8 beautiful routes: France on a bike

  • France on a bike - great routes

    © Atout France/PHOVOIR

    France on a bike - great routes

    © Atout France/PHOVOIR

  • France on a bike - great routes

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent Mention/CRT Lorraine

    France on a bike - great routes

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent Mention/CRT Lorraine

  • France on a bike - great routes

    © Atout France/PHOVOIR

    France on a bike - great routes

    © Atout France/PHOVOIR

8 beautiful routes: France on a bike

France has more than 10,000km cycling trails and green trails. Vélodysée, at the Atlantic Coast, Loire à Vélo in the Loire valley, la Vélo scenie in Normandy and the Via Rhône in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes just to mention few. 

There are nearly 2,600 km of safe, marked routes on little country lanes, making up around forty dedicated cycle routes, Voies vertes [Green Routes], aimed exclusively at family bike excursions covering 20 to 50 km. Pedalling through different landscapes at a gentle pace, you will discover the countryside from a different and unique point of view; what a privilege!


From Givry to Cluny (in Burgundy), around Lake Annecy (in Pays de Savoie), from Bordeaux or Lacanau to Arcachon (in Aquitaine), between Saumur and Tours (in Val de Loire), from Toulouse to Castelnaudary, the Voies vertes [Green Routes], dedicated off-road trails, have been extending their reach over the last 15 years: a well laid strip of bitumen or gravel follows an old railway line, a lakeside shore, a reconverted forest path, a dyke alongside a river or the towpath of a navigable canal.

Ideal for a daytrip or longer, without stress – no car traffic – and fatigue-free: flat terrain through beautiful nature. Along the route one can find bike rental establishments offering trailers for children, typical bistros serving tasty snacks and superb sites in the middle of the countryside.


The Véloroute Européenne

Then there is the Véloroute européenne [European cycle route] concept, which aims to extend and connect the various networks, in order to offer much longer excursions, covering several hundred kilometres through France and Europe.


The idea is to take smaller, less busy routes that have been carefully chosen and marked. This allows unrushed cycle-tourists to undertake regional tours, such as in the Luberon massif, covering 231 km or more, or else making a long trip, along the Loire (Loire à vélo [Loire by bike]) for 800 km, and even go further than that!


Beyond the borders, Véloroutes [Cycle routes] become Eurovélo [Euro-bike] trails: 12 European projects are now under way, such as the Loire-Danube or Lake Geneva-Mediterranean routes, even if completion is still a few years off!



Star destinations:

The Loire by bike
The first complete section of the Eurovélo 6 is in place in Val de Loire, running along riverside dykes and country lanes, dotted with wonderful castles. Magical!

The first Green Route, in Burgundy
This route was a pioneer back in 1996, running between Givry and Cluny (famous for its abbey). Its two ends have now been extended, to link the Digoin and the Mâconnais along 120 km.

Burgundy by bike
The Canal du Nivernais, which links the river basins of the Loire and the Seine, offers 180 km of riverbank that one can cycle along. And then there is the Canal du Centre, the Yonne and the Saône to fully enjoy the “green bike” potential of this wonderful region.

Champagne-Ardenne by bike

Cycling through Champagne-Ardenne, the landscape unfolds at a speed chosen by the tourists themselves. 400 km of green routes, running beside lakes or through the countryside, are open to everyone. This is an opportunity to discover the many aspects of the region, with its varied terrain and its little country roads that are calm, quiet and accessible to all.

The Canal du Midi, between Toulouse and the Lauragais
This unique and magnificent example of 17th century civil engineering is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Canal du Midi promises beautiful bike trips along its banks, particularly between Toulouse and Castelnaudary, for about 45 km.

The Roger Lapébie trail

...a jewel of rural cycling in the Gironde. From Latresne (on the edge of Bordeaux) to Sauveterre-en-Guyenne, this 50 km trail is an emblem of Aquitaine, a very prolific region for “green cycling”, with hundreds of kilometres running between pine trees and dunes, along the sea coast of the Landes, between the Gironde and the Basque Country. Some trails take old routes once used by the “tappers”, those forest dwellers who collected pine sap (resin) for the chemical and cosmetics industries.

A Green Route in the Hautes-Vosges
These 54 km snake through the Vosges massif (to the south of Bresse), along the floor of the high Valley of the Moselle, which at this point is still a little mountain stream.

A Green Route in Lorraine
A network of three routes stretch across four Lorraine départements.

Luberon by bike
A 231 km circuit crosses and encircles the regional nature park of the Luberon, running along country lanes and safe cycle paths (18 km near to Apt and Bonnieux, which are amongst the most beautiful hilltop villages). The route does have a few steep sections, but such is the Provencal relief!



Practical information:  

Association française des Voies vertes et Véloroutes [French Association for Green Routes and Cycle Routes]

This pioneering website offers a search engine to help one choose from among the 280 cycle routes in France. The Af3v brings together the FFCT (Cycle-touring Federation), the Fubicy (Urban Cyclists Federation), the FFRS (Roller-skating Federation) and many local associations that are launching regional projects. This is a key source of information. 

Another association dedicated to the success of the Voies vertes [Green Routes] 

This site received an award from the FNCDT (National Federation of Departmental Tourism Committees); it provides an interactive map of France that is very informative and very practical: one glance is enough to find out all you need. 

Eurovélo 6:

an example of a European Cycle Route From the Atlantic to the Black Sea; from the Pays de Loire to Romania, by following the course of the Loire, then the canals of Burgundy and the Doubs valley (in Franche-Comté) before entering Germany and finally cycling alongside the Danube to its delta!  The Eurovélo no. 6 seems to be the most advanced of the 12 continental projects. 



Some service providers:

La Bicyclette verte [The Green Bicycle], in the heart of the Marais Poitevin
This recipient of a Responsible Tourism Trophy runs excursions for one or several days in the surrounding area (Marais Poitevin) or further afield.


Vélo bien-être [Cycling well-being]
This “cycle-tourism” specialist offers twenty holidays, itinerant or not, with destinations including the Canal du Midi, the Périgord and South Brittany.

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