France always brings to mind a picturesque setting of coffee tables next to the Eiffel tower with a book in hand and La Vie En Rose playing in the background. While this scenario is absolutely to die for, it eclipses other superb and lesser-known places in France that are not as popular. By Quoyina Ghosh

1) Étretat

Normandy is known all too well to be a place rich in anthropogenic history. What isn’t known too well about it is the natural history which can be seen in the gorgeous white cliffs carved by nature there. There in the town of Étretat, a simple walk on the pristine white beaches will have you faced with one of nature’s prized possessions — the white cliffs and arches spreading over the English Channel. They have long been the subject of renowned artists like Monet, Courbet and are sights you simply cannot afford to miss out on!

2) Porquerolles

If you’re seeking a magical sliver of an island in the midst of blue, choppy waters inhabited by no more than 200 people, look no further — Porquerolles is a dream afloat in the Mediterranean Sea that was once gifted by a man to his wife. Upon her death, it was bought by the French government to protect it from development — a task that bore fruit seeing as while the world hums on, Porquerolles smiles sweetly sunbathing in its isolated corner.

3) Dinan

An absolute must for the history buff in all of us, this town in Brittany is known to be house to architecture from as early as the 13th century! Stepping into this medieval town is often akin to being taken on a time machine ride as it’s changed so little from the Middle Ages. With its ancient architecture, use of the Breton language, walls along the river Rance, it is an absolute treat to the modern soul seeking a change from the usual daily drabness.

4) Château des Ducs de Bretagne

Remember the castles we’d read of as children? The ones where the princess would be locked up in a tower and a knight would appear to save her? That castle exists and is named Château des Ducs de Bretagne. Build back in 1207, this castle on the bank of the Loire was the residence of the various Dukes of Brittany from the 13th century onwards. It later went on to become the residence of the French Monarchy in Breton. If you’re seeking history bordering on sheer magic, you’ve found the ideal place for you.

5) Loire Valley

Like most other parts of France, this too isn’t lacking in the section of history. This valley, now serene and lovely was once the crux of political power. Hence, the variety of palaces, chateaux, banquet halls, and towers, and etc. With serene villages, vineyards that produce the most brilliant wine and landscape that seems like an Impressionist painting come alive, this place is one of the most charming parts of France.

Related: 11 Unique Experiences In France That Are Hard To Find Elsewhere