Among the many reasons why the South of France remains one of the world’s premier tourist destinations is its unique geography. Sandwiched between the dramatic peaks of the Southern Alps and the gentle sweep of the Mediterranean littoral, Provence and the French Riviera offer snow and sun, the best of both worlds. No time of year is better for enjoying that balance than the spring, when the fresh powder on the Alps makes for world-class skiing, and the warm sun of the coast helps cut the winter’s chill.
Plan your trip to Provence for the spring and you can enjoy unique recreation, world-famous events, and a mix of weather that has something for everyone!
The Southern Alps: A paradise for skiers
The South of France may be famous for its sunny beaches and turquoise seawater, but up above the coast lies a wholly different attraction: the craggy slopes of the Southern Alps. The massive mountain range spans eight countries and draws over 120 million visitors annually, many of whom visit famed resorts along the French-Italian border, such as Chamonix. The more affordable and less tourist-mobbed ski resorts of the Southern Alps are a good option for any slope-hunting traveler!
Take advantage of end-of-season snowfall at these ski slopes in the Southern Alps:
- La Colmiane: Situated due north of Nice and just a few kilometers from the Italian border, this valley-bound town’s ski season goes on until March 28.
- Valberg/Beuil: This ski destination can be found in the Mercantour National Park and its ski season lasts until April 2.
- Isola 2000: Perfect for visitors looking to take advantage of the European Union’s open borders, this resort is just a few miles from the Italian border with France. It’s also a great option for last-minute vacations, as the ski season lasts until April 17.
- Auron: Less isolated than some alternatives, the Auron ski resort is near the town of Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée. Their ski season also closes on April 17.
- Les Orres: Located just outside of the Ecrins National Park and uphill from the beautiful Serre-Ponçon Lake, this resort remains open to skiers until mid-April.
Instead of staying at a resort for everyday essentials that come at nosebleed-inducing prices, consider one of our unique South of France vacation rentals. You might even find a last-minute travel deal to save money on your trip! Located approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) northwest of the ski slopes mentioned above, our 2-bedroom chalet in La Bâtie Neuve is the perfect place to warm up for your après-ski! A full kitchen, internet access, and sleeping space for 4 make the cabin a comfortable home-away-from-home nestled into the mountainside.
Winter activities for non-skiers
Thankfully, visitors to the Alps don’t have to spend all their time out in the cold–there are plenty of other great experiences in the region during the late winter and spring!
Even if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, you can enjoy the unique alpine environment with a glacier hike in the Ecrins National Park. Or, for the less physically ambitious, the mountains can be appreciated aesthetically with a tourist flight or helicopter tour of the area. If you stay near Gap, you can head to the local Tallard Airport for one of these spectacular scenic tours above the landscape.
There are also the classic destinations of the Mediterranean Coast, where bustling cities like Marseille and Nice provide ample opportunities for tourists. Some of the region’s most famous dishes are especially well-adapted for winter, from bouillabaisse, a fish stew evoking the bustling port of Marseille, to the comforting ratatouille of the Italian border region. One of the most phenomenal natural attractions of the coastline is just as beautiful (and less tourist-filled) in the winter: the Calanques National Park that stretches from Marseille to Cassis!
Plan your stay around a New York Habitat vacation rental
One corner of the South of France that’s particularly well-adapted for combining snow and skis with sand and sun is Villeneuve-Loubet, a historic town just south of Nice’s airport. As shown above, the picturesque Mercantour-Argentera Mountain Range towers over this former fishing village.
The Marina Baie des Anges dominates the resort town, echoing the mountain peaks behind it as well as the white sails of the ships that traverse the Côte d’Azur. This 1-bedroom apartment is located in Le Baronnet, one of the four modernist buildings, and benefits from the development’s state-of-the-art thalassotherapy center and private marina.
A few miles down the coast, between Antibes and Cannes, this unique studio-style vacation rental is a part of the owner’s property and has access to their private pool. A full kitchen and modern conveniences (like a flat-screen television and air conditioning) make the accommodation great for a romantic South of France trip or a last-minute vacation. The rental is also in a prime location if you’re planning a stay that coincides with one of the French Riviera’s seasonal events!
Thanks to its balmy weather, beautiful scenery and unparalleled tourist infrastructure, the South of France is home to many famous international events and conferences, as well as historically important regional celebrations.
The Feria d’Arles maintains a tradition that’s both beloved and controversial in France: bullfighting. Though its trade differs slightly from the more famous Spanish variety, Arles’s bull fighters kick off the summer season with an Easter celebration that the municipality has organized since 1965.
Perhaps the most famous event in the region during spring (if not the whole year) is the Festival de Cannes, considered the world’s most prestigious film festival. Held in mid-May each year (May 11-22 in 2016), the event draws A-listers from both sides of the Atlantic and previews films and documentaries for the year to come. Only one film leaves with the coveted Palme d’Or, making the event a high-stakes competition.
Another internationally renowned event is held at the other end of the Côte d’Azur in the minuscule Principality of Monaco. This, of course, is the Grand Prix, Formula 1 racing’s most important contest and one of the three that form the Triple Crown of Motorsport. The racecourse winds through the narrow streets of the 0.78 square mile (2.02 square kilometer) microstate, making it thrilling to be a spectator!
Summer in the South of France brings even more exciting cultural events like the international Fête de la Musique (held on the June solstice), the theater-focused Festival d’Avignon (starting on July 4), and the operatic Festival d’Aix en Provence (starting on June 30 this year).
With all these amazing events to choose from, you’ll want to book a vacation rental as soon as possible! And with so much culture and scenery available year-round, you might want to consider a longer stay in one of our furnished rentals.