Le Palais, Belle-Ile-en-Mer, France

An imposing, star-shaped citadel stands guard over Le Palais, the capital and main port of Belle‐Île‐en‐Mer. Benedictine monks built the first fortifications around Le Palais in the 11th century; the current fortress — begun in 1549 and later modified by Louis XIV’s military engineer, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (hence the name, Citadelle Vauban) — is now a museum and hotel. Located around 10 miles off Brittainy’s coast and largest of the Breton islands, the aptly named “Beautiful Isle” is blessed with a rich biodiversity of plunging cliffs and pristine sand dunes, salt marshes and heather moorlands, lush valleys and sublime beaches. Claude Monet captured Belle‐Île’s untamed beauty on dozens of canvases, most notably the dramatic rock formations at Port-Coton and Port-Goulphar. The legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt was equally enthralled by isolated Pointe des Poulains, the island’s northernmost tip, and turned its abandoned fort into her summer residence. Bernhardt’s former estate is now a museum; you can hike or cycle there from the colorful fishing port of Sauzon. Sample the island’s famous gooseneck barnacles at a local café.