Unsure about your French table manners? Click Here to download > > How to avoid these 10 food etiquette mistakes !

logo on offbeatfrance
logo on offbeatfrance
logo on offbeatfrance
logo on offbeatfrance

Follow me on

  1. Home
  2. Destinations
  3. Undiscovered France

Undiscovered France: Travel Guide for the Inquisitive Visitor

Published 17 November 2023 by Leyla Alyanak — Parisian by birth, Lyonnaise by adoption, historian by passion

I'm as much a sucker for France's major attractions as anyone else, but I love heading off the beaten path several times a year to what I call "Undiscovered France" − undiscovered by the average visitor, that is. 

If you're visiting France, especially for the first time, there's every chance you'll begin with Paris. If you have more time, you'll probably head off to Provence...

And so you will have covered... about 1% of my country. This page is dedicated to the other 99%: many places will be familiar, but I trust (or at least hope) some of them will lead you to new discoveries.

I use the word "undiscovered" more because of the lack of a better one – there's also "less familiar", but it doesn't sound half as good, does it...

Lake Geneva and the French Alps

If this region figures so prominently in my travels, it's because I live here. The Rhône River cuts through my valley, slicing its way between the Alps and the older Jura Mountains. If I walk out my back door and head uphill, I'm right in the Jura.

No wonder, then, that I have so many stories to share this close to home!

The Loire Valley

This is a fabulous region, protected by UNESCO's World Heritage List, and one of the main reasons people visit France. The valley along the Loire River is filled with romantic chateaux, or castles, which make up the heartland of France's history.

Many people take a day trip to the Loire from Paris, but I've often spent upward of a week in the region and each time, I feel I'm barely scratching the surface. Here are some of my favorite pieces from this part of France.

Southwestern France

This is one of my favorite parts of France, but it is at the other end of the country, so getting there is complicated. First I have to go up to Paris, then change train stations, and then head back down south on the other side of the country. 

Someday, railway authorities might decide that not everyone needs to go through Paris, and might create some kind of east-west railway link. Still, the region is so gorgeous I make the effort to visit a few times each year.


The truth is, I should go to Burgundy far more often than I do. It's a couple of hours' drive from home, but like many people, I keep saying I'll stay closer to home and there I go, off exploring the more remote corners of France.

Still, I've visited a number of times, and here are some of my favorite places.

Northeastern France

I'm not talking about Alsace here – Alsace is a hugely popular destination and anything but off the beaten path. No, I'm talking about a deeper France, sometimes industrial, sometimes agricultural, always historic, and easy to get to if you're driving.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a department I'd honestly heard mentioned fewer than a handful of times in my life: the Haute-Marne. But once you dig (and this is the case anywhere you go in France), plenty emerges. 

The Haute-Marne was just an example, but this is a region absolutely filled with things to see.

Even more off-the-beaten-path

There are other parts of France that I've just touched, and some that I even haven't visited yet (so I've asked others more in the know to share their insights). But one of these days, I hope I'll have visited every corner of my country – it's a lot larger than it seems!