Summer is in full swing and for some of you, it may still be time to choose a destination for your next vacation. With the health crisis, many households are choosing to stay in France and take the opportunity to discover or rediscover the great diversity of our regions. But going on holiday in France does not necessarily mean heading for the sea or the mountains. What if this year, we crossed some of the most beautiful regions in a hotel barge or on board a boat to navigate ourselves, without a licence? It is entirely possible, and the French river network offers the possibility of marvelling at the landscapes along the water, throughout the country, from Occitania to Alsace, via Burgundy for example. Riding the canals also means stopping off to go inland and discover historic towns, cycling along the river and indulging in all sorts of rejuvenating activities, for a natural and 100% local holiday.
Enjoy an unusual and local holiday by opting for river tourism
France's rivers and canals are much more than just places to go for a stroll along the banks or to fish. The French navigable network, with its 8,500 km of waterways, offers a perfect setting for river tourism, a gentle, local and relaxing way of travelling. Choosing river tourism is the assurance of a "slow-tourism" experience to share with friends or family: those moments when you slow down time and open your eyes wide to enjoy the environment around you, in a serene and relaxed atmosphere. You can take advantage of the nature around the waterways to walk or cycle and have a picnic with a taste of local flavours. Between two sailing sessions, you can also cast off and take the paths that lead to the exceptional cultural and natural heritage along the waterways, and to the historic towns where you can enjoy the museums, cafés and restaurants.
River tourism fits perfectly into the framework of green and sustainable tourism. It is also a way to vary the pleasures by changing places and landscapes along the water. Sailing on the canals provides a great sense of freedom, and everyone can stop wherever they wish to discover the riches of each destination. And in these times of health crisis when many people choose to stay in the country, it's a wonderful way to change your habits, and experience a memorable French holiday.
Hotel barge or boat rental without a license
To fully enjoy the joys of river tourism in France, it is possible to be carried on a hotel barge or to become a sailor for the duration of the holiday. The hotel barges have a few cabins for rent. You can be guided from one stage to the next and you can have your meals inside or outside. Waking up on a barge is a dream come true, and the French river network offers the possibility to live this timeless experience.
The other option is to rent a boat without a license. This time, no one is there to pilot the boat for you, the adults are the ones who stick to the task and the mission is accessible to all! You then take place on board a real house on the water, a boat that houses bedrooms, a kitchen, spaces to eat and rest in the sun. All the conditions are met for optimal comfort, and you stroll on the water in total autonomy, according to your desires. Boat hire without a licence is open to families and groups of friends, and it's an opportunity to enjoy some quality time with your loved ones.
Where can I go on a river cruise in France?
To go on a river cruise in France with two people or a group, nothing could be easier! It is possible to go on a river cruise in France. In the South-West, in the Midi, in Brittany, along the Loire or in Alsace, river tourism allows you to marvel at the specificities of each French territory.
A river cruise on the Canal des Deux Mers is a must in this field. From the Atlantic, you can cross the Mediterranean. From Bordeaux to Toulouse, we cross the vineyards, the market garden plains of the Agenais and we stop in medieval towns with a certain charm. Then, along the Canal du Midi, a Unesco World Heritage site, the river trip takes holidaymakers to Castelnaudary and Carcassonne to admire the rich historical heritage and enjoy a good cassoulet on steaming plates. Later, Puichéric awaits us for a walk through the vineyards and the tasting of Minervois wines. Then comes the Camargue region and its breathtaking landscapes. The stopover is perfect for walking or cycling in a wild nature and where the fauna is so beautiful with its free horses and pink flamingos. The cruise on the Canal du Midi then passes through the Thau Lagoon, where you can breathe in the Mediterranean Sea, which you eventually reach when you arrive in Sète. This is too good an opportunity not to take the time to stroll along these canals, but also to go to the Espace Brassens and of course to the beach for a swim in the clear waters of the Grande Bleue.
Further north, the Centre and Burgundy canals offer another range of landscapes and experiences. Cruising along the Burgundy Canal, the Nivernais Canal and the Briare Canal allows you to cross green landscapes, contemplate a prestigious architectural heritage and discover the secrets of making some of the greatest wines in France. In Burgundy, the river cruise passes through hilly and green landscapes, plains that are a pleasure to walk through and where you can stop to watch the animals in the pastures. You can also stroll through the medieval town of Semur-en-Auxois, before getting lost in the vineyards. In the Loire and Nivernais region, wine is also in the spotlight, with Chablis and Sancerre. For lovers of history and heritage, the landscapes reveal places with centuries-old origins, such as the Saint-Etienne de Sens cathedral, the Pont-Chevron castle and its gardens or the Briare canal bridge, the oldest in France. One also regularly goes from water to land to climb on a bicycle. The towpath of the Nivernais Canal is a little green paradise for this rejuvenating activity.