Oh, la France. Even though it’s not exactly a very exotic destination, the country still makes us dream. About endless lavender fields and wine. About cheese and great actors. And above all about the French je ne sais quoi, about their art de vivre. The French know how to live and that’s something a lot of us can learn from. Other than that, France is just the perfect travel destination if you want a bit of everything. Mountains, beaches or culture? No need to choose. You really can have it all.
Yet even though France in itself isn’t exactly a well-kept secret, there are still a lot of little-known spots spread all over the country. It would lead us too far listing every single one of them – and, quite frankly, we wouldn’t be able to even if we wanted – so in this article, we’ll focus on the French islands. Maybe you were aware of this already, maybe you weren’t, but there are a great deal of isles spread out in front of the French coastline, from the North all the way to the South. Some of them are quite well-known (like Corsica and the Île de Ré for example), others have managed to stay under the radar and keep some of their mystery. And even though we would’ve liked to keep these to ourselves, we couldn’t in good conscious not tell you about these five paradisiac spots. You’re very welcome.
If you’re on holiday at the Côte d’Azur and want to escape the crowds for a bit, hop on a boat and go to Porquerolles. This island is part of the city of Hyères and mainly consists of pine trees, secluded beaches and rocky coastlines. Since 2012, Porquerolles is officially a French national park, meaning it’s the perfect place for a hike or adventurous bike ride. And if you prefer the water, there are also multiple diving options around the island. Whenever you fancy a bite to eat or a nice hotel to get some rest, be sure to check out the village of Porquerolles itself, which gave its name to the entire island. With its port and picture-perfect little houses, it’s almost exactly what you have in mind when thinking about the Mediterranean.
2. Île de Groix
Situated in front of the coast of Brittany, Île de Groix is something totally different. The island is also called the Île aux Grenats or Garnet Island, referring to the minerals present in the ground, giving the sand a range of different colors, going from white to red. Another particularity of the island is the Plage des Grands Sables, a triangular beach reaching into the ocean, a very rare sight. If you’re thinking of visiting Île de Groix, don’t forget your hiking shoes as there’s quite a lot of coastline to explore. And if you’re sick of walking, just go and visit one of the small villages on the island – don’t forget to order a crêpe while you’re at it!
3. Les Embiez
Les Embiez aren’t actually an island but an entire archipelago. They include the Île du Gaou, Île du Petit Rouveau, Île du Grand Rouveau, Île des Magnons and Les Embiez – the last one being the largest one and having given its name to the archipelago. Les Embiez is less wild than the other islands we talked about so far, which has a lot to do with the efforts of Paul Ricard. There are restaurants, a port, several luxury hotels and vineyards. There’s even a little train, which gives you a little tour of the grounds. All of this set – of course – in a more than pleasant Mediterranean setting and climate.
4. Île aux Moines
Even though the name would suggest otherwise, there aren’t actually any monks to be seen on the Île aux Moines. However, it’s possible a hermit once lived on the isle, although nothing is certain on that level. There’s also a local myth talking about a monastery, a castle and two lovers, yet if you want to hear the rest of it, you better you visit the island for yourself. Of course, there’s more to the Îles aux Moines than just a name – the Megalithic remnants being the main tourist highlights. Of course, the Breton coast is always a sight for sore eyes so take your time and enjoy the surroundings. A nap on the beach rarely sounded so tempting.
5. Îles de Lérins
The archipelago of the Îles de Lérins is actually part of the mundane Cannes, although they don’t look like it. Contrary to the city itself, the islands are a true haven of peace. In total, the archipelago consists of just two separate isles. Île Sainte-Marguerite is a paradise for bird lovers and houses the Musée du Masque de Fer et du Fort Royal – partially under water. The second one, called Île Saint-Honorat, has been home to a monastery since the fifth century and up until today, a congregation of monks call the island their home. The fortified monastery is open to the public and certainly worth some of your time. Again, a perfect way to escape the crowds.