The 68,500 hectare Mercantour National Park is a virtually uninhabited area of outstanding beauty with high mountain peaks, olive trees and lavender fields.
It is a walker’s paradise with a huge network of signed trails. Many visitors head for the Vallee des Merveilles with 37,000 Bronze Age rock carvings.
Within the park are 2,000 plant species including the rare edelweiss. You may see chamois, marmots, ermine, ibex and mouflon as well as boar, eagles and even wolves, re-introduced in the 1990’s.
The GR52 from Tende to Colmars in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence travels along the park’s southern edge.
The Cote d’Azur, taking its name from the unbelievable blue of the Mediterranean Sea, stretches west from the Italian border to Cassis in Bouches-du-Rhone - although there’s no official boundary.
Backed by the protective Alps, rocky hills and gorges covered in olive groves and scented herbs descend to a narrow strip of golden beaches fringed by the azure sea. Screened from inland winds and bathed by warm sea breezes the climate is one of hot dry summers and mild winters in this land of sunshine and flowers.
The once remote area concentrated on fishing, farming olives and perfume making until eighteenth century English aristocrats saw its potential as a health spa.
Later, artists like Picasso and Chagall, drawn by the light, showed its colours to the world. Perhaps a victim of its own success, today’s glitzy coastline is highly developed and busy in peak season. Take a trip to one of the unspoilt off-shore islands like St Honorat to catch some of the original magic.