We often extol France’s cultural, culinary and architectural attractions. Its natural beauty is as remarkable, and it is a country that deserves recognition for the diversity and beauty of its landscapes. Of the many classifications related to the protection and appreciation of nature in France, the most attractive and engaging is the status of National Park. It is a particularly ambitious national park program, especially because it imposes strict regulations on the sort and scope of human activities that are permitted within them. It requires a zone in the middle of each national park in which all commercial activity is prohibited. That in turn must be surrounded by a large area zone in which human activity is strictly restrained and regulated. The net result is a vast region in which there is no discernible economic activity

Obtaining National Park status is therefore a very rigorous process, with many criteria that must be fulfilled. So far, France has 10 National Parks, including some in French Foreign Territories, such as La Réunion island in the Indian Ocean. Here are the names of these parks, with a main distinction between mountain sites and sea sanctuaries.

Mountains:

– La Vanoise

– Mercantour

– Les Écrins

– Les Cévennes

– Hautes Pyrénées

Sea:

– Les Calanques

– Port Cros

Foreign territories:

– French Guyana

Guadeloupe island

La Réunion island

The oldest national park in the world is Yellowstone Park in the USA, situated mostly in Wyoming and created in 1872. In France, the first one is the Vanoise in the Alps, created in 1963. The French Alps now have 3 National Parks: La Vanoise, Mercantour and Les Écrins. They are each breath-taking and sublime.

Lake Lauzon, Écrins NP

We often forget how much nature there is to see in France. Take a moment to explore it: you will not be disappointed. It is a privilege to realize that nature is at hand when you are seeking it, only a few hours away from you.

Calanques NP

La Réunion NP

Gavarnie, Pyrénées NP (credits Renaud Puissauve)

D.A.