When / Where / Why
Late May to early June, while it’s hot but before the crowds arrive. Parc national des Cévennes, south France. Go for the views, the hikes, the canoeing, and the calm serene atmosphere.
Best tip? Look out for the “Camping Municipal”
It would be difficult to find an unattractive place to camp in the French countryside; every place we visited was breathtakingly beautiful. However, if you’re looking at a map of France and trying to decide where to go, I would recommend picking one of the green bits (national parks, all with areas of outstanding natural beauty). Which one you choose will depend on where you’re driving from and how long you’re willing to drive.
We chose the Parc national des Cévennes, which was further to drive, but we really wanted to go to the Gorges du Tarn. We first spotted it on the map because of an incredible windy stretch of road nearby (near Les Vignes) which we named “the beast”. The views were incredible. The gorge itself was idyllic; slightly cooler in the mornings than the surrounding countryside, which made sleeping in a tent more comfortable. The evenings were warmer, and a quick dip in the river made it easy to cool down.
We camped at one of the small campsites that line the road parallel to the river; after checking out a few places we settled in one which was almost empty and allowed us to camp right next to the river (and they had no problem with us using our fire pit to make a fire to cook). I can’t remember the name of it but none of the camping places had clear names and signage, you just need to go in and have a look.
There are also loads of stops along the road where you can rent canoes – we booked an 11km trip for 16€. They said it would take about 3 hours, which we thought seemed like a long time, after all it was all downstream! But actually, it did take about 2hr 45m – including a few stops on the way for photos and snacks.
We also stayed at some other gorgeous campsites on our journey to and from the Gorge du Tarn. We didn’t plan or book them in advance, and many are not available online anyway. All you need to do is look out for signs saying “Camping Municipal”. I’m not sure of the exact translation, but they are clean, well-maintained campsites that are usually cheaper than other options; we paid from €2 to €4.50 a night each on average. In return we found beautiful campsites with free showers(you often have to pay extra in England) and a friendly atmosphere. They are usually located on the outskirts of towns and villages, and marked on road signs.
If you are heading to France this summer I hope you will consider camping – the main thing I took away from the experience was the wonderful feeling of calm when the sun is going down and all you can hear are birds and crickets – brilliant!