France’s south coast has a lot more to offer than Nice, Cannes and St Tropez. Not far from these tourist hotspots is a huge variety of lesser-known gems waiting to be discovered. And, with many airports served by low-cost carriers peppered all over France’s Mediterranean coast, getting to these places is easy and affordable.
Nimes Airport, for example, is ideally located to discover the Camargue area. Very well known in France, this destination hasn’t yet been fully discovered by foreign tourists. Camargue is Western Europe’s largest river delta. It offers beautiful landscapes and is well-reputed for its unique breeds of bulls and horses. Both Ryanair and easyJet fly to Nimes from London. Marseille Airport, which has links with a larger number of UK regional airports, is also nearby.
Marseille itself often gets overlooked as a destination. Many travellers only use its airport as a gateway to Provence and the French Riviera, but Marseille has a lot to offer, not the least of which is history. Dating back more than 2600 years, it is France’s oldest city. It’s also near one of the Med coast's most impressive sights: the Calanques, abrupt limestone cliffs that rise up to 500m above sea level. These are easily accessible; just head to the "Vieux Port" and buy a ticket from one of the various ferry operators offering guided tours.
Travelling east along the Med coast is Hyeres-Toulon Airport. UK visitors can fly direct from London with Ryanair. From the airport, you’ll have easy access to one of the Med's best-kept jewels: the island of Porquerolles, which is just a short ferry ride from the mainland. The isle, which inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”, is very popular with French tourists — however, the good word hasn’t quite reached the UK yet.
A lot of people fly to Nice every year to visit either the city itself, or to get to Cannes. My preference, however, will always be Antibes. The old part of the town is beautiful with a lot of small boutiques, restaurants and bars. Pablo Picasso lived there for some time, and a lot of his creations are housed at the Picasso Museum. Nearby is Cap d’Antibes, which offers many small beaches and bays. Flights to Nice are available from London, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.
France's peak tourist season ends around mid-September, when prices for hotels fall quite drastically, so why not plan a late-summer escape to discover one of these lesser-known Med gems?