Visiting the South of France?
Walking the beautiful Promenade des Anglais in Nice and taking a stroll along the famous La Croisette Street in Cannes are definitely two of the most popular things to do in the South of France. Having said this, you certainly won’t want to miss doing the following:
Take a ride on a narrow gauge tourist train
While exploring the south of France you cannot miss the opportunity to hop on the “Petit train d’Artouste” and the “Le Petit train de la Rhune” scenic railroads. Both scenic trains run during the warmer months of the year (May thru October) and offer a great way to explore the scenery of Southern France.
The “Le Petit train de la Rhune” runs from the town of Col de Saint Ignace (Basque Country) up to the summit of La Rhune mountain, while the “Petit train d’Artouste” offers stunning views of the Gave d'Ossau valley in the Pyrenees.
If you had to choose, the “Petit train d’Artouste” easily offers the most spectacular train experience because the train rides along a twisting and narrow ledge just above the beautiful Gave d'Ossau valley.
See Prehistoric cave paintings
If you’re a fan of ancient art, you cannot pass the opportunity to tour the prehistoric caves of Font de Gaume (in Eyzies-de-Tayac), Grotte de Rouffignac (in Rouffignac Saint Cernin) and Cave of Niaux (in Niaux).
All these three caverns boast cool prehistoric rock art dating back more than 10,000 years ago, except Font de Gaume's paintings which are more than 20,000 years old. Both Font de Gaume and Rouffignac caverns boast the most impressive cave paintings. Best of all, they’re located a 20 minute-drive apart!
If you fancy seeing fantastic rock formations and enjoy a boat/train ride inside a cave, be sure you visit the Grotte de Betharram in Saint-Pe-de-Bigorre (near Lourdes) or Gouffre de Padirac in Padirac (south of Brive-la-Gaillarde.
Visit Southern France’s manor houses
One of the things you must do in the South of France is certainly visit the region's fortified manor houses (or chateaux). There are dozens of these manor houses, though the best fortified manor houses are located in the Dordogne department. These include the Chateau de Castelnaud (in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle), the Chateau de Beynac (in Beynac-et-Cazenac), Chateau des Milandes (in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle), and Chateau de Commarque (in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireui).
If you’re planning to rent a car, you can easily visit all of these chateaux since they’re located not far from one another. However, if you're pushed for time, be sure you at least visit the Chateau de Castelnaud to see the displays and demonstrations of medieval weapons such as a working catapult.
See Ancient Roman ruins in Nimes
A visit to southern France would not be complete without seeing the famous Roman aqueduct over the Gard River (Pont du Gard) and the Roman arena (Arenes de Nimes), both of which were built by the Romans over 1,500 years ago.
Arenes de Nimes is located right in Nimes and it’s open the public for guided tours. To see Pont du Gard, you need to hire a car or catch a bus from Nimes or Avignon (B21 bus from Nimes/ or 205 bus from Avignon) to Vers-Pont-du-Gard (where the aqueduct begins).
Alternatively, you can use a tour operator such as “Provence Tours Avignon” and “Provence Reservation” to organize the trip; or hire an electric bike from Nimes. It’ll take considerable longer on a bike (~2h) but you get the opportunity to stop along the way to take in the views.
Visit the ramparts of Carcassonne
If you would like to see what a proper medieval walled city looked like back then, don’t miss visiting the city of Carcassonne, which is one of the oldest settlements in southern France (founded in 5th century).
Carcassonne is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and boasts one of the most impressive defensive medieval walls (double walls) ever built in Europe. Best thing about the ramparts of Carcassonne is that you can walk the inner walls as well as the entire length of the outer walls.
Tour the Airbus Factory in Toulouse
If you’re into plane spotting, you certainly won’t want to miss visiting the Airbus assembly line (where the Concorde used to built) in Toulouse to learn in more detail about the famous Airbus A380 passenger carrier aircraft.
The tour lasts approximately 60 minutes and it’s totally worth it (even if you aren't into planes) if only to see the incredible process in building an aircraft!
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