2020 Bike Tours in France – Top Destinations per season

Updated 3 January 2020

Cycling Tours are a great way to discover a new destination. In order to get the most out of a bike tour, we have compiled a regularly updated guide to indicate the best time to visit France.

Disclaimer: This article is written by Discover France – the leader in France for Self-Guided cycling tours. (Read article what self-guided active tours are)

Our main focus in this article is to present practical aspects and special events that can impact your cycling holidays in France.

If you have not yet considered self-guided cycling tours as an option to more traditional tourist itineraries, read this article to see why we believe self guided cycling tours are the best way to explore a new destination.

Cycling in France – Spring of 2020 (March, April, May)

France being the most popular travel destination in the world with almost 90 million visitors per year, means that peak season is quite busy.

The shoulder seasons can be a great alternative to avoid the biggest crowds, but it is important to take certain aspects into consideration.

As you will see, our recommendation for bike tours in the spring are mainly limited to the South of France. The reason is quite simply maximizing your chances of sun and nice weather.

Below is our quick guide to the difference regions, followed by select tips per month.

Recommendations for visiting French regions in March, April, May 2020

March 2020 – Mingle with the locals and avoid the crowds

From a cycling point of view, the spring season really starts in March – at the same time as the meteorological start of spring.

Planning a cycling holiday in March would mean mostly looking at Provence, Côte d’Azur, Corsica and Languedoc (Occitanie) regions. Cycling in these sunny regions provides the highest probability of dry and sunny weather. 

In terms of climate in Provence, the average high temperatures during the day are around 12° -15° C (50-60° F). Mornings are quite chilly with the chance of occasional frost on the ground. The trees are not blooming yet, but green colors are starting to appear in nature.

March is perfect for cycling tours that are based out of one single hotel with daily cycling loops that start and end in the same place. This ensures that on possible rainy days, you have the option of doing something else than cycling. 

As March is still off-season, it is better to be based in cities to be sure services are available.

Restaurants and tourist activities in the province are often closed or have limited opening hours.

A perfect example of a March Bike Tour would be our Avignon Cycling Loops. The sites that you visit are not too far from Avignon and open all year round.

Avignon is a university city that has plenty of activities for rainy days as well. Theatres have shows all year round, and the city has lots of nice restaurants and cafés. The historical sites in the city are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites and open all year round.

Trains from Avignon would allow you to visit other nearby cities of Nîmes, Montpellier, Marseille or even Lyon – all within roughly an hour of Avignon by train.

April 2020 – “En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil”

The French expression in the title means “In April – don’t leave your coat at home” – signifying the yearly optimism of locals feeling the warmth of the sun in the middle of the afternoon.

The options for cycling tours are no longer limited to the sunniest regions, but the mountains are still not recommended for cycling. As weather in April can be finicky, we recommend coming prepared for both rain and sunshine.

In the South of France it is really starting to feel like spring. Sunny weather is more likely than rain, and afternoons can at times be warm enough to sit outside for lunch without a coat. Cherry- and almond trees are blossoming and you can really feel that winter is over.

The weather does feel chilly when the sun is not out, making the felt temperature differences quite significant. Cycling in April often means leaving in the morning with cold weather gear, but taking off layers throughout the ride. 

Statistically, you can expect around 10*C in the morning and up to 20*C in the afternoon. Very pleasant weather if it is not windy. A cloudy sky and a northern wind could quickly feel quite cold. Water- and wind proof jackets are a must in April. Just in case. 

To see examples of cycling tours in April, see our tours in Provence, Languedoc or maybe slightly south of the border in Spain.

April is still off-season for touristic activities, meaning that it is important to check what activities and restaurants are open in advance, if you are staying in smaller villages.

May 2020 – Spring everywhere, Cannes film festival and Night of the Museums.

ride a bkie in the south of France with cyrpeo ( aka discover france ) !

The month of May is my personal favorite month of the year for cycling in France. Nature is green and flowers are blossoming. (I live outside Montpellier, where our headquarters are)

It is now warm enough to have a cycling vacation in all regions, although the mountains can still have snow on altitude and be quite cold – but everywhere else spring is in full bloom. It is still good to be prepared for chilly evenings and a chance of rain, but sunny days are predominant, especially in the South.

May has over the years regularly increased in popularity for tourists because of the mild and comfortable weather. The increased popularity means more and more seasonal activities and restaurants are open.

Special events in France in May 2020

The film festival in Cannes (outside Nice) takes place between 12-23 May 2020, making the Côte d’Azur a destination with limited availability and higher prices for accommodation.

The French museums are part of an European Cultural initiative since 2005 called “La Nuits Européenne des Musées“. (The European Night of Museums). On Saturday evening 18th of May, 98% of the French museums are completely free and open between 6pm and midnight.

The night of the museums is not limited to the big cities, but includes the smaller cities and villages with museums. The official website has detailed information region by region. (in French).

In terms of cycling destinations, all regions of France are now good choices. Some of the hotter destinations are in their best season for cycling. For road cycling enthusiasts (or e-bikes), Corsica is a great destination to visit in May. The weather is not too hot yet, but the tourist season is starting and restaurants and shops in more remote areas are open for business again.

Cycling in France – Summer of 2020 (June, July, August)

The summer is the peak season to visit France, and for a good reason. Sunshine, warm weather and the full availability of services, activities and restaurants. The flip side of the coin are the crowds in the cities and main tourist attractions.

For cycling fans, July is a great period to visit with the Tour de France festivities going on most of the month. As an official Tour operator of the Tour de France, we can provide VIP access to the race in a number of different ways.

You can check out the 2020 Tour de France route on the official website, and visit our TDF-section to see the various packages that we offer.

In terms of school holidays, France sees a high peak of foreign tourists starting from July when Northern Europeans and Americans most commonly have their summer vacation. The Southern European tourists often visit in August with the peak being around the 15th August, which is always the highest peak for French vacations.

The weather is sunny and warm in all regions, including the mountains.

  • Alps and Pyrenées
    • Best time for cycling in the mountains. Any of the summer months are good choices.
  • Alsace, Bordeaux, Brittany, Burgundy, Champagne, Dordogne, Loire Valley, and Normandy
    • Ideal temperatures for visiting these regions throughout the summer. Less hot than Languedoc, Provence and Corsica.
    • Choose one of these regions for lush green scenery and cooler evenings.
  • Languedoc, Provence and Corsica
    • Lavender season in Provence from end of July, through July. 
    • Regions can be very hot in the afternoons
    • Festival d’Avignon in July means higher prices for hotels in Avignon. 
    • Ideal time for cycling tours around Gordes/Luberon in late June early July.
    • Outdoor markets, small village festivals and various events are everywhere.

June 2020 – Lavender in Provence, D-Day in Normandy, summer vibes

June is a great month to visit France. The weather is decidedly warm and summer evenings are soft. It is not as hot as it is in July and August, and nature in the warmer areas is still lush and green.

Traveling in France in June really means being able to choose almost any region with no worries about availability of services or weather conditions.

Local kids are still in school, and the majority of vacationers are foreigners.

June is also less busy than the peak tourist months of July and August, although one should still expect tourist sites to be busy.

Every year, a nationally spread event takes place in the end of June called the “Fête de la Musique” (The feast of music). On that day, music is present everywhere in the streets, bars and different concert halls. Just like the night of the museums, admissions are free.

The original initiative for the “Fête de la Musique” came from the ministry of culture back in 1982. Since then, music has echoed in the streets of all French cities on the 21st of June.

Being out in the streets of any city on that evening is a wonderful experience with a lovely warm atmosphere of all kinds of people of all ages, that all come out to enjoy music in all its forms.

There is is one place that either is better to avoid on a specific date, or at least prepare for very busy roads and cities. That would be Normandy around Caen, Bayeux and the landing beach villages on D-Day on 6th June.

In 2020 D-Day falls on a Saturday, so expect even bigger crowds than usual. We often get requests for tours in Normandy around that date – but contrary to what one might think, it is actually the least recommended time to do a cycling vacation around the landing beaches.

Traffic in and around Bayeux, Caen and the villages on the shore is so dense during the annual commemoration of D-Day, that cycling is not as pleasant as it is the weeks before or after. Hotel availability can also be an issue.

If you do wish to visit on D-Day, we recommend that you book well in advance (if possible, 5-6 months in advance).

Other than that, June is a great month for traveling around France and our cycling tours are all available to start on any day of the month.

July 2020 – Cicadas, outdoor dinners, rosé wine, swimming and relaxing

For casual cyclists, there are plenty of options in July. All of the regions have cycling friendly weather. It is more a question of personal preference. 

The Loire Valley has a softer climate than Provence in July (which can be quite hot in the afternoons), and the castles are perfect mid-way stops to cool down and enjoy strolls in one of the many castle parks. The various castles and wide network of cycling paths is ideal for persons that want to keep the cycling part as one part of the vacation, while still having plenty of time to discover other aspect of the Loire Valley as well. 

All of the wine regions (Bordeaux, Alsace, Loire Valley, Champagne etc) are ideal in July. The mornings and evenings are a bit cooler than in the south, but the days are still nice and warm. 

For cyclists following pro cycling, July is the most important month of the year. The reason is simple: Tour de France.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the Tour de France, being broadcasted in 190 countries with an estimated number of roadside spectators between 10-12 million persons.

All the cities and villages that are on the Tour de France route are decorated in different manners to celebrate the event. It is something that is worth experiencing on site.

Our pro tip for TDF fans – Find a café/restaurant in a quiet village with a terrace, outdoor TV-screen and shade. If on top of those the restaurant/café is located in an uphill portion of the race, even better. (The riders won’t go past as fast)

Another option is getting a VIP-pass for one of the stages and follow the race in a more exclusive setting.

If you visit Provence in July, you should definitely aim to visit the Luberon valley where the most prominent Lavender fields are located.

Lavender distilleries or just enjoy going out in the middle of a lavender field. For memories sake, take a few fantastic pictures and close your eyes while breathing in the lavender scented air surrounding them.

While Luberon is great to visit for a cycling vacation in July (especially early July), Avignon is quite the opposite. The whole month of July means the Festival d’Avignon is in full swing, with the city being full of performing arts in every corner of the city. 

If you are looking for bustling nightlife and countless cultural activities in the evenings, there are no better places to go than Avignon. The flipside being that hotels, restaurants and activities are often very busy. Hotel prices are also much, much higher than usual and booked months in advance. 

If you are more interested in the mountains, July is the perfect month to ride in any of the three major mountain ranges in France – The Alps, The Pyrenées or the Massif Central.

The Alps are a road cyclists’ entertainment park with more Tour de France climbs than anywhere else. Even if the climbs are close to each other, it is important to be prepared for the long alpine climbs. Many relatively fit cyclists have looked at the numbers and thought ” I could do that” – and getting a lesson in humility once after an hour of constant climbing, there is still more than half of a climb left to do.

The Pyrenees are different from the Alps. The slopes are not as arid and rocky, but rather green with grass and forests. It is much more of a sauvage environment, and life seems to be in constant slow motion. You will meet cows, donkeys, horses and sheep that cross the very roads you are riding on while occasional vultures hover high above the valleys.

The Massif Central is a much less known area for foreign tourists, and services in the area are much more rare than in the Pyrenees and Alps. This coming summer, for the first time ever, the Tour de France has a stage finish on the summit of the Mont Aigoual.

August 2020 – Sun, warm weather and summer festivities

August is the most popular vacation month for the French. The weather is warm, and the chance of rain is just slightly higher than in July. (still very little rain expected) 

Being the peak season for the French tourists, the most popular tourist destinations are very busy, making the less known regions excellent options for cycling tours. 

August is a good period to discover some of the less known regions of France. Heading to the Languedoc regions instead of Provence, Pyrenees instead of the Alps, Alsace instead of the Loire Valley. Many of these alternative regions have less tourists, yet equally magnificent scenery. 

The Languedoc region has plenty of UNESCO World Heritage natural sites… the Pyrenees have a great mix of natural places to see, yet with less cars than in the Alps… Alsace has the vineyards, typical colorful villages and rolling hills, instead of castles, endless fields and flatter terrains of the Loire Valley. 

The hotter regions are better suited for more experienced cyclists in August, as it is good to have some experience in covering longer distances… not so much because of the distance, but because the heat can make the distances feel longer than usual. The option being choosing easier biking options that one might otherwise deem suitable. 

August is also the perfect time to visit France, if you wish to experience some of the more typically local traditions, such as the bullfighting festivities in small Languedoc villages, cultural festivals in various corners of France or just soaking in the sun.  

Our cycling tours are available in all regions in August. As it is the peak vacation season for the French, make sure to book your accommodation as well in advance as possible. 

If you are planning on traveling longer distances by train or air, early booking for the period is equally recommended to ensure best prices and availability. 

Conclusion

If you are planning an active vacation in France in 2020, we hope this guide has been helpful in narrowing down your options. 

At Discover France, all clients get a dedicated tour consultant that can help you customize your trip. We often receive thanks from our clients for our ability to advise and help select the most suitable trips for them. 

The tour consultants Maggie, Melanie, John and Valentina are more than happy to help you figure out if a trip with Discover France could be a good match. 

Just get in touch and let us know what kind of trip would be the ideal trip for you. 

The next time we update this article, we will include new tips on traveling in the autumn.

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