The Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of France – L’Association des Plus Beaux Villages de France was started in 1982 in Collonges-la-Rouge, Corrèze.
The aims of the group are, unsurprisingly, to discover, recognise and promote the most beautiful villages of France whose merits are within set guidelines. Members are a limited number, whose inhabitants must not number more than 2000 to be eligible and the town or village must have a minimum of two protected sites or monuments.
The villages must be in settings of exceptional beauty, either man-made or natural and of the 32,000 villages (approximately) that there are in France – only 157 have made the list to date.
Villages may apply to be considered for the accolade of one of the “plus beaux villages de France” and will then undergo stringent tests – very few make the grade. Quality, reputation, heritage, development and many other factors are reviewed by the judges who aim to avoid a village turning into a “theme park” type tourist area by achieving the coveted title.
Not every region of France is represented in the association – the south features highly with the highest number of beautiful villages being in the Perigord – south west France.
Perigord, in the Dordogne, has 36 villages listed including Collonges-la-Rouge, the original village from which the whole association was begun by the then Mayor. The Association states that “the matchless red sandstone is the hallmark of this former stronghold of the Counts of Turenne. It is everywhere: beneath the “lauze” stone-slab or slate roofs of the impressive 15th Century and 16th Century houses, and adorning the corn and wine mart and the Church of Saint Pierre”.
Perigord is home to 1001 chateaux and castles, boasts prehistoric remains, beautiful countryside, wonderful architecture, vineyards, churches and abbeys and meandering rivers. It is known for its many unspoilt, picturesque medieval towns and villages.
Provence is represented by 15 villages including Seillans which the Association says “has everything a typical Provencal village should have: houses arranged in tiers on the hillside, narrow paved streets, arched passageways, little squares where fountains babble, sunny weather and vistas of vineyards and olive groves”.
The region of the Loire includes 11 beautiful villages, among them Montrésor which “stands on the banks of the Indrois which reflects the remains of the double enclosure walls of this old fortress and its Renaissance castle. In the village, the houses with their white tufa walls or half-timbering mix with semi-cave dwellings”.
For more information about the most beautiful villages in France see the Plus Beaux Villages website.