The Mercantour National Park, a jewel of nature and set among the mountains, is one of the wildest and at the same time most fascinating places in the nature of Provence.
It is a true paradise for lovers of mountains, hiking and outdoor sports thanks to its numerous valleys that offer a succession of gorges, thousand-year-old rocks and untamed torrents.
In addition, the park is the habitat of various species of birds such as the eagle and mountain animals such as marmots, ibex, mouflon, chamois, deer, fallow deer, wild boar and, in recent years, wolves have also returned.
Lovers of rafting in summer and skiing in winter find the Vallée de l’Ubaye the ideal place to spend their holidays, thanks to its uninhabited and wild nature.
The bizarre town of Barcelonnette, with its unusual Mexican style, seems to have been catapulted into these Alpine mountains: it is the result of 5000 inhabitants who emigrated to Mexico to make their fortunes in the silk and wool trade and who, on their return to Provence, enriched the town with a Latin American touch.
Mountain bikers should try to conquer the 7 mountain passes that connect the valley to the outside world in order to obtain a special medal from the area’s tourist consortium.
Hiking and canoeing are among the activities available. For those who want to ski, there are two ski resorts, Pra Loup 1500 and Pra Loup 1600.
The famous Verdon River has its source in this area, between the Col d’Allos and the Vallée de l’Ubaye. In this valley, you can discover some of the wonders of the park, including trails and breathtaking views.
One of the most spectacular attractions in the valley is certainly the Lac d’Allos, a beautiful alpine lake of an incredible turquoise colour. In the southern part of the valley lurks a small village, Colmars-les-Alpes: a labyrinth of picturesque alleyways surrounded by mighty walls, defended by a Savoy fort and surrounded by a beautiful landscape.
Don’t miss a stop at the Ferme Girerd-Potin, where you can sample the delicious dishes of the valley.
This 150 km long valley is the gentlest in the Mercantour Park but in winter, when snow closes the passes, it is only accessible from Nice.
Characterising the Vallée de la Tinée are vertiginous overhangs, steep rock faces and formations alternating beautiful colours of burgundy, mauve and pink.
The valley is littered with magnificent tunnels and gorges to explore. Guillaumes is the starting point for a visit to the Gorges de Dalius, famous for their intense red colour, which are traversed by no less than 17 tunnels.
Don’t miss the vertiginous Pont de la Mariée suspended between the gorges and 80 metres high.
From Pont de Barthéon, on the other hand, begins the magnificent Sentier du Point Sublime, a 4 km walk for about 1.5 hours through oak forests, pine forests and rock formations to reach a viewpoint: a true paradise for mountain lovers!
Regardless of whether you come in summer or winter, Valberg is the ideal resort: it offers a ski resort in winter and hiking trails in summer, the Espace Valberg Aventure with adventure trails through the trees and tracks for mountain bikers.
To admire dreamy landscapes, climb up to the village of Roure, perched on a rock and surrounded by the Marcel Kroenlein Arboretum, 6 marvellous hectares of alpine flora.
- Take the D30 road that will take you through a wonderful hanging valley towards the village of Beuil, from where you can visit the Gorges de Cians: as you continue, you will encounter several waterfalls and then the village of Roubion, perched on a cliff and surrounded by rocky pinnacles.
- Another scenic route is along the D2205 road through beautiful gorges to the alpine village of Saint-Etienne de Tinée, which can be used as a base for the many hikes around the Cime de la Bonette.
- If you want to taste rustic mountain cuisine, go to Le Valbergan!
This inaccessible valley is called the ‘Switzerland of Nice’ due to its proximity to the Côte d’Azur and offers wonderful views. For the most spectacular views of the valley and the Gorges de la Vésubie climb up to La Madone d’Utelle, the steep path starts at the bridge in the mountain village of Saint-Jean la Rivière. The perched village of Belvédère also offers beautiful views.
If you like hiking or skiing, you can contact the Bureau des Guides, which organises hiking, climbing and canyoning, or take the chairlift from the La Colmiane ski resort up to the Pic de la Colmiane and follow one of the many trails and paths.
After a busy day of sport, you can also relax at the Thermes de Berthemont Les Bains, a spa centre famous for its therapies and baths with a swimming pool and sauna in Roquebillière.
The base for all sports activities is the picturesque Saint-Martin-Vésubie.
This small southern valley in the park is a true wonder, as its name suggests. More than 40,000 rock engravings dating back to the Bronze Age have been discovered here.
An open gallery stretching over more than 30 square kilometres, wedged between the Vallée de la Vésubie and the Vallée de la Roya.
The valley remains snow-covered for most of the year and the best month to explore it is September. The only way to admire the paintings is on a guided tour, as public access is restricted to protect them.
This valley was once Italian territory, the hunting ground of Victor Emmanuel II, and was only annexed to France in 1947. Here, magnificent villages alternate with spectacular Alpine panoramas that come alive during the baroque art and music festival with a rich concert programme, Les Baroquiales.
The small town of Sospel is worth a visit for its panoramic location at the confluence of valleys and for its familiar, old-world atmosphere, wandering through the small alleyways and discovering the local cuisine made from products grown in the area.
The Gorges de Saorge to the north of Breil-sur-Roya are impressive and lead to the fortified village of Saorge, clinging to the mountain so high it is dizzying.
Tende is also worth a stop to explore the craft workshops, taste the delicious cheeses and hams and learn about local history.
If you love outdoor activities, you can contact the Maison de la Montagne et des Sports in Tende to rent bicycles and tackle one of the 21 cycling routes or embark on kayak descents, canyoning expeditions or rafting on the Roya, as well as mountain hikes.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article