Head away from the crowds and into the serene Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges, 3000 sq km of pristine greenery in the western Vosges. In summer, hang-gliders take to the skies, cyclists roll through pristine countryside and walkers can pick from 10,000km of marked paths, including GRs (grandes randonnées; long-distance hiking trails) like the GR5, linking the North Sea to the Mediterranean. When the snow settles, three dozen inexpensive skiing areas offer modest downhill and superb cross-country skiing.

The website offers the inside scoop on activities in the park and details on local tourist offices.