat

Col d’Izoard

Les Deux-Alpes

Col de la Croix Fer

Nice and the Côte d’Azur

Located in the south east of the country Nice sits next to the Mediterranean sea. It is 9 hours by car from Paris, 26 minutes from Monaco and just under 2 hours from Aix en Provence. Many of the pro cyclists base themselves in this area and you never know who you might see on your rides. Nice is hosting the start of 2020 Tour de France with the first two stages starting and finishing in town.

Notable climbs in this are include:

Col de Turini

Col d’Eze

Col de la Madone

Col de Vence

Col de Braus

The Vosges

A mountain range in the east of France, the Vosges sit near the German border. From Paris the Vosges are about a 5 hour drive. Towns in the area include Mulhouse, Briançon, Belfort and Montbéliard. The Vosges featured early in the 2019 Tour de France and will feature at the end of the 2020 edition with a time trial.

Climbs in the area inlcude:

La Planche des Belle Filles

Col des Chevrères

Ballon d’Alsace

Grand Ballon

Col des Croix

Other climbs

The infamous Mont Ventoux sits alone in the Provence region in the east of the country. It is located between the Alps and the Mediterranean. Bédoin, at the base of the climb is about a 7 hour drive from Paris, 1.3 hours from Aix en Provence and 3.5 hours from Briançon in the Alps.

South East France

There are a few other areas worth looking into that could both be linked to time in the Alps and time on the Côte d Azur. The first of these is the Vercors Region National Park which sits close to the city of Grenoble. This area offers stunning roads and scenery ranging from deep gorges to alpine mountain tops. The national park covers an area of 1,350 square kilometres and you could easily spend a number of days here exploring the network of roads.

Secondly the Gorges du Verdon are also worth a look. The Gorge itself is said to be the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA and stretches for 25km to a depth of 700m in places. The area is a popular summer destination and there are various riding options.

Lastly, the Mediterranean coast itself offers hundreds of kilometres of riding with the sea sparkling beside you. There are dedicated bike paths or lanes in places or roads.

South West France

The South West of France has some great options for riding as well and could be linked before or after some time in the Pyrenees.

The Dordogne and Lott Rivers offer many cycling options whether it be basing yourself in the one spot or cycle touring. The area is famous for its food especially fois grais, walnuts and truffles. Villages such as Sarlat la Canéda are like stepping back in time and definitely worth spending some time in.

You can ride from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean coast via the Canal des 2 Mers bike route. The total route stretches nearly 800km passing through Bordeaux and Toulouse before arriving in Montpellier. There are many options to undertake small sections of this or tackle the whole distance over a number of days. Follow this link to the official web site for more information.

Euro Velo routes

Euro Velo is a network of 16 cycling routes across Europe, Ireland and the UK covering a staggering 80,000km. The longest route is the Iron Curtain trail which is 10,400km and traces the border of what was once the Iron Curtain dividing east and west. Nine of the routes traverse France and you can discover them on the Euro Velo website which has all the information you need to find your way. While you may not want to tackle the entire length of a route, they are handy for shorter day rides as they are well marked and on roads and paths suited for cycling.

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