Land to sea, beach to mountains, the Côte d’Azur is host to a range of enchanting towns and idyllic islands. And all of them are within a short drive or boat trip from Parc du Cap! In this blog, we share our top three destinations in the South of France to explore in 2021.
Off the coast of the South of France sits a set of small tranquil islands. The Lérins Islands are just a short 15-minute boat hop from the coastal Riviera town of Cannes. The largest of the four islands is the charming Île Sainte-Marguerite. Three kilometres in length, it can easily be walked around in a couple of hours. The paths of the island intertwine through the scented eucalyptus and pine forests, and along the stretches of sandy beaches. Following these paths will undoubtedly lead you to your own private beach or hidden cove to relax on for the day. Moreover, both Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat host restaurants and snack bars so you won’t go hungry!
1. Island Paradise: The Lérins Islands and Porquerolles
In addition, if you enjoy a little history, Île Sainte-Marguerite also holds important heritage of the French Riviera. The Fort Royal became a state prison at the end of the seventeenth century and held a number of famous prisoners. Most notably, the famous ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ was incarcerated here for 11 years from 1687 to 1698. Now a museum, you can see the cells and old Roman cisterns as well as artefacts from Roman and Saracen shipwrecks.
Over on Île Saint-Honorat, you’ll find a stunning (and still functioning) medieval monastery: Abbaye de Lérins. For the last 150 years, the monks have been cultivating their vines on an eight hectares-large wine estate. The delicious, high-quality wines produced here are recognised by professionals, so are well worth a visit!
A little further afield is Porquerolles. This peaceful island is part of a group of islands known as the Iles d’Or or ‘Golden Islands’. Porquerolles offers beautiful, gleaming beaches with pristine, glistening waters. What’s more, the island is protected by the French Government, meaning it is car-free. As a result, it is home to a unique ecosystem and exotic plant life. During the summer months, you can enjoy the yearly jazz festivals as well as witnessing various exciting sailing events.
2. Scenic mountains: the Alpes-Maritimes
Amongst other scenic delights of the French Riviera are the breathtaking Hinterland mountains. The area is otherwise known as the Alpes-Maritimes: the ‘ocean mountains’. Located just 30 minutes from the coast, the mountains offer impressive surprises throughout the year. From early New Year, you can enjoy activities for all the family including skiing, hiking, climbing, bouldering, canyoning and more!
Located within the Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, between Provence and Italy, are the mountains of Mercantour National Park. The national park is regarded as one of the most biodiverse places in the country – and a botanist’s haven. It is, in fact, home to around half of the 4,200 species of plant life in France. The charming medieval village of Sospel calls for a visit before exploring the trails and valleys which reach altitudes of 2,000 metres.
Similarly, the Massif de l’Esterel is a must-see for mountain lovers. The vibrant and colourful landscape of the mountain consists of red rock carved into the rugged terrain. There are many trails to follow here, each offering fantastic views over the Mediterranean. The landscape can be enjoyed through various activities including rock-climbing, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.
3. Hidden medieval gem: Èze
Provence is spoilt for choice when it comes to picturesque villages, which are nestled throughout its coastline and back-country. The cobbled streets of the villages and their wonderful markets are all steeped in history and make for memorable visits. For instance, the medieval village of Èze is famous for its spectacular views and impressive architecture. Located in the hilltops of the Alpes-Maritimes, the village is positioned about 1,400 feet above sea level.
During your trip, it’s worth stopping by the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix (built in the 1300s) for incredible views. Further, the beautiful Exotic Garden of Èze offers many feasts for the eyes. The narrow, cobbled streets and steep steps of Èze will lead you to an abundance of shops and galleries. Finally, why not finish your visit with a glass of wine whilst enjoying the spectacular panoramic views? There is no better spot than La Chèvre d’Or, a renovated 400-year-old Chateau and hotel.
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