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Sport and leisure activities

Aerial sports

Free flying

Paragliding and hang-gliding now takes place beyond the mountains, for example, on the cliffs bordering the meanders of the River Seine.

French Federation of Free Flying – t 04 97 03 82 82 - federation.ffvl.fr

Hot-air ballons

France Balloons – t 02 54 32 20 48 - www.franceballoons.com (in English)


Flags are flown on supervised beaches indicating whether or not bathing is dangerous or not; if there is no flag, the beach is not supervised.

Green flag = supervised bathing without danger; yellow flag = dangerous to bathe but supervised; red flag = no bathing.

The cleanliness of beaches can be consulted online:baignades.sante.gouv.fr (in English).


Bicycling is of course easier and more leisurely in less hilly landscapes, such as the banks of the River Loire, Sologne, Poitou and the Charentes and Vendées coastlines. The Gironde and Landes are also home to countless bicycling trails.

French Federation of Cyclotourism - t 01 56 20 88 88 - www.ffct.org

French Federation of Cycling – t 01 49 35 69 24 - www.ffc.fr

Canal and river boating

France is home to over 8000km of navigable waterways. The eight major river and canal networks are Eastern France, Brittany, Loire region, Centre/Burgundy, Charente, Ile-de-France/Seine, Picardy/North and the Southwest/Mediterranean.

You are not required to have a permit to rent a barge or riverboat, but you must be over 18. Craft can be rented for a day, a weekend or by the week.

French Waterways (VNF) – t 03 21 63 24 24 - Website in English. www.vnf.fr


The favourite destinations for climbers are the mountain ranges of Mont-Blanc, Écrins, Vanoise, Ubaye, Baronnies, Monte Cinto, etc.

Halfway between hiking and mountaineering, via ferrata ascensions make it possible for novices to discover the world of climbing, although different levels of difficulty of course exist!

French Federation of Mountains and Climbing – (in French). t 01 40 18 75 50 - www.ffme.fr

Dog sledding

This sport is growing in popularity on the skiing trails of the Alps, the Vercors and the Jura.

French Federation of Pulka and Dog Sledding – www.chiens-de-traineau.com

Donkey trekking

The Alps and the Cévennes, etc. are home to centres that organise donkey treks lasting from one day to a week.

National Federation of Donkey Trekking – t 04 92 34 23 11 - www.ane-et-rando.com


Sea fishing

Day excursions with professional deep-sea fishers can be organised out of most of the main harbours in France. Underwater spear-fishing is subject to strict legislation and it is advisable to enquire beforehand.

French Federation of Sea Fishing – t 05 59 31 00 73 - www.ffpm-national.com

Fresh water fishing

National Federation of Fishing and Protection of the Aquatic Environment – t 01 48 24 96 00 - www.unpf.fr


French Federation of Golf – t 01 41 49 77 00 - In French. www.ffgolf.org

www.guidedesgolfs.fr – List of golf courses by region (in French).


Paths and trails

Grande Randonnée (GR) trails, marked by red and white horizontal signs, enable hikers to discover a wide variety of landscapes.

Petite Randonnée (PR) trails are shorter and more suited to recreational hikers. Signs at the departure point indicate the length of the walk: blue – up to 2hr; yellow – from 2hr15min to 3hr45min and green – from 4-6hr.

French Federation of Hiking – t 01 44 89 93 93 - www.ffrp.asso.fr

France Randonnée – t 02 99 67 42 21 - www.france-randonnee.fr (in English).

Way of St James

Four main historic itineraries exist (that follow the same route taken by the pilgrims in the Middle Ages), all of which end at Ostabat (except the Arles path which goes over the Somport Pass); after Obostat, a common path leads to Santiago de Compostela. The paths are on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Information: www.chemins-compostelle.com (cultural, practical and logistical information) or Compostelle 2000 - t 01 43 20 71 66 - www.compostelle2000.com

Horse trekking

Signposted tracks open to riders and horses are available in every département.

National Board of Equestrian Tourism – t 02 54 94 46 80 - www.ffe.com

www.tourisme-equestre.fr – Details of signposted tracks by département.


The mountain ranges of the Alps and the Pyrenees are great favourites with mountaineers.

French Mountaineering Club – Only in French. t 01 53 72 87 00 - www.ffcam.fr

Nautical sports and boating


France’s coastlines are home to a large number of ports and marinas. The number of moorings and available facilities (fuel, fresh water, quayside electricity, toilets and showers, repairs and caretaking, etc.) vary greatly from port to port.

French Federation of Marinas – t 01 43 35 26 26 - www.ffports-plaisance.com

Canoe-kayaking and rafting

French Federation of Canoe-kayaking – t 01 45 11 08 50 - www.ffcanoe.asso.fr

In conjunction with IGN, the federation publishes a map of all of France’s navigable waterways Les Rivières de France.


French Federation of Mountains and Climbing – t 01 40 18 75 50 - www.ffme.fr

Kite surfing

French Federation of Free Flying – t 04 97 03 82 82 - federation.ffvl.fr

River boarding

French Federation of White Water Swimming – www.eauvive-ffessm.com

Saling and wind surfing

Sailing schools affiliated to the French Federation of Sailing offer a wide range of lessons and courses. It is possible to rent out boats by the hour or half day, with or without a crew, in most seaside resorts.

French Federation of Sailing – t 01 40 60 37 00 - www.ffvoile.org

French Nautical Resorts – t 01 44 05 96 55 - www.france-nautisme.com (in English).

Sand yachting and speed sailing

These sports take place on beaches when the tide goes out, leaving a large expanse of wet sand exposed. The immense flat beaches of the Vendée, southern Charente and Picardy coastlines are particularly suited to such sports.

French Federation of Sand Yachting – t 01 45 58 75 75 - www.ffcv.org

Scuba diving

Southern Brittany and Corsica are ideal for this sport. The main underwater activity centre on the Riviera is located on the island of Bendor and is one of the largest in Europe.

French Federation of Underwater Studies and Sports – t 04 91 33 99 31 or 0 820 000 457 (€0,12 €/mn) - www.ffessm.fr

Surfing and bodysurfing

The beaches of the Landes and Basque coasts and the impressive waves of the Gulf of Gascony are paradise for surfing enthusiasts. A few sites in Southern Vendée in Charente-Maritime are more suited to beginners interested in trying out this sport.

French Federation of Surfing – t 05 58 43 55 88 - www.surfingfrance.com

Water skiing

French Federation of Water Skiing – t 01 53 20 19 19 - www.ffsn.fr


French Federation of Potholing – t 04 72 56 09 63 - www.ffspeleo.fr

Thalassotherapy and spas


The average length of stay (recognised as effective) in a thalassotherapy centre is between 7 and 10 days.

National Syndicate of the Thalassotherapy – t 02 40 11 72 35 - www.thalassofederation.com


France’s spa resorts are primarily located in the Pyrenees, Auvergne, the northern Alps, Jura and Vosges.

National Centre of Spa Resorts – t 01 53 91 05 75 ‑ www.cneth.org

Also consult the following website www.france-thermale.org

Winter sports

Association of French winter sports resorts-Ski France – t 01 47 42 23 32 - www.skifrance.fr (in English).

French Federation of Skiing –t 04 50 51 40 34 - www.ffs.fr

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