With the beautiful French Riviera, dramatic peaks of the Alps, countless vineyards, picturesque mountain towns, and of course the capital city of Paris, France has so much to offer for all travelers. If you’re looking to book a France vacation, plan your trip with an ecotourism mindset so you can ensure your travels have as positive of an effect as possible on both the land and the people.
Ecotourism is defined by the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved: visitors, staff and the visited”
The 18 regions of France boast countless opportunities for the food lover, the adventurer, and the culture lover—you’ll see why so many people every year choose a trip to France for a European vacation.
A Brief Background of Tourism in France
France has long been a well-loved country to visit—In fact, with its 89 million travelers in 2018, it’s the top destination globally for international travelers.
Of course, the capital city of Paris is home to world-class museums including the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay where you can see a wide range of famous artwork. The iconic Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world and offers a magnificent view of the city from above. Yet another stunning spot many visit on their trip to France is Le Mont-Saint-Michel, a magnificent castle situated on an island off the northern coast that appears like it emerged from the pages of a fairytale book.
The French Riviera, or Cote d’Azur, in the south of France offers 115 kilometers of coastline, 14 ski resorts, and 3,000 restaurants making it a playground for residents and visitors alike. The 6,450 chateaux in France, particularly those of the Loire Valley, see plenty of traffic every year, and of course wine lovers flock to Bordeaux on their trip to France.
In addition to such diverse spots to visit, France also boasts well-known gastronomy; when you travel to France, be sure to try all the locally-made cheeses, breads, and much, much more.
France’s Approach to Ecotourism
There are a few things you can look for while you’re planning your France vacation in order to make your trip more eco-friendly.
France uses a variety of benchmarks to measure sustainability of individual businesses. Travelers can look for La Clef Verte label—French for Green Key—which is a rating for hotels developed by the non-profit Teragir in 1998. It is the French derivative of the international Green Key Global and is therefore consistent with international standards. By using a scale of one to five “keys”, five being the most sustainable, La Clef Verte is a good label to look for with hotels and restaurants.
There are also 11 official national parks throughout the nation subject to stricter regulation in regards to the environment. Four of them (Mercantour, Cévennes, Ecrins and the overseas region of Guadeloupe) have also signed the “European Charter for Sustainable Tourism,” which includes more measures of the umbrella organization of large European protected areas EUROPARC. Additionally, France is home to 45 UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are more heavily protected areas.
Specific cities use several initiatives to support more environmentally friendly transportation. The large-scale bike-share system in Paris, launched in 2007, is called Vélib and has stations throughout the city. The service lets people self-check out both normal or electric-assisted bikes, amounting to a total of 14,500 bicycles to help you get around the metropolis in a more eco-friendly way. Similar bike-sharing programs can be found in several cities across France, including Avignon, Nice, and Rouen.
Eco Adventures For Your Vacation in France
You can look for the Esprit Parc National label when searching for a tour for your France vacation—this is used by the 11 French national parks since 2015 to indicate tourism professionals engaged in preserving their local environment.
Ecrins National Park, in the southeastern part of France, is a mountainous region where you can explore mountainous terrain. While you’re here, you can take a half-day electric mountain bike tour, also Esprit Parc National labelled. You’ll bike along quiet roads and nature paths in the picturesque Champsaur Valley with a guide.
While you’re in the south of France, another great outdoors option is to visit the Calanques National Park, where you’ll find yourself surrounded by dramatic cliffs as you sail on the Mediterranean Sea. One excellent tour option is a hybrid boat tour aboard the Hélios—its “hybrid diesel-electric propulsion” offers little noise and again is Esprit Parc National labelled.
If you decide to travel to France, there are great activities for the whole family. With all of the things France has to offer—amazing food, diverse terrain, and fascinating culture—it’s a fantastic opportunity to embrace an ecotourist mindset.
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