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Last updated 1 February 2020
The Tour de France is the largest and most well-known cycling race in the world and following the Tour de France in a motorhome is an amazing way to experience it. Apart from the two world wars, it has run each year, predominantly in France since 1903. The world’s best cyclists come to the Tour de France to show their skills and plenty of grit, determination and stamina over a torrid course.
From time trials to tortuous mountain climbs, they participate in 21 stages across 23 days. For those who make it to the end at the Champs Elysee, the jewel in the crown of the Tour de France, they will have ridden around 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles). In anyone’s language, that is a herculean effort.
Taking place in July each year, the various stages weave through the beautiful French countryside, small villages and towns. Occasionally they are in or close to some big cities, but it is the beauty of regional France that is usually at the forefront. The tour sometimes pops into other countries, with six out of the last ten years commencing in countries such as Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and even the United Kingdom.
Even if you aren’t a Tour de France or cycling fan, seeing it unfold in front of your eyes on television can have you wanting to visit France in a heartbeat. Aside from the pure beauty of the country, the tour creates a carnival atmosphere in these towns, possibly quite like no other. The towns celebrate the tour, encouraging visitors to come and spend time with them. Sometimes, depending on the area, when the Tour de France rolls through, it shuts the town down for a period of time.
The Tour de France Publicity Caravan is quite a spectacle to behold as well. With a large number of decorated vehicles in the entourage, it runs ahead of the tour whipping up the crowd into a party mood and giving out all kinds of promotional material. It’s a sight that can only be truly witnessed when you are there.
One of the best ways to follow the Tour de France is by hiring a motorhome and creating your own itinerary based around this amazing event. There is plenty to think about, but at the same time, it also doesn’t need to be over-planned. Following the Tour de France can still allow you to travel slowly and go where the road takes you, as those who love motorhoming know and love.
I spoke to one of my readers Dino to get some insight into life on the road following the Tour de France. His journey in 2019 saw him hit the French roads with two of his friends, keen to enjoy the race and see some of what France had to offer.
Following are his reasons as to why you should hire a motorhome in France and follow the tour. Each year there are approximately 10,000 motorhomes join in this event and over ten million spectators along the way, so we’ve also some great tips for making the most out of your motorhome holiday.
Following the Tour de France in a motorhome for the first time
What made you decide to hire a motorhome and follow the Tour de France?
We were three middle-aged men in a motorhome only one of whom (Peter) had done some camping let alone motorhoming. It was Peter’s suggestion we do this, principally to see the French countryside because every year he’d watch the Tour on television and drool at its beauty.
I have been a cycling fan for a long time having been a very competitive cyclist until recently and would watch Le Tour with my daughter. She too competed at a very high level having raced for Australia. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to go.
Our third member was Frank who was neither a cyclist nor a Le Tour fan but he is one of those great guys you love to have around who loves life. He’s also a great cook and would create magic meals even within the confines of the motorhome.
Did you stay in campgrounds every night?
No, we didn’t stay in any campgrounds. We wanted the flexibility of staying wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We didn’t want to be tied into being at a certain pre-booked campground on a certain day.
We wild camped and made use of the France Passion network.
Did you have time for other sightseeing?
We only caught 5-6 stages of the tour, which is plenty. For the mountain stages, you need to get there 2-3 days beforehand anyway. We did plenty of sightseeing
Were you often stuck in traffic jams on the roads?
Never. It’s amazing how quickly it clears out after the last bike goes past. The mountain stages with only one road up and down are busier. On Mt Tourmelat we stayed the extra night and drove off the mountain the next morning.
What’s the atmosphere like?
I cannot describe the atmosphere. Whatever I say would not do it justice. It’s simply amazing. Everybody is very welcoming and friendly. People will help you in any way they can such as suggesting where to park and where to see the race.
Can you set up outside your motorhome to watch the event?
It depends where you are. The high mountains have very narrow roads so you can’t park roadside. We parked in a paddock then walked to the roadside with our picnic chairs and table.
Did anything surprise you about the trip?
It exceeded my expectations and then some.
Would you follow the Tour de France in a motorhome again?
Travelling in a motorhome in France for the first time?
Doing a road trip in a motorhome for the first time? Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your road trip, provided by Dino.
- Just do it!
- Check whether your motorhome has an inverter and decide whether you want one. We didn’t have one and needed it since we wild camped so much and couldn’t plug into mains power. The battery only lasts so long when you are stopped for long periods of time.
- Have some spare hose connector fittings for the motorhome’s water inlet hose. They are such an easy thing to leave connected to the water tap after you have finished filling up. Also, we found that at different locations, the sizes of the taps were different which made things a little tricky as well. Fortunately, there were often fellow motorhome travellers around us who were more than happy to help out.
- Paper maps are good to have as well as GPS and Google Maps.
- The backroads and scenic routes are the way to go and we tried to incorporate as many of these into our trip, even if it meant driving in the wrong direction to where we would ultimately want to be. The Back Roads France is a great book to buy and have with you.
- Learn some basic French, it helps but is not essential. I speak French at an intermediate level which is helpful.
- Get a portable BBQ or grill with a bag of charcoal.
- If you are precious about the coffee you drink, buy a stove-top espresso coffee machine and make your own.
- In my opinion, the food in cafes and restaurants in France is overrated. Go to the markets, buy fresh and cook it yourself. It’s a great experience and saves you money.
Editors note – Lots of great tips in there, thanks Dino. We certainly agree with the need for an inverter. We’ve been using one for many years and couldn’t do without it.
Love the portable BBQ idea. We do so much cooking in our motorhome but it does get a bit messy sometimes. When we travel in Australia in our campervan we have a small gas portable stove for using outside. They are great also.
It’s a shame French cafe food hasn’t inspired him, as it’s one of our favourite world cuisines. However, we do agree that not all cafes and restaurants are created equal and you need to sift through them all and do your research to find the good ones. Sometimes, in really small locations it’s not always possible. We love the markets too and we buy from local markets every day when we are on the road.
Click on the links below for our videos and recipes for easy motorhome meals we’ve made and you can make yourself
Tips for first-timers following the Tour de France in a motorhome
Having been a first-time tour follower, these are Dino’s tips.
- Decide early which stages you want to see and where they are located
- Plan your route well in advance
- Do not attempt to drive right into the towns that are at the centre of the stages or you might get stuck. Park out from the towns and walk/ride
- You will need clothing for all types of weather. For us, it was cold in the Alsace (north-east France) where we had to wear coats and long pants. In the south of France, it was 42 degrees celsius.
Extra tip for the mountain stages
Watching the mountain stages are a must-do! These are very popular especially the signature climbs like Alpes-D’Huez, Ventoux and Tourmalet and they often have these stages on the weekend so the locals aren’t working and join all the tourists making it very, very crowded
Get there early. The Mt Tourmalet stage was Saturday afternoon. We got onto the mountain Thursday afternoon and it was already busy with all roadside spots taken. By Friday the whole mountain was full. By Saturday the mountain was closed.
Additional tips for following the Tour de France
- The time taken to travel on French roads, particularly the back roads or in the mountains, should not be underestimated. Roads can be narrow, not well sealed, winding and in a large motorhome, travel is always much slower. Allow time to drive, stop in at places along the way and appreciate the scenery.
- If you are hiring a motorhome, especially for the first time, plan to pick it up before the Tour starts in order to acquaint yourself with the vehicle and the roads. If you have flown in on a long-haul flight, it’s also good advice to give yourself time to re-adjust to your new surroundings and time zone.
- Hire bicycles. They are a must on our list of things to have in a motorhome. When following the tour you can trace the paths of the cyclists or just use them to get into the smaller towns.
- If you are staying at campgrounds, especially at the start and finish, booking early is a must.
- Keep the motorhome well stocked with fresh water and food/beverages before you pull up.
- Keep an eye on your waste and be aware of where the dump stations are so you don’t get caught whilst parked up.
- Always be mindful of other drivers on the roads and when you are looking for somewhere to park to watch the Tour.
- Remember to look after your motorhome when parking, especially when reversing or parking in a tight spot. There are bound to be areas where you park which will be offroad so also watch out for rocks and low banks. Use a spotter to be on the safe side. Read how to keep you and your motorhome safe.
- Keep your motorhome locked up and secure when you are not in attendance.
- The rest days of the Tour de France are a great opportunity to park up and spend more time in one place.
- Expect there to be crowds everywhere. Plan your arrival and departure times well.
- Spend money locally, they will love you for it.
- For a different perspective try to see at least one starting and finishing stage and don’t forget the mountain climbs and finishes.
- Have some wet weather equipment available as well as a hat and sunscreen.
Planning a motorhome European itinerary? Read our planning tips.
Motorhome stopovers in France
Motorhome touring in France is openly welcomed which makes finding a motorhome stopover much easier. Motorhome travellers are spoiled for choice in France with a range of options for overnight parking spots.
There are thousands of official campgrounds found all over France. They offer a safe place to stay with facilities such as electricity, showers/toilets, water and dump stations. Ranging from one-star to five-star, additional services can include washing and drying facilities, wifi, convenience stores, playgrounds, inclusion for pets etc. All will charge commercial rates for these sites and will vary depending on the time of year, location and facilities offered.
If you are planning on staying in campgrounds at all during the Tour de France period, it is highly recommended to book well in advance. With so many motorhomes following the tour, campground sites book up early and fast. This is particularly true for the areas immediately around the starting and finishing stages.
Tip: If you are planning to be in Paris for the final stage on the Champs Elysee, we recommend the campground at Bois de Boulogne. We’ve been staying here when we visit Paris since 1997, and whilst it has changed owners a few times, it’s the best campground near Paris for motorhomes.
- Extensive motorhome site and campground very close to the centre of Paris
- Open 365 days a year
- Located in a huge expanse of natural parkland with campsite access to the River Seine
- Many facilities blocks scattered throughout the campground to cater for large numbers of visitors. Facilities include hairdryers, family bathrooms and heating.
- Wifi in reception and bar
- Convenience store (includes delivery of fresh bread and croissants if ordered the day before)
- Bar and cafe on site
- Bikes and barbeques for hire during the summer period
- Free shuttle to Porte Maillot in Paris centre
Camping de Paris
2 Allée du Bord de l’Eau
For a list of almost 10,000 campgrounds, go to Camping France.
Aires de Service
Aires de Service are locations in France that provide some basic services for motorhomes., like electricity, water and dumping stations. Not all aires have all facilities for example some may only have electricity and water but no dumping of waste is possible. Others provide a small number of spaces for motorhome parking during the day, whilst some allow overnight stays up to 24 hours. Services will attract a small fee. Parking and overnight parking may also attract a fee in some instances but are usually offered free of charge.
Read our detailed guide on Aires de Service in France
This is our favourite part of driving through France in a motorhome. We love being able to stay as locally as possible and buy directly from the owners and the farmers themselves. It never hurts that we’ve also managed to find some incredible spots to stay too. If you love camping a little more freely, love mixing with locals and even want to save some money, France Passion is the perfect option when you are looking for somewhere to stay in a motorhome.
Staying at a France Passion location is free and without obligation, other than to treat everyone and everything with respect. Bookings are not required.
Read our comprehensive guide on France Passion and why we highly recommend wild camping for motorhomes
More reading >> Using the France Passion network in south-west France
HomeCamper is a little similar to France Passion. Here, anyone can put their piece of land that they have available up for rent. A homeowner might have a spot in their back yard or a farmer might have space on their property, for example. The key difference here is that they will usually have some services on offer (water, electricity) but will also charge a nominal fee to cover the use of such services. Bookings must also be made online.
This is also one of our favourite things to do. Wild camping, or staying somewhere that is not a dedicated campground or area to stay is legal in most parts of France. It’s not possible in large cities, and in some, like the French Riviera, it’s expressly forbidden, but elsewhere in France, opportunities abound.
Find a nice spot on the side of a road near a lake or river and pull up for the night. Just be respectful of the area around you, always take your rubbish, don’t drop your waste and make sure it is a secure location. We don’t recommend staying at the major service stations on the highways.
Tour de France details 2020
Tour de France dates 2020
The Tour de France 2020 starts on Saturday, June 27, 2020, in Nice, in the south of France. The final stage of the Tour de France ends in Paris on the Champs Elysee on Sunday 19 July 2020. In 2020, 12 new cities will become part of the tour.
Tour de France route 2020
- 27 June 2020 Nice (156 km )
- 28 June 2020 Nice (187 km)
- 29 June 2020 Nice – Sisteron (198 km)
- 30 June 2020 Sisteron – Orcières-Merlette (157 km)
- 1 July 2020 Gap – Privas (183 km)
- 2 July 2020 Le Teil – Mont Aigoual (191 km)
- 3 July 2020 Millau – Lavaur (168 km )
- 4 July 2020 Cazères – Loudenvielle (140 km)
- 5 July 2020 Pau – Laruns (154 km )
- 6 July 2020 REST DAY
- 7 July 2020 Île D’Oléron – Île de Ré (170 km)
- 8 July 2020 Châtelaillon-Plage – Poitiers (167 km)
- 9 July 2020 Chauvigny – Sarran (218 km )
- 10 July 2020 Châtel-Guyon – Puy Mary (191 km )
- 11 July 2020 Clermont Ferrand – Lyon (197 km )
- 12 July 2020 Lyon – Grand Colombier (175 km )
- 13 July 2020 REST DAY
- 14 July 2020 La Tour-du-Pin – Villard-de-Lans (164 km )
- 15 July 2020 Grenoble – Col de la Loze (168 km )
- 16 July 2020 Méribel – La Roche-sur-Foron (168 km )
- 17 July 2020 Bourg-en-Bresse – Champagnole (160 km )
- 18 July 2020 Lure – La Planche des Belles Filles ( 36 km)
- 19 July 2020 Mantes-la-Jolie – Paris (122 km )
Tour de France route travel highlights
The Tour de France covers 3,500 kilometres, visiting a broad range of towns and villages along the way. It will take the cyclists and those who follow from the eastern border to the west, down to the south and across to the Spanish border too. This year it will also go just slightly north of Paris. It will take in the white sandy beaches of the Atlantic and the stony ones of the Mediterranean.
There will be national parks and lush forests, medieval villages, hilltop towns and large cities. Of course, there are also the mountains and those epic, arduous climbs with incredible views at the top.
Whichever way you go, whether you follow it all or just part of the way, there will be something for everyone. For those who follow the Tour de France in a motorhome, we’ve put together some highlights that you might find along the Tour de France 2020 route.
Seeing the completion of the Tour de France in Paris is also an experience like no other. The atmosphere builds all day and the moment the first cyclist appears on those famous cobbles, the crowds go absolutely mad. There’s plenty of pushing and shoving to get the best spot and once you have one, it’s best to stay there. There’s no coming back once you’ve relinquished that prized piece of footpath.
Region: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
The French Riviera is physically stunning with many beautiful buildings, old city centres and the promenade that lines the Mediterranean Sea. It’s also very busy in the summertime, so the start of the Tour de France will increase the pressure on this area. Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, Antibes, Menton and Villefranche-sur-Mer are all notable cities here.
It’s typically more expensive down here and motorhomes are, dare I say it, persona non grata here. “No motorhome” signs are very common and if you did find an area without one, parking is extremely difficult. If you really want to see the riviera and are in a motorhome I’d suggest staying out of this area and either catching a bus in or if close enough, ride bikes.
We stayed in a great France Passion site in Grasse up in the hills behind Nice, but note it’s only small. Check the France Passion guide for other locations in the surrounding hills.
Known for: Mediterranean Sea, beaches, celebrities, fancy yachts, summer climate most of the year
Eat: Bouillabaise, the regional seafood soup, Pissaladiere, with strong Italian influence given their proximity to the border and Provencal cuisine including olives, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants. Seafood is also common here.
Region: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
The medieval city of Sisteron, on the banks of the Durance River and in between two mountains is a must-see town. The Provence region that surrounds this area is incredible and if you have additional time in your itinerary I highly recommend spending some time here. Enroute from Nice to Sisteron, visit the Gorges du Verdon. Starting at Castellane, it is a stunning river gorge where you drive your motorhome along the edges of huge mountain ranges to the turquoise coloured waters of Lac de Sainte Croix. White water rafting and hiking are common here.
Digne-les-Bains is a cute spa town with wonderful fresh food markets. To the west of Sisteron lies the Luberon Valley with small villages dotted all the way along. Our favourites were Gordes, Menerbes and Roussillon. Just a little further west, the “Venice of Provence”, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Carpentras and Avignon are wonderful places to visit.
Known for: stunning lavender fields and lavender products, mountain ranges, deep gorges, clear rivers, medieval hill-top towns and spa towns. Roussillon is known for having one of the largest ochre deposits in the world and is a must-see.
Eat: olive oil, garlic, olives, peaches and apples, eggplants, tomatoes and herbes de Provence. You can find great olive oil, olives and tapenade at many local farms and stores in the area. Daube Provencale, a hearty beef stew is a local dish here. The aniseed-flavoured liqueur Pastis is enjoyed in Provence. Show you are enjoying it like a local by mixing it with water and going to play a game of petanque.
Orcières-Merlette – Gap
Region: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Located in the mountains, this area is a ski resort in winter and an outdoor adventure playground in summer.
Known for: lake and river fishing, white water rafting, hiking. mountain climbing
Eat: mushroom, tourtons, Oreilles d’âne (local ravioli speciality), mountain honey
Privas – Le Teil – Mont Aigoual
Known for: the 1629 siege of Privas and the Three Crosses of Montoulon for a stunning view of the city
Eat: creme de marrons and marrons glacé, fondue and raclette
Millau – Lavaur
Millau is home to the world’s tallest bridge, which is also a viaduct. It’s also regarded as an incredible piece of engineering infrastructure that spans the Tarn Gorge. There is plenty of national park around this area. To the east towns like Nimes are worthy of a visit and Avignon can also be accessed from this area as well. Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a beautiful wine city near Nimes. Further south, Beziers, Carcassonne and Narbonne are good places to stop.
From Lavaur, the Tour starts to head down towards the mountain climbs of the Pyrenees, before eventually turning northwards to the west coast of France. If you are not wanting to follow every stage of the tour or not interested in the mountains here, our tips would be to head across towards the west coast to pick up all the wonderful area of the Lot River, Bordeaux and the western beachfront. See our links below for more information on many of the towns in this area.
Driving distance from Lavaur to Laruns is 280 km. From Laruns up to the first stage on the west coast in Île D’Oléron is 427 km.
Eat: Saucisse de Toulouse, confit de canard, cassoulet, bouillabaisse, anchovies and Roquefort blue cheese.
Île D’Oléron – Île de Ré
The landscape changes considerably here from the mountains of the Pyrenees to the beaches of the North Atlantic. Along the western coastline, there are many small islands joined to the mainland by small bridges, some of them across tidal causeways.
The Tour de France has had several stages in Noirmoutier to the north of this area. If you get a chance to include it in your itinerary you will find it’s unique. The access to the island is via a road that can only be accessed at low tide. Many a person and vehicle has made an error of judgement over the years and ended up submerged and stranded.
This area of south-west France is full of incredible places to visit: Bordeaux, Cognac, Arcachon, Cap-Ferrat, and Europe’s largest sand dune, the list goes on. We spent two weeks here just exploring the area so be sure to think about including this area when you check out some of these tour de France stages.
If you’ve got time on your hands, the Lot River is a slow, sleepy but beautiful drive full of small medieval villages.
Known for: Île D’Oléron is the largest white sand island on the French west coast. All along the coast, small French villages still exist, many whose livelihood still depends on fishing or other seafood endeavours. Oysters are particularly good in Cap Ferret, further south. Arcachon is known for the largest sand dune in Europe and there is an incredible view from the top. Spend time in any of these small villages, eating seafood and drinking good local wine.
Eat: The Lot River area is known for duck and foie gras. Bordeaux is associated with great wines. The grand cru from Medoc and Saint Emilion are famous throughout the world, along with the Sauternes dessert wines. The town of Cognac is full of traditional cognac houses but the town is beautiful as well. If you love seafood, oysters from the oyster leases at Arcachon and Cap Ferret are a must.
Chauvigny – Sarran
Limoges is one city that you shouldn’t miss, with a beautiful old town complete with half-timbered houses, Gothic Cathedral with stunning views, heritage train station with copper roof and Limoges porcelain.
Lyon is the gastronomic region of France with traditional food only found here, amazing Les Halles market and an old and new town that sits on the confluence of the Rhone and Saone Rivers.
Known for: Traboules (secret laneways), Old Town, Les Halles market, Michelin star restaurants, charcuterie centre of France, Bresse chickens from Bourg-en-Bresse that are renowned all over France and are easy to spot by their blue feet.
Eat: Lyonnaise sausage. rosette sausage, salade lyonnaise, andouillette, pike quenelles, potato gratin, and the fresh herb cheese cervelle de canut. Try a traditional Bouchon Lyonnais where there is no menu and local specialities including offal is sure to be served.
Tour de France stages 2020
- Flat – Stages 3,5,7,10,11,19,21
- Hills – Stages 1,6,12,14
- Mountains – Stages 2,4,8,9,13,15,16,17,18
- Time trials – Stage 20
- Rest days – 2 ( 6 July and 13 July)
Tour de France tours and packages 2020
Finally, if you aren’t in a motorhome or plan to leave it behind at some stage to pick up more of the tour in another way, it’s best to use one of the official tour operators accredited by the Tour de France. That way, you can be sure that you are dealing with authentic tour groups who have a history of working with the tour. There are cycling tours, packages that include grandstand access on the Champs Elysee (which I have to say look amazing!) and other related sightseeing tours.
The list of travel agents for the Tour de France can be found here.
Where can I find a motorhome in France
So you’ve decided to follow the Tour de France in a motorhome but have no motorhome to do it in? We’d better fix that part of the process up! There are several options available to those who want to do a road trip in a motorhome. Here are the options we recommend.
Hiring a motorhome in France
We use and recommend France Motorhome Hire (FMH). There are other providers around but we have been hiring from FMH since 2012 and use them exclusively when we return to France. Why? They are easy to work with, we know what we are going to get when we get these and getting to (and out of) their depot is easy. Their pricing is also transparent.
⇓Use our special promo code in the FMH online quote to receive €50 off your hire cost ⇓
Based in Veron, 1.5 hours south of Paris, we generally fly into Paris, catch the fast train down to the depot and then get on our way once all the formalities of the hire are taken care of. We always spend the first night locally, as it’s the easiest option to get ourselves ready for the upcoming trip.
If you are arriving into Paris via Charles de Gaulle, Orly or via train or the Eurostar, hiring from France Motorhome Home can make a lot of sense. The red marker on the map below shows the location of their depot, making a short trip to follow some of the tour, or the entire round trip possible. The vehicles at FMH can cross European borders with no issues, so if you are also considering an itinerary that picks up other areas, this is also absolutely possible.
Buying a motorhome in France
Alternatively, if you are looking to buy a motorhome in France to travel before, during and/or after the Tour de France for an extended period of time, we also have a solution for you. Whilst anyone can buy a motorhome in this way, travellers who are not residents of the EU find it hard to locate reputable sellers of motorhomes. Buying motorhomes in France legally is also a major factor to consider.
Read our detailed article on how to buy a motorhome in France legally from a reputable French-based motorhome company before you make any decisions about where to buy a vehicle from
*T&Cs apply. Conditional upon purchase.
Many thanks to Dino for taking the time to share his experiences with us as he followed the Tour de France for the first time in a motorhome! A special thank you to him for giving us access to his personal photos. All images provided by Dino have been noted accordingly and are used with his permission.