Southern France: Ultimate road trip itinerary (with dog)
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I've written here many times about how much we love to travel to the south of France. For us it is simply the perfect travel destination: beautiful nature, varied landscapes, cute villages and a lot of savoir vivre. If you would also like to immerse yourself in the country and explore as much as possible, then I recommend this road trip route, which takes you through wild gorges, to white dream beaches and into the vastness of Provence. And of course this route is also ideal for a trip through southern France with a dog. We rented holiday apartments on our southern France trip with a dog and drove by car, but of course you can also travel with your camper.
- The best route for your southern France road trip with your dog
- The route at a glance with a map
- Three route alternatives: southern France in a week, ten days or two weeks
- Southern France with a dog: things worth knowing and the most beautiful dog beaches
- The best travel time for a southern France road trip
- Southern France with a camper: tips
1. The best route for your southern France road trip with a dog
I describe below what you can see on a 3 week trip and give you three more itinerary options below for 7 day, 10 day and 2 week road trips through southern France.
Part 1: Getting to the south of France: the best stops
First of all, there are quite a few kilometers to drive before you can dive into the south of France. The journey via the A7, which is also known as the sun route, is particularly popular. Here you have a really large selection of great places where you can make a relaxing stop. First there is Bourgogne or Burgundy, where you can take a break surrounded by vineyards. Dijon, Beaune and Cluny are among the most beautiful places that can be visited without major detours. We are personally big fans of the small and incredibly picturesque town of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. A village straight out of a picture book. Incidentally, here you will find a free weekend car park and cute, inexpensive bed & breakfasts in historic buildings. If you are traveling to the south of France via Switzerland, I can warmly recommend Annecy. The city combines mountains, a crystal-clear, fjord-like lake and a beautiful old town. And before you head back north at the end of your trip, I can only recommend the papal city of Avignon for a day trip.
Part 2: Cevennes and Ardèche - hiking in France's wild gorges
We continue south. I announced the wild gorges to you. And that's exactly what you can explore now. Because only about two hours south of Lyon, the gorges of the Ardèche are waiting for you. The landmark of the region, which by the way is the purest hiking paradise, is the 54 meter high rock arch Pont d'Arc. But in addition to the breathtaking landscape, there are also numerous old, picturesque villages to admire. Balazuc and Vogüé, for example, have received the prestigious award as the most beautiful villages in France.
By the way, a little south-east of the Ardèche, there is another national park that is even still considered an insider tip: the Cevennes, which you can find in the French Massif Central. The landscape combines breathtaking gorges with barren, endless plateaus and picturesque little mountain villages where time has stood still. The main attractions of the Cevennes are the Tarn Gorges and the Jonte Gorges. La Malène, Castelbouc and Sainte-Enimie are among the picture-perfect villages that you will find here.
Part 3: The wild Mediterranean coast of southern France: France's most beautiful national parks
Now it's off to the south of France, more precisely to the Mediterranean coast. White horses, black bulls and pink flamingos can all be seen roaming freely in the Camargue, untouched by civilisation. Dogs are of course allowed, but must be kept on a leash. But on the wide beaches of Plage de Piémanson and Saintes Maries de la Mar, they can romp freely in the fine sand again. Places worth seeing in the immediate vicinity are Arles and Nîmes. The village of Uzès is particularly picturesque, where you can make a stopover when coming from the Ardèche Gorge. And you can also combine a trip to the Pont du Gard, an aqueduct which is one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in France, with a visit to the Camargue.
Just a short drive from the Camargue, between Marseielle and Cassis, is one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe: the Calanques National Park. The fjord-like landscape, characterized by white limestone cliffs, evergreen pine trees and rosemary, is best explored on a hike. Don't forget your bathing suit, because dream beaches await you in the park, which are among the most beautiful in France. The bay of Calanque d'En-Vau is particularly beautiful and easily accessible. Dogs are allowed throughout the park.
You can find out more about the Calanques National Park and the fantastic hike in a separate article.
Part 4: Southern France road trip: Sunny break on the Côte d'Azur
It's time for a break. Because if you are already in the south of France, then you also want to spend relaxing days by the sea. This works particularly well near Saint Tropez, where you will find a dog-friendly dream beach: The Plage de Pampelonne. Miles long, with numerous beach bars, it is the perfect place for a relaxing holiday in the sun. Also explore the mountain village of Ramatuelle and the pretty old town of Saint Tropez. You will also find hidden bays all over the peninsula. Incidentally, there are recommended (dog-friendly) campsites directly on the Plage de Pampelonne. In general, the section between Saint Tropez and Hyères is particularly well suited for a relaxed beach holiday with a dog.
Part 5: Southern France Road trip through Provence: from Haute Provence to the Luberon
Well rested, it's off to the wide landscape of Provence. In the northeast lies Haute Provence, where endless lavender fields and picturesque little mountain villages await you. And with the Verdon Gorge you will find what is probably the most spectacular canyon in Europe. Also visit the most beautiful village in France, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which is spectacularly nestled into a rock face. Insider tips are the towns of Cotignac and Aups, which are good starting points for exploring the region, for example to the picturesque Silans du Cascade waterfall. By the way: the best time to see the lavender blooms is early to mid-July. In June the blossom is not yet fully there and at the end of July the first fields have already been harvested again.
To the west you will find the Luberon, which is particularly relaxed. Find a relaxed holiday home in the countryside, explore the small villages and enjoy the breathtaking landscape. By the way, you can also go hiking in the Luberon, for example through breathtaking ocher landscapes, which let you experience a piece of Colorado in the middle of Europe, or in the gorges between Bonnieux and Lourmarin.
Highlights on your road trip through southern France
- Hike through the Tarn Gorge and visit the incomparably beautiful villages of the Cevennes.
- Hike through the fjords in the Calanques National Park
- Sunbathe on the Plage de Pampelonne near Saint Tropez
- Discover the gorges and mountains of Provence (e.g. Fort Bouox and the Verdon Gorge)
- Hike through wild ocher landscapes
- Stroll through the most beautiful villages of Bonnieux, Gordes, Lourmarin, Saignon, Ménerbes and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
2. Southern France road trip: The route at a glance
- Ardeche (1-2 days)
- Cevennes (optional) (2 days)
- Camargue (2 days)
- Calanques/Cassis National Park (1-2 days)
- Saint Tropez (2-4 days)
- Haute Provence/Verdon/Cotignac (2-3 days)
- Luberon (Bonnieux) (2-3 days)
How much time do I need for a South of France road trip?
I recommend three weeks for the route described, but you can also shorten the route very easily and adapt it to your needs. So even southern France road trips in one or two weeks are possible without any problems. Remember that you should plan at least one more night for the arrival and departure. I would now like to introduce you to the shorter routes through southern France.
3. Alternative route options
Southern France road trip in a week
If you only have a week for your southern France road trip, I recommend a first stop at the Gorges du Ardèche (for one night) before continuing your journey to the Luberon. Three days are enough time to extensively explore some of the most beautiful villages such as Gordes, Bonnieux or Saignon, the lavender fields and lovely nature. Now you have two to three days left to relax on the Mediterranean coast, for example in Cassis, with a visit to the Calanques National Park (preferably in autumn) or in Saint Tropez with its wonderful, spacious beaches.
- Gorges du Ardèche (1 days)
- Luberon (Bonnieux) (3 days)
- Cassis oder Saint Tropez (2 days)
Southern France road trip in ten days
Hast du zehn Tage Zeit, dann kannst du neben dem Luberon sogar noch in die Haute-Provence fahren. Besuche die dramatische Verdonschlucht und das markante Dorf Moustiers-Sainte-Marie ehe du deinen Urlaub an der Küste ausklingen lässt.
- Gorges du Ardèche (1 day)
- Luberon (Bonnieux) (3 days)
- Verdon und Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (2 days)
- Cassis oder Saint Tropez (2 days)
Southern France road trip in two weeks
For a two-week road trip in southern France, I recommend the three-week route described above without the detour to the Cevennes. Of course, you can also skip another stop here if you want to have more time elsewhere.
- Ardèche (1 day)
- Camargue und Umgebung (2 days)
- Nationalpark Calanques/Cassis (1-2 days)
- St Tropez (2 days)
- Haute-Provence/Verdon (2 days)
- Luberon (Bonnieux) (2-3 days)
4. The best travel time for a road trip through southern France
Southern France is considered a typical summer travel destination. And indeed, summer offers many advantages: the lavender blooms and bathes the landscape in a warm purple, the water of the Mediterranean Sea is wonderfully warm and the sun shines reliably almost every day. But you should also know that it can get quite crowded in summer and the high temperatures should not be underestimated, especially if you are traveling with a dog. For me personally, autumn is the best time to travel to southern France and Provence. Not only is it much quieter, it is also pleasantly warm. You can even count on up to twenty-five degrees in October. By the way, the time from March to May/June is similar, which is therefore also highly recommended. And if you are not afraid of cool temperatures and an increased probability of rain, you can have a great time in southern France even in winter.
5. Southern France vacation with dog experiences: How dog-friendly is France?
We are repeat travelers and have always been amazed at how easy it is to travel through the south of France with a dog. Our dog was a welcome guest in most restaurants and there is also a wide choice of accommodation and campsites. But of course there are always places where dogs are not allowed. This mainly affects beaches, but there can also be a no-dog sign on a hiking trail. Nevertheless, I would recommend any time for a holiday with a dog in southern France.
Where are the most beautiful dog beaches in southern France?
The most beautiful dog beaches in southern France include the Plage de Pampelonne (near Saint Tropez), the lonely bay of Calanque d'En-Vau in the Calanques National Park, the Plage de Piémanson and Saintes Maries de la Mar in the Camargue, the Plage de la Madrague in Sainte Maxime and Plage pour les chiens in La Londe-les-Maures.
6. South of France road trip with camper van
I already wrote it, this route is really good to travel with the camper. The south of France is also characterized by a very special camping culture. Here you will not only find numerous star campsites that offer pretty much all the amenities you could wish for, but also natural mini campsites (often run by private individuals) and numerous free camper pitches, especially at the hotspots, such as Saint-Tropez, the Verdon Gorges and above almost all the villages of Provence. Since wild camping or free standing is not allowed in France, these sites are a great, legal alternative. Incidentally, I find the Park4Night app very well suited to planning a camper trip through southern France away from the big campsites.
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