Get out your climbing harness and hold on tight to your belay rope, because it's about to get hairy! We list the 5 most beautiful places to go climbing in France:
1. The Gorges du Verdon - High level
Climbers can make the most of this emblematic site. The Verdon, with its limestone cliffs overlooking turquoise waters between the Var and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence departments, is not just a UNESCO-listed site. It's also a mecca for rock climbers, attracting climbers from all over the world for over fifty years. This historic site offers some 1,500 routes on the white and grey walls of the canyon, mostly accessible to good climbers (from 5C/6A). The Hulk sector, opened in 2007, offers a wide range of sport climbing opportunities.
For further information: the Maison des Guides du Verdon is open all year round. You can hire equipment on site.
The Bonus: If you're a beginner, and less physically demanding than climbing, the via ferrata, which is very common in the gorges, is an excellent plan B - provided you're not afraid of heights.
Go by train: Aix-en-Provence SNCF station then go to the les Arcs-Draguignan SNCF station
2. The Gorges du Tarn - High level
We're going to be honest with you: tackling the 700 routes of the immense Gorges du Tarn is not for everyone. Climbing these cliffs - gigantic walls of dolomitic limestone (over fifty metres in some cases) - requires experience and stamina. For experienced climbers, however, the reward is well worth the effort: a breathtaking view of the Cévennes National Park: with a bit of luck, you might even spot a griffon vulture while climbing the Cirque des Baumes, one of the most beautiful parts of the gorges.
For further information : Nature Spiritin the small village of Aguessac, has equipment and guides to guide you.
The Bonus: There's no shortage of outdoor activities in the region, but you can also continue your adventures in the gorges underground. This is the birthplace of caving. Don't forget your headlamp!
Go by train: Alès SNCF station, Mende SNCF station, Millau SNCF station
3. The Calanques of Marseille - All levels
Get ready to visit one of France's most beautiful climbing sites. The Calanques offer some of the highest limestone cliffs in Provence. What's more, you'll have a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean in the background and the scents of the garrigue filling your nostrils. More than 3,000 routes rise above the waves and take you to the heart of the caves of the Mediterranean coastline. There are routes for everyone, from beginners to experienced climbers. If you're looking for a historic route, check out Nymphodalle, the first 7c - "very difficult" - route in France, opened in 1979.
For further information: Go to the DiscoveRent website for a 4-day introduction to rock climbing in the Calanques.
The Bonus: As long as you're so close to the sea, you might as well take a dip. The turquoise waters of the Calanques, home to over eighty protected marine species, are very inviting. In no time at all, you'll be swapping your harness and slippers for a mask and snorkel.
Go by train: Marseille - Saint-Charles train station or Cassis SNCF station
4. Céüse and Orpierre - High level
This is the crème de la crème. The queen of cliffs. The last frontier for climbers. Céüse, in the Hautes-Alpes, is a legendary wall, a four-kilometre long ribbon of limestone, with disconcerting blue walls, chiselled grey slabs and arches full of holes. Not surprisingly, it's a favourite haunt of elite climbers. While the iconic route known as Biographie - highly recommended for height enthusiasts - is only accessible to the most experienced climbers, the cliff also boasts around 400 other routes, with varying levels of difficulty. If you're travelling with children, the nearby village of Orpierre, aptly dubbed "the climbing village", is ideal for a family climbing day out.
For further information: To fully enjoy this site, we advise you to consult local professionals beforehand. The Bureau des Guides Genevois is strongly recommended.
The Bonus: Orpierre is nestled in the heart of the Baronnies Provençales park. The paths that cross these wooded mountains lend themselves perfectly to trail running. After a day spent defying gravity on the cliffs, enjoy the great outdoors!
Go by train: Railway station Gap or Laragne
5. Fontainebleau - All levels
No list of the best climbing sites in France would be complete without Fontainebleau. The forest's sandstone boulders are famous the world over. There are so many routes in 'Bleau' - over 25,000 - that even Google doesn't list them all. Some are quite famous in the region, such as Toit du Cul de Chien, La Grande Île and l'Alchimiste. It goes without saying that all climbers, whatever their level, should come here at least once in their lives, if only because this climbing mecca is only a stone's throw from our flat country.
For further information: The Pays de Fontainebleau tourist office has a list of climbing companies in the region. We recommend that you stop there before starting your climb.
The Bonus: Climbers, known in the region as "Bleausards", are not the only ones to enjoy this site. All kinds of nature lovers come here to enjoy the beauty of the landscape. An unexpected bonus: go-karts pulled by sled dogs. Reconnect with your inner fur trader!
Go by train: Railway station Bois-le-Roi or Fontainebleau - stop Avon.
In short, climbing in France is great!
Finally, let's not forget that the Alps and the Pyrenees are a hub of major routes accessible to all levels. DiscoveRent offers mountaineering courses that include major routes in the Alps. Another vertical jewel to discover!