Day 1: Paris – Mont St-Michel – St-Malo
After a pickup from your Paris hotel, savor the excitement as you start your 12-day tour of France. Your first stop: Normandy. This lovely 5-hour drive takes you away from the urban cityscape through northern France's forests and fields to the coast, where Mont St-Michel awaits.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a true French icon, sitting on a rocky islet amid a large bay. Your guide will take you on a walking tour of the Gothic-style Benedictine abbey while hearing tales of its ancient history as a strategic fortification. Then, enjoy free time for lunch in the surrounding village.
On the road again, pass by quaint towns on your way to the region of Brittany. Check in to your hotel in St-Malo and have dinner in town on your own (own expense).
Overnight: 3-star Ibis Styles hotel, or similar, in St-Malo
Day 2: St-Malo – Dinan – Rennes – Angers (B)
After breakfast, head out on a sightseeing tour of St-Malo. You’ll soon discover why this walled port city is one of the most-visited places in Brittany.
Hear stories about a band of pirates who once roamed St-Malo, and then look out for historical landmarks such as the Cathedral of St-Vincent and the 17th-century city walls. You can discover more places on your own before stepping back in time with a visit to the medieval town of Dinan. Explore Place des Cordeliers or Place des Merciers during your free time for lunch (own expense).
Your next stop is Rennes, the capital of Brittany. On a sightseeing tour, learn about the city's fascinating history as you wander the elaborate, stately city center and quaint old town filled with buzzing pubs and restaurants.
After your time in Rennes, relax on your 2-hour drive south toward the legendary Loire Valley. Check in to your hotel in Angers, the capital of the Maine-et-Loire department, and enjoy dinner in town at your own expense.
Overnight: 3-star Hôtel de France, or similar, in Angers
Day 3: Angers – Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault – Villandry – Azay-le-Rideau – Poitiers (B,D)
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in your hotel , and then take a guided tour of this lively riverside city to discover its rich history and atmospheric pedestrian streets brimming with shopping and dining opportunities.
As you’ll discover, Angers’ claim to fame is its tapestries, most notably the 14th-century Apocalypse Tapestry (Tenture de l'Apocalypse), home to Château d’Angers. Inspired by the Duke of Anjou, the tapestry is touted as the largest in the world at 459 feet (140 meters) long!
Leaving Angers behind, you'll then travel through the gorgeous flat, green plains of the Loire Valley on one of France’s most picturesque routes. Stop to see the outside of Château de Saumur in Saumur and make the most of some free time for lunch (own expense). Your next stop is Château de Villandry, so enjoy a little more leisure time to wander through the luxurious three-tiered gardens on your own.
Lastly, head to Château Azay-le-Rideau, a 16th-century castle that's considered one of the best examples of early French Renaissance architecture. At the end of the day, relax on the drive to Poitiers for dinner (own expense) and your overnight stay.
Overnight: 3-star Ibis Centre hotel, or similar, in Poitiers
Day 4: Poitiers – Limoges – Brive-la-Gaillarde – Vézère – Sarlat (B)
Drive along a scenic route from Poitiers to Limoges, the capital of the central French Limousin region that’s famous for its medieval copper enamels, 19th-century porcelain and oak barrels — used for Cognac production. Visit a porcelain manufacturer to learn about the history of Limoges porcelain.
Continue south to the city of Brive-la-Gaillarde and enjoy some free time to explore and have lunch (own expense). Then, head to the Vézère Valley to visit the famous prehistoric caves of Lascaux. Images in the original cave complex Lascaux I, are considered to be about 17,000 years old. Because the originals have since been destroyed, you’ll see Lascaux II, a replica of two cave halls — the Great Hall of the Bulls and The Painted Gallery — located just near the entrance of the original cave.
Continue to the city of Sarlat in the stunning Périgord region for dinner on your own and an overnight stay.
Overnight: 3-star Le Renoir hotel, or similar, in Sarlat
Day 5: Sarlat – St-Emilion – Bordeaux – Toulouse (B)
Venture to Bordeaux to immerse yourself in the wine culture and scenery of this world-famous winemaking region. Start in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed sub-region of St-Emilion to enjoy wine tasting in a wine cellar, followed by a tour of the medieval village. Continue onward to the city of Bordeaux for your next tour.
After your time in Bordeaux, travel by coach to the Garonne Valley, where the River Garonne flows past remarkable Romanesque heritage and towns, the vineyards of Graves and Sauterne, and the entrance to Europe’s largest forest. Arrive in Toulouse in time for dinner (own expense) and your overnight accommodation.
Overnight: 3-star Ibis Centre hotel, or similar, in Toulouse
Day 6: Toulouse – Carcassonne – Montpellier (B, D)
Leave your hotel after breakfast, and set off on a guided tour of the thriving city of Toulouse, France’s fourth-largest city, characterized by pink stone buildings. Learn about the city’s 2,000-year history and of its modern reputation as a hub for the aerospace industry. A highlight of your tour is Basilica of St-Sernin, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Next, make your way to Carcassonne, a fortified town perched on a rocky hilltop in the province of Languedoc. With its fairy tale–like medieval castle, Carcassonne looks like something straight out of a children’s book. Take a guided tour of the town and have free time for lunch (own expense).
In the afternoon, continue to Montpellier, capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region and one of the gems of southern France. Tour the city center and admire the Mediterranean coastal views. Then, enjoy dinner with your group at a local restaurant before checking in to your overnight accommodation.
Overnight: 3-star Park & Suite hotel, or similar, in Montpellier
Day 7: Montpellier – Arles – Les-Baux-de-Provence – Aix-en-Provence – Nice (B)
After breakfast, travel with your guide to nearby Arles for a tour of the fascinating ancient Roman city. See the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Roman sites and learn about the life and work of the famous post-Impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh, who lived here.
Stop in the picturesque village of Les-Baux-de-Provence before continuing to Aix-en-Provence, a chic Provençal city and prestigious student hub. On your city tour, admire the opulent mansions lining Cours Mirabeau, and then enjoy free time for shopping at your leisure.
In the afternoon, travel to Nice for dinner (own expense), and check in to your hotel for your overnight stay.
Overnight: 3-star Ambassador hotel, or similar, in Nice
Day 8: Nice – St-Paul-de-Vence – Monaco – Nice (B)
Start your day with a drive along the breathtaking French Riviera, stopping in the quaint village of St-Paul-de-Vence on your way to Monaco. This independent principality on the Mediterranean coast that's famous for its harbor filled with multi-million-dollar yachts and the annual Formula One Grand Prix.
Enjoy the glitz and glam of Monte Carlo before heading back to Nice in the afternoon for a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour. Visit top Nice attractions at your own pace such as bustling Promenade des Anglais, Vieux Nice (Old Nice), the Matisse Museum and the Cours Saleya Flower Market. Check in to your Nice hotel, and then spend your evening at leisure.
Overnight: 3-star Ambassador hotel, or similar, in Nice
Day 9: Nice – Grasse – Cannes – Marseille (B, D)
Leave Nice behind, and venture to the French Riviera town of Grasse, considered the world's capital of perfume. Visit the Fragonard perfume factory and see the processes and materials involved in perfume making. You'll love this unique sensual experience!
Travel onward along the coast to Cannes and enjoy some free time for lunch. Then, travel back along the Mediterranean coast to Marseille, and spend the rest of the afternoon on a hop-on hop-off tour to explore the city at your leisure. Don’t miss Vieux Port (Old Port) and the hilltop Notre-Dame de la Garde church.
Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant with your fellow travelers before checking in to your hotel for the night.
Overnight: 3-star Ibis Gare Saint Charles hotel, or similar, in Marseille
Day 10: Marseille – Avignon – Lyon (B)
Venture an hour north to the ancient UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Avignon, known for its well-preserved medieval ramparts. You'll discover why Avignon is often called the ‘City of Popes’ on your guided city tour. Visit the city's star attraction, the Pope’s Palace. Dominating the city skyline, this imposing fortress is considered one of Europe's biggest and most important medieval Gothic buildings.
Enjoy some free time to discover this beautiful city independently and have lunch (own expense) before heading to Lyon: your next destination. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Lyon is another UNESCO World Heritage-listed city that's famous for being the culinary capital of France. It's also known for its host of historical and architectural landmarks, its history of silk weaving and its Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), which takes place every December.
Spend the remainder of the afternoon discovering Lyon on your own. Choose from a number of amazing restaurants where you can enjoy an unforgettable Lyonnaise meal!
Overnight: 3-star Ibis Part Dieu Les Halles hotel, or similar, in Lyon
Day 11: Lyon – Chalon-sur-Saône (B)
See Lyon's sights in depth on a hop-on hop-off tour, and create your own sightseeing itinerary. Enjoy a scenic ride through the massive city aboard an open-top, double-decker bus, and hop on and off as many times as you like.
See sights such as the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, Place Bellecour and Cathédral Saint Jean Baptiste while listening to the onboard commentary, detailing the city's sights, history and culture.
After your Lyon hop-on hop-off tour, meet your guide and board the coach to continue your journey. Enjoy views of quaint stone villages, wineries and stunning vineyards as you ride along the Beaujolais Wine Route. This picturesque stretch of highway winds its way from Villefranche-sur-Saône to St-Amour.
Stop at a local wine cellar to taste some local wines and learn about winemaking in the Beaujolais region. You'll then continue driving north to Burgundy, another one of France’s famous wine regions.
Arrive in the lovely little town of Chalon-sur-Saône on the Saône River. Wander the town and enjoy a final dinner at your own expense.
Overnight: 3-star Ibis Styles hotel, or similar, in Chalon-sur-Saône
Day 12: Chalon-sur-Saône – Beaune – Nuits-St-Georges – Vézelay – Paris (B, L)
Check out of your hotel and travel to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, for a tour of the famous Hospices de Beaune. Once a charitable almshouse in the 1400s, it's now a remarkable museum that holds a wine auction every year, during which people flock from all over the world to buy rare vintage wine.
Enjoy a wine-tasting session and farewell lunch in the nearby town of Nuits-St-Georges. Toast the occasion with your fellow travelers as you sample and learn about local Burgundy wines, and sit down to a wonderful meal of regional dishes.
Back on the coach, travel to Vézelay, to visit the Basilica of St Mary Magdalene, a UNESCO World Heritage site and masterpiece of Romanesque art. Finally, continue back to Paris, where your unforgettable 12-day adventure finishes and you can discover the city of Paris independently.