cycling france from north to south

How to See the Most of France on Your Bike

As one of the best cycling destinations in the world, France is home to a vast, intricate network of cycling routes that travel through beautifully-preserved towns, past glistening coastlines and across dramatic mountains. In order to get acquainted with this awe-inspiring country, it’s time to ditch the car and cycle your way through France. After all, France is home to the world’s most famous cycling race.

From Normandy to Provence, these are the best cycling routes in France for you to create your own cycling holiday. 

Travel to: France

How to see the most of France on your bike
Explore France

For a first-time cycle trip, France is excellent as it has good weather, great scenery, enough bicycle repair shops, and excellent food. Therefore there is no need to load up your panniers with large quantities. But be aware that the little towns in the countryside have very little choice, are closed in the afternoon and more often than not, they have ceased to exist.

Camping stealthily in the woods along a quiet bicycle path along the west coast was the highlight of my trip through France. I had the beach to myself. Being here, always remember to leave no trace, to collect your garbage and wash without using harmful soaps. – Cinderella, Cycling Cindy

How to see the most of France on your bike

Along the Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

  • Distance: 73 km (45 mi)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best time to ride: June to September
  • Notable stops: Castillon-la-Bataille, Bergerac, Monbazillac, Chartreuse du Bignac

Here, you can sample local delicacies and pedal your way across this historic part of France. The bike ride itself is relatively mild along the Dordogne, which is peppered with Romanesque architecture. Picture perfect stops such as the Castillon-la-Bataille; the site of the final battle of the Hundred Year War, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande and Chartreuse du Bignac will make this ride even more unforgettable.

How to see the most of france on your bike
Sunset in France

La Route Du Sel, Ile De Ré

  • Distance: 82 km (51 mi)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best time to ride: June to September
  • Notable stops: Ars-en-Ré, La Couarde, Loix

Take the famous La Route Du Sel and enjoy the comfortable loop around the island. Fuel up on oysters and pedal your way from the port city of Saint Martin de Ré to Saint Clément des Baleines and back.

How to see the most of france on your bike
Cycle through impressive scenery

The Deauville Loop, Normandy

  • Distance: 39 km (24 mi)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best time to ride: July to August
  • Notable stops: Hôtel La Chaumière, Denkmal Stadtgründer Auguste de Marny

The historic region of Normandy deserves your time and attention. An excellent bike route is the Deauville Loop, which travels through the historic area dotted with 19th-century structures. Start your journey in Honfleur and cruise along the port where classic-style houses stand tall. Trace the shore to Trouville-sur-Mer and make your way down to elegant Deauville. Here, you can find a great spot for lunch on the seafront.

The Vallée de L’Ouche, Burgundy

  • Distance: 44 km (27 mi)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best time to ride: June to September
  • Notable stops: Nantoux, Bessey-en-Chaume, Abbaye De La Bussière,  Château de Châteauneuf

A visit to France isn’t complete until you’ve visited one of its oldest wine regions. This country route, alternating between flatlands and steep climbs, takes you through Ouche Valley from Beaune to Châteauneuf in the north, visiting small villages, farms and valleys. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect wine, there’s nowhere better than this region.

Explore the delicacies of France

The Vineyard Route, Alsace

  • Distance: 51 km (31 mi)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best time to ride: May to September
  • Notable stops: Andlau Abbey, Mittelbergheim, Hôtel des Berges
Local villages in France

Discover the vibrant Alsatian way of life along the Alsace Vineyard Route, an artisanal paradise infused with culture, tradition and incredibly good wine. Follow the winding path south from Ottrott as you cruise through vineyards and charming villages to the commune of Illhaeusern – home to the famous Auberge de l’Ill. Take your time on this journey as there are many places worth stopping for including Mittelbergheim and Andlau.

The Lot Valley, Occitanie

  • Distance: 54 km (62 mi)
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Best time to ride: May to September
  • Notable stops: Pont Julien, Bonnieux, Goult

Explore the lesser-known side of Petit Lubéron where most of the ride is accompanied by a moderate incline. Start your journey in the heart of the valley and make your way to La Bastide de Marie and pass through stunning Goult. One of the highlights of this route is Pont Julien, a 2,000-year-old Roman bridge.

Along the Loire River, Loire Valley

  • Distance: 244 km (151 mi)
  • Difficulty: Expert
  • Best time to ride: Spring and summer
  • Notable stops: Chinon, Château de Chambord, Coteaux du Layon, Château d’Angers
Photo on

Follow the Loire River where rolling landscapes are dotted with grand structures such as the Château de Chambord, and medieval Orléans to the vineyard-filled Saumur to Renaissance Angers. This is a long one and might take up to a week, especially if you’re stopping frequently for castle tours and wine samplings, but it’s worth it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more scenic setting for a two-wheeled journey in France than in the Loire Valley.

I must say that the simple pleasures in France were among the best throughout our trip. I remember one night that we found a place to camp in between the bushes in Port La Nouvelle. We had a bottle of local wine that we bought in an ALDI. We had carried the bottle for about 15 km and we were very eager to open it. Every single bottle of wine that we had bought was better than the next one, it was unbelievable and also very cliche, but true. We set up our tents and started a fire. The night was specially beautiful that day, no clouds and the starts could be seen above. We also had camembert cheese, bread, olives and a package of different types of ham. We had a fantastic camp dinner. We put on some music ( Le temps de l’amour Françoise Hardy) and the mood could not have been better.

It was kind of the beginning of our trip in France and we were curious of what lied ahead. So basically next to the fire we ate our camembert, with bread, hams and wine. We listened to the birds at night and saw for quite a while the reflection of the moon in the lake La Berre. In the next days we got to see the enigmatic city of Montpellier and the historical city of Avignon. All of the little towns and cities we cycled by were beautiful. However the mood that our camping place near Port la Nouvelle on the second night of our trip in France, set the standard for all the perfect night we had in the country of France.

As much as I hate to admit it, the traffic and the car drivers can be hectic. Hopefully it was just our experience, but to the people who are looking to cycle France for the first time my only safety recommendation would be to be careful with the traffic. Especially on the small roads. We encountered many people that love to press the accelerator on their car.

Our other recommendation would be to take your time in France. There is simple to much to discover and see. Every little town and city has a world to offer. Try to loose yourself in the small alleys and buy from the local stores, especially wine, bread and cheese. If you like to follow a cycling path the River Rhone cycle path is very easy to follow and stops in very interesting towns. – Annika & Roberto, Tasting Travels

Michelle is Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. Her dream, next to travelling the world, is to own her own funky, boutique hotel with a small animal sanctuary so she can spend the rest of her days chilling with cats and hedgehogs. Follow her on Instagram .

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