France is a large country by European standards, with a wide range of differing environments. The country's most important mountain range is the French Alps, a rugged region with numerous snow-capped peaks above 4000 metres. Mont Blanc (4808m / 15,767ft) is the highest of these summits and lies at the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. There are many classic trekking, climbing, mountain biking and road biking routes and itineraries in this part of France, many of them accessed through the town of Chamonix. The second biggest range of mountains in France is the Pyrenees, which forms a natural border with Spain and rises above 3400 metres at its highest. The outlying French province of Corsica is another notably mountainous region, with more than twenty 2000 metre peaks. It is the most mountainous of the Mediterranean islands. There is a certain excitement, a certain 'je ne sais quoi' about any visit to France. This is associated with the feeling that somehow life is easier there and that the pace of life is more relaxed. It is all about sitting in a pavement cafe (the sun always shines in France) drinking a cafe creme, eating a pain au chocolat and watching the world go by. This is an essential part of the French experience and whether you are walking, cycling or climbing in the mountains, or working on your tan on a Mediterranean beach, you will never be too far from a 'sympatique' cafe or bar.


France is the second largest country in Europe, extending to more than half a million square kilometers. Divided into 96 administrative regions or departments, the country has land borders to the southeast with Italy and to the east, with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. To the southwest, France has a long border with Spain. The English Channel lies to the north and the warmer waters of the Mediterranean lie to the south. Two thirds of France is mountains and hills.  The most important mountain range is the French Alps, a part of the European Alps, which extend for some 1000 kilometres (620 miles), through parts of southeastern France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. Amongst the hundreds of peaks comprising this range, there are some 75 which top the 4000 metre (13000ft.) mark. Above 3000 metres (10000ft.), the mountains are permanently snow-capped and the region is heavily glaciated. In many alpine valleys, forests of pine reach above 2500 metres (8000ft.)and there are flower-filled alpine pastures above this height. At 4808 metres (15,767ft.) Mont Blanc is the highest and most complicated mountain massif in the Alps. Thirty glaciers flow down from its upper snow slopes and these have contributed to the creation of the jagged rock spires (aiguilles) which are such a distinctive feature, when viewed from the French town of Chamonix. The second biggest range of mountains in France is the Pyrenees, which forms a natural border with Spain. From the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean in the west, the Pyrenees extend for more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the Mediterranean in the east, whilst the maximum width of the chain (north to south) is about 130 kilometres (80 miles). Amongst France's other mountainous areas are the Massif Central, which does not have any really big peaks, but does cover almost one-sixth of the country.

Time Zone

The time in France is GMT +1 hour and GMT + 2 hours in summer time.