Basque cornice. View of Loya Bay and its "Twins". A coastal landscape that evokes that of the Great Ocean Road in Australia and its famous Twelve Apostles. STUFFED STANISLAS
"France seems to be an ark that would have received the care to shelter on its soil the essence of each panorama of planetary geography, to draw up an inventory of all the archetypes of ecosystems. From maritime Flanders to the Bearnese plateaus, from the alpine ridges to the Ile-de-France sands, there is a summary of the landscapes of the world on this soil " wrote Sylvain Tesson in an edition of Figaro Magazine (07/29/2011) devoted to our incredible territory. Geography spoils us, proof in nineteen major sites of our natural heritage.
A tongue of Arcachon sand similar to the Australian coast
1/19 - The Whitsundays Islands archipelago, off the coast of Queensland, is one of the most popular destinations in Australia. Just like the Banc d'Arguin in the Arcachon basin in Aquitaine! Located between the Pilat dune and the tip of Cap-Ferret, this tongue of sand welcomes holidaymakers in summer: a place conducive to extraordinary picnics! It is good to dive in this indigo blue water, similar to that of the Coral Sea, where the Whitsundays are found.
Arcachon Tourist Office (05.57.52.74.74; www.tourisme-gironde.fr).
Rustrel, the Vaucluse western version
2/19 - Rocks tortured by the wind, ocher tones, trees growing on stones: this western decor, reminiscent of the landscape of Bryce Canyon, in Utah, is located in Rustrel, in the Vaucluse. For once, nature is not the only creator of this amazing landscape. Rustrel's basement was exploited at the end of the 19th century for its ocher. Erosion finished the job by sculpting abandoned quarries, giving them that fantastic appearance.
Rustrel, in Vaucluse, is located 1 hour drive from Aix-en-Provence. Vaucluse Tourist Office (04.90.80.47.00; www.provenceguide.com).
Seychelles, Lavezzi: from one paradise to another
3/19 - Located in the south of Corsica, the Lavezzi islands have a sweet scent of Seychelles. These coves sheltered from the strong winds which blow in the mouths of Bonifacio are appreciated by the sailors who find safe and magnificent anchorages there. Pale gray rocks and clear sea: the picture is not misleading: the Lavezzi archipelago is heavenly, just like the Seychelles, far from it, in the heart of the Indian Ocean.
The Lavezzi Islands are located 10 km south-east of the Bonifacio coast. Tourist Office of South Corsica (04.95.51.00.00; www.visit-corsica.com).
A piece of Ecuador in Puy-de-Dôme
4/19 - With a course of 150 km, the Sioule is one of the longest French rivers. Before jumping into the Allier, it forms a superb loop that you can contemplate, as well as its green valley, from a belvedere near the church of Queuille. This wide meander recalls those drawn by the Amazon river in the jungle, in South America. With one difference: the Amazon measures 6,500 km.
Queuille and its belvedere du Paradis are located 50 minutes from Clermont-Ferrand. Puy-de-Dôme Tourist Office (04.73.42.22.50; www.planetepuydedome.com).
Like nowhere else in the Hautes-Alpes
5/19 - The Ladies wearing Théus's sisters have the hoodoos of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in southern Utah, in the United States. These chimneys whose silhouette emerges from the moraines were in the making during the Quaternary glaciation. When the Durance glacier melted, rocks diverted the flow of water, protecting the subsoil which, once emerged, has hardened. Whether near the Serre-Ponçon lake or elsewhere, these surrealist-looking formations give off universal magic: here, you could be everywhere and nowhere ...
Théus (www.théus.fr) is located approximately 35 minutes from Gap and 1 hour 40 minutes from the Mercantour National Park. Hautes-Alpes Tourist Office (04.92.53.62.00; www.hautes-alpes.net).
The Massif Central, Ireland and the volcanoes
6/19 - These stone organs are a true copy of the famous Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. A site whose formation was also caused by volcanic phenomena. They are visible in Haute-Loire, not far from the small city of Chilhac. Nearly 40,000 vertical columns have been juxtaposed there since the eruption, a few million years ago, of a volcano located nearby, Mont Bar. A slow phenomenon of cooling of the volcanic flows gave birth to these mineral structures, almost perfectly hexagonal.
Chilhac is located 1 hour drive north-west of Puy-en-Velay (www.lepuyenvelay-tourisme.fr). Auvergne Tourist Office (04.73.29.49.66; www.auvergne-tourisme.info).
Languedoc in the colors of Madagascar
7/19 - Astonishing as the ruiniform rocks of this small corner of Occitania resemble the Tsingy of Behamara which constitute one of the most striking landscapes of Madagascar. The Sea of Rocks, wonder of the Gard, is more easily admired than the Madagascan site classified as World Heritage by Unesco. From the heights of the medieval village of Sauve, a path follows between old ruined stone walls until this karst chaos with improbable forms.
Sauve is located 1 hour drive from Nîmes. Gard Tourisme tourist office (04.66.36.96.30; www.tourismegard.com) and Occitanie Regional Tourism Committee (www.tourisme-occitanie.com).
A paradise in the West Indies? No, the tip of Tal Er Hah, southeast of the island of Houat. STANISLASFAUTRE
A Caribbean air off the Morbihan
8/19 - Magic of distant islands. Turquoise waters, white sand, azure sky and idleness ... The rays of the sun play with the wavelets, the beach is pristine. This crystal clear water is worthy of the most beautiful lagoons of the Caribbean coasts. And yet, this photo was taken on the beach of Treac'h ar Goured, on the island of Houat off the coast of Morbihan!
Morbihan Tourist Office (02.97.54.06.56; www.morbihan.com) and Brittany Regional Tourism Committee (www.tourismebretagne.com).
Franche-Comté as a Thai waterfall
9/19 - In the middle of a luxuriant vegetation, in a luminous and green landscape, the waterfall gushes out under the photographer's lens. In Erawan, Thailand, waterfalls like this are spread over 2 km in length. Located near Baume-les-Messieurs, in the Jura, the Tufs waterfall formed in the Dard, an underground river. Bad news for sun lovers, it is when it rains that this phenomenon is most impressive ...
20 minutes from Lons-le-Saunier, Baume-les-Messieurs is also one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. Tourist office of Franche-Comté (03.81.25.08.00; www.franche-comte.org).
A piece of red island in the heart of Auvergne
10/19 - Erosion has sculpted the striking landscapes of the Valley of the Saints in Puy-de-Dôme. Located in the south of Issoire, this sensitive natural area classified Natura 2000 extends to the heart of the Lembron red earth. A colorful mineral universe that can remind of Colorado but also the famous lavakas of Ankarokaroka, in the Ankarafantsika national park in Madagascar.
The Valley of the Saints is accessible on foot by the PR trail from Boudes (1 hour drive by the A75 from Clermont-Ferrand). Pays d'Issoire Tourisme (04.73.89.15.90; www.issoire-tourisme.com).
From pines to date palms, from the Landes to the Sahara ...
11/19 - Like a palm grove lost in the Grand Erg Oriental, nestled against the dune. The green mass of Landes pines growing at the foot of the Pyla plays here cousinages with the date palms of Tozeur, Nefta or Touggourt. Located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, south of the Arcachon basin, the Pyla dune stretches its 2,700 m between the sea and the forest. Nourished by the sea breeze, it advances on average 3 to 4 m per year towards the land, gradually swallowing the Landes forest. The pines are also paying the cost of advancing the sands.
Arcachon Tourist Office (05.57.52.74.74; www.tourisme-gironde.fr).
Close-up on the gours of the Huveaune springs in the Sainte-Baume massif. STANISLASFAUTRE
A Provencal Yellowstone
12/19 - Yellowstone, the oldest natural park in the world, covers an area larger than that of Corsica. It is famous for its natural phenomena: geysers, hot springs. It is also the largest “supervolcano” in North America. But to hell with these superlatives! The sources of the Huveaune, this proud little Provencal river, compete head on with the Mammoth Hot Springs of Yellowstone. Its basins (which are called rather gours) are shaped by limestone-laden waters after a long journey through the Sainte-Baume massif.
Located about 40km south-east of Aix-en-Provence, Nans-les-Pins is the starting point for hikes to the sources of Huveaune. Var Tourist Office (04.94.18.59.60; www.visitvar.fr).
Panorama of Costa Rica from Cantal
13/19 - He is the oldest of the Giants of Auvergne and his pyramidal silhouette is recognizable among all in the Cantal mountains. Hiking to its summit (1,787 m) is relatively easy and offers sumptuous panoramas up to Mont-Blanc and even further when the imagination gets involved. The landscapes of the Puy Mary massif, the largest volcano in Europe and the Grand Site of France, sometimes evoke those of Costa Rica, another land of volcanoes.
Grand Site du Puy Mary (04.71.47.04.14; www.puymary.fr). And also Auvergne - Destination Volcans (www.auvergne-destination-volcans.com).
From Bouches-du-Rhône to Colorado
14/19 - The south coast of the coast between Marseille and Cassis, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, offers a harsh and grandiose landscape, unique in Europe. This hiker's paradise here shows a panorama similar to that of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. It is a succession of bays and rocky coasts rising steeply above the sea, notched with coves and creeks. These white limestone cliffs are colored here by the sunset.
Calanques National Park (04.20.10.50.00; www.calanques-parcnational.fr).
Australia bathed by the Atlantic ...
15/19 - Following the Corniche Basque, this natural area which stretches for 10 kilometers between Ciboure and Hendaye, this viewpoint over Loya Bay and its lookouts (the “Twins”), surprises with its similarity to the site of the 12 Apostles that can be seen in the state of Victoria in Australia.
Hendaye Tourist Office (05.59.20.00.34; www.hendaye-tourisme.fr).
A budding Cappadocia in Haute-Provence
16/19 - This ocher color, these steep rocky peaks ... The lunar landscapes of Cappadocia, the result of volcanism and erosion, are not far away. We are however not in Anatolia, but in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The rocks of Les Mées, with their curious cut, received the name of Penitents because of their silhouette and their alignment in procession. A ridge path allows you to go around in 2 hours 30 minutes and discover these rocks formed 25 million years ago.
Visible from the A51 motorway or the national 85, this natural site is located in the town of Mées, 22km from Sisteron and 23 km from Digne-Les-Bains. Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Tourist Office (04.92.31.57.29; www.tourisme-alpes-haute-provence.com).
A hill in Provence ravaged like Etna
17/19 - Like ash flows on the slopes of Mount Etna ... Despite its darkness, this arid relief, with round and soft shapes, has nothing volcanic about it. Robinines du Liman, located in the geological nature reserve of Haute-Provence, actually came from the accumulation of sediments at the bottom of an ocean that was there about 200 million years ago. Erosion has generated this otherworldly landscape. It is still in action, as indicated by the gullies that run through these marls.
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Tourist Office (04.92.31.57.29; www.alpeshaute-provence.com).
The Argentine Far West in the Pyrénées-Orientales
18/19 - - This show could be that of the quebrada de las Flechas, in the Calchaquies valleys of the Argentine Far West. Yet we are here in the Pyrénées-Orientales, facing the organs of Ille sur Têt. Sand and clay cliffs chiselled by time and the elements, this marvel is a fragile site. Its access, via the Chemin de Régleilles (walk 800 meters), is now chargeable and regulated.
Les Orgues Ille-sur-Têt (04.68.84.13.13; lesorgues.ille-sur-tet.com). Entrance: from 3.50 to 5 €, free for children under 10.
In Corsica, as in an aboriginal dream
19/19 - Would Sisyphus finally have got rid of his cumbersome burden? The Uomu di Cagna, this 1,500-tonne ball, is placed at the southern end of the mountain range that crosses Corsica. However, it seems ready to descend at any time the 1,200 m drop that connects it to the plain of Sotta and the Gulf of Figari. This granite bilboquet was born from an erosion phenomenon very close to that which caused the creation of the Devil's Balls, several thousands of kilometers away, in the Northern Territory, in Australia.
Bonifacio Tourist Office (04.95.73.11.88; www.bonifacio.fr/itineraire-de-luomo-di-cagna/).