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With beautiful marshes criss-crossed by waterways that have earnt the nickname of Green Venice, to the elegant beaches and seaside resorts such as stylish La Rochelle, Poitou Charentes is a region perfect for those who love to be active and out of doors, as well as having some wonderful historic cities and it is also the home of fine Cognac brandy.

All along the coast you'll find magnificent beaches and opportunities for all kinds of watersports. Inland, the lush countryside features wooded valleys, sleepy villages, and the famous Cognac vineyards. Poitiers is one of France's oldest cities, while the nearby Futuroscope attraction is the ultimate in high-tech.

A tranquil and largely unspoilt region with a stunning coastline boasting fine sandy beaches backed by fragrant pine forests, pretty marinas and bustling resorts including popular Royan. Another highlight is the chic port of La Rochelle with its waterside restaurants, picturesque shopping streets and a delightful old harbour often lively with street entertainers, artists and market stalls. For a peaceful retreat you can escape to a number of beautiful islands such as the Ile d'Oléron (be wary of naturists!) and the Ile de Ré which is reached by a toll bridge and reputed to have its own micro-climate with hours of endless sunshine. Inland has also plenty of assets; the Marais Poitevin (marshes) or Venise Verte as it is often referred to has a serene and verdant expanse of fields which can be explored by rowing boat along the canals or cycling the many towpaths.

Or visit Poitiers, one of France's most ancient towns and the equally charming Cognac which is also home to world famous brandy distilleries - take a free guided tour and sample the fabled nectar that has been produced here since the 17th century.

Top places to visit

Poitiers in Poitou-Charentes is a beautiful city built on a rocky promontory that is full of Romanesque heritage and over 80 listed monuments.

La Rochelle in Poitou-Charentes is a city by the sea known for its history in trade and fishing and is joined to the charming Île de Ré by a road bridge.

Angoulême in Poitou-Charentes is an attractive city famous for its International Comic Book Festival and the classic car race, the Circuit des Ramparts.

Saintes in Poitou-Charentes is the second largest city in Charente-Maritime and has an historical heritage dating back to Gallo-Roman times with some excellent ruins of Roman baths and an amphitheatre.

This is one of France's biggest theme parks. Dedicated to the Moving Image, it is unique in its kind, with stunning ultra-modern buildings. The park offers a large variety of attractions to suit every age group and makes a fun...

At La Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image (the International City of Comic Books and the Image) you will uncover a fantastical world where stories and images are united on paper in comic books from all over...

Learn about the fascinating underwater world at this excellent state-of-the-art aquarium which is well laid out and has beautiful fish from all over the world.

Take a boat trip from the harbour in La Rochelle towards Fort Boyard (an ancient stone fortress made famous by a tv series), or out to the tiny Île d'Aix.