Population: 58 million
Size: 551, 100 sq. km
Official Language: French
France is the largest country in Europe after Russia and Ukraine. The English Channel lies to the north-west and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Spain broils across the Pyrenees to the south, the Mediterranean (including Corsica) is to the south-east and over the eastern Alps and Jura ranges lie Switzerland and Italy. France's relatively flat north-eastern borders abut Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.
Human presence in what is now France dates from the Middle Palaeolithic Age, about 90,000 to 40,000 years ago. These first inhabitants were followed by the Stone Age Cro-Magnon people who appeared on the scene around 25,000 BC and were superseded some 16,000 years later by the Neolithic take on civilisation.
The concept of culture is of paramount importance in France, a country whose people have all but cornered the world market on urbane savoir faire. Their particular take doesn't always jibe with the rest of the world's tastes and ideas, but their devotion to their Frenchness is never in doubt.
The French Alps include Mont Blanc, which at 4800m is Europe's highest peak. The town of Chamonix lies in a valley surrounded by the most spectacular scenery in the French Alps. Reminiscent of the Himalayas, the area is dominated by deeply crevassed glaciers and the cloud-diademed peak of Mont Blanc. In late spring and summer, the glaciers and high-altitude snow and ice serve as a backdrop for meadows and hillsides carpeted with wildflowers, shrubbery and trees.
Not to be missed is the Aigulle du Midi, a lone spire of rock stretching across glaciers, snow fields and rocky crags from the summit of Mont Blanc. Easily accessible, the views from the top are postcard perfect. A further treat is a trans-glacial ride on the world's highest téléphérique (cable car), which stops en route at skiing and hiking destinations.
Visit this link for more information about France:
The Lonely Planet Guide - France