Beginning this year on the 2nd July, the Tour de France is a gruelling challenge that traverses the length and breadth of France. With a new route announced each year, the race can be a great opportunity to explore areas of the country that are less likely to make a visitor's itinerary. To make the most of this thrilling spectacle, have a look at our top five places to catch a piece of the action.
Stage 1 – Passage de Gois
Home to the starting point of the first race, the Passage de Gois is a tidal causeway located between the Ile de Noirmoutier and Beauvoir sur Mer. There is a huge range of activities on offer all year round here, including kite surfing and sailing, not to mention to superb views of the ocean and marshes. The preservation of the natural environment is admirable, and the atmosphere is guaranteed to be electric in the days running up to the race.
Stage 12 – Luz Ardiden
A small mountain town located in rural France, Luz Ardiden sees the first major climb of the race. Head out to the winding country roads to watch the cyclists in action or wait at the finish line in the centre of town. There’s always a lot going on here, including a fireworks celebration in the evening, and plenty to do once the cycling fun has ended, such as skiing and a range of bars and restaurants to check out.
Stage 13 – Lourdes
According to Jean-Francois Pescheux, this stage will "suit the breakaway specialists, the barouders, who can take some big climbs in their stride." It will also suit visitors looking to spend some time exploring this charming town. The area offers a range of leisure activities, including fishing, golf and Downhill Mountain Biking, as well as being a great spot for venturing into the Pyrenees.
Stage 18 – Pinerolo
The route this year will also include the Italian town of Pinerolo, located 40km southwest of Turin. If you decide to stick around after the Tour de France festivities have come to an end, you’ll see the town come to life on bustling market days. Over 1,000 years old, this open air market sees local farmers selling their wares from 7am until 1pm. In the afternoon, take a walk to the stunning cathedral or the Gothic church of San Maurizio.
Stage 21 – Champs Elysees
The Champs Elysees has been the traditional stage finish for the Tour de France since 1975, and the prestigious Parisian avenue never fails to evoke a thrilling atmosphere amongst the huge crowds. Finish your very own tour of France by welcoming in the cyclists and treating yourself to a meal at a plush restaurant or a spot of shopping at the luxury department stores found here.