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France: Which départements to choose for a van trip this summer?

Spring is here, and we're starting to see more and more vans and campers on the roads.

In 2023, the regions preferred by travelers in touring vehicles were :

  • Bretagne

  • Nouvelle-Aquitaine

  • Occitanie

It's not surprising that the coast is very popular, and this can sometimes lead to heavy traffic at the height of the season. However, this mode of travel is not always well received by the regions and departments most concerned. Indeed, not everyone respects the rules: some choose to park just about anywhere, which sometimes alters the image of "vanlifers". Paradoxically, Nouvelle-Aquitaine is probably the region where there are the most prohibitions, especially on the coast (height barriers, prohibition signs that are sometimes questionable but clearly visible as a deterrent).

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To alleviate some of these problems, and enjoy your vacation in a van or camper van while avoiding the crowds along the coast, here are a few ideas, starting from Pau.

If you'd like to spend your vacation by the water but don't want to limit yourself to the beach, you'll find plenty of other options for cooling off all summer long, such as rivers, lakes and so on.

Van de location aménagé GeoVan Concept à Pau dans les Pyrénées, Location de van aménagé à Pau dans les Pyrénées

The mountains of the Pyrenees!

Why not leave the beach behind and discover the mountains in summer? French ski resorts are increasingly offering summer activities, which are a great way to keep the whole family busy. Between hiking, water activities (canyoning, rafting, hydrospeed...) and other sporting activities, you won't have time to get bored. What's more, the scenery is often incredible.

Quelques idées :

  • Enjoy summer activities at Hautacam ski resort.

  • Go canyoning in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

  • Visit the great natural sites: Cascade de Gavarnie, Cirque de Lescun, cirques de Troumouse.

  • Explore the town of Lourdes.

  • Discover the emblematic peaks: Pic du Midi de Bigorre, Pic du Midi d’Ossau

  • Explore the Néouvielle nature reserve...

Van de location aménagé GeoVan Concept à Pau dans les Pyrénées, Location de van aménagé à Pau dans les Pyrénées


This department alone offers a unique experience. You're sure to be surprised by the discoveries you'll make here, especially if you enjoy wide open spaces. The plateau de l’Aubrac, the  Larzac, the Tarn and Aveyron gorges, the Rougier de Camares : each of these landscapes is more beautiful than the next, offering a much more pleasant tranquillity than on the coast.

When it comes to water activities, the choice is vast: you can swim in the gorges, rent a canoe, paddle or canyoneer...

Here are a few ideas:

  • The Millau Viaduc

  • Roquefort cheese cellars

  • La coulée de lave de Roquelaure

  • The waterfall of Salles-la-Source

  • Dine in a buron (former shepherd's hut) on the Aubrac plateau

  • Visit the picturesque villages of the Aveyron gorges: Najac, Belcastel

  • Canoeing in the Dourbie gorges

  • Visit the magnificent medieval village of La Couvertoirade

Dordogne and its 1001 castles

Did you know that it's actually a legend? There aren't actually 1001 castles in the Dordogne, but just over 600 (which is already a huge number in itself), as well as many large mansions and manor houses. It's a real treat for children, as castles often organize a whole series of medieval activities in the summer, which is ideal for having a good time. Between castels, chasms, prehistorics sites, charming villages and water activities of all kinds, the choice is once again quite vast.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Explore the Dordogne Valley and its picturesque villages.

  • Take a gabarre tour on the Dordogne.

  • Spend the day with the whole family at "Le Bournat" park, where you can step back in time with a variety of activities, rides and games for children.

  • Visit the most emblematic castel: Castelnaud, Beynac, Biron, Marqueyssac, Les Milandes...

  • Go back in time to prehistory by visiting some of the most important sites in the world: Lascaux, La Roque Saint-Christophe, Abri du Cap-Blanc, Musée national de la Préhistoire...

  • Take a canoe trip on the Dordogne's most beautiful rivers.

Auvergne (Puy de Dôme, Cantal)

How about a stay in the land of volcanoes and spa towns? Take advantage of the wide-open spaces, magnificent panoramas, relaxing moments and walks or bike rides through charming villages!

Auvergne has a rich heritage. Did you know that the Chaîne des Puys is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Let yourself be seduced by slow tourism, taking the time to relax at the foot of the volcanoes.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Visit the Puy de Dôme site, which offers a 360° view of the entire Puys chain.

  • Spend a day at Vulcania, an Auvergne volcano theme park.

  • Explore the Dhagpo Kundreul Ling Buddhist temple.

  • Discover the Queuille meander, Auvergne's "little Amazon".

  • Hike to Puy de Sancy, the highest peak in the Massif Central.

  • Enjoy Lac de Guéry.

  • Explore the Cézallier plateau.

  • Taste Auvergne gastronomy and cheeses.

The Ardèche

Another department full of treasures that deserves your full attention. If you're a nature lover, you're in for a treat: gorges, rivers, lakes, hidden caves, sheer cliffs... Breathtaking landscapes!

What's more, the Ardèche is home to some major prehistoric sites that will take you back in time!

Here are a few ideas:

  • Visit the famous Pont d'Arc.

  • Canoeing in the Ardèche gorges.

  • Take a walk on Mont Gerbier de Jonc, an ancient volcano!

  • Go on safari at Peaugres, the region's largest wildlife park.

  • Discover the Sompe waterfall.

  • Discover via ferrata.

  • Explore Grotte Chauvet, an important prehistoric site.

  • Bathing on the small beaches of the gorges.

  • Cycling on an old railroad line.

  • Enjoy a steam train ride through the Doux gorges.

Here are a few ideas for your next van vacation from Pau. This list is by no means exhaustive, as many other departments are also worth a visit.

What's certain is that France is overflowing with wonders and landscapes, each more beautiful than the last! Sometimes, all you have to do is explore the surrounding area to discover unsuspected treasures.

Discover our rental vans from Pau, it's here.

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