Walking in Provence and the French Riviera

Walking in Provence and the French Riviera

This walking tour in Southern France showcases the unspoiled parts of Provence and the French Riviera.

Discover picturesque perched villages, spectacular scenery, fascinating history and gorgeous architecture while walking on beautiful marked trails. Each day there will be a choice of two walks, ranging from 7 – 16 km with ascents of 200m – 700m, led by experienced hiking guides and complemented by a daily delicious selection of freshly prepared local cuisine and wines.

We begin in Provence with 6 nights in charming Gréoux-les-Bains – an ancient Roman town with thermal baths. Our hotel is the Villa Borghese, a member of the prestigious Château Demeures de Tradition group. The hotel has beautiful grounds, a spa, an outdoor heated swimming pool shaded by century old oak trees and a restaurant renowned for the quality of its regional cuisine.

We spend the next 6 nights in the French Riviera’s best kept secret – Menton, known throughout the country as “The Pearl of France”. Mentons’ old town with its pastel-coloured buildings, fragrant lemon trees and pristine beachfront is truly a delight for the senses. Situated at the base of the Alps, the town is a hikers paradise. We will stay at the lovingly restored Hotel Royal Westminster – a 19th century Belle Epoque style palace located directly on the seafront promenade (all of our rooms are seaview!) The hotel restaurant is known for its tasty Mediterranean cuisine.

Tour Highlights:

• Explore dramatic clifftop villages described as the most beautiful in France.
• Visit of Simiane-La-Rotonde Castle.
• Visits of Salagon and Valsaintes Abbey.
• Visit of Eze Exotic Garden.
• Enjoy amazing views of the Verdon Gorge – the largest canyon in Europe, and of the Provencal Colorado.
• Visit of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
• An excursion to Italy’s beloved Liguria region including a typical Italian lunch.

*** Those participating on this walking tour must be able to complete up to 8 km of walking.

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1: Departure

We depart for Marseille via Paris.

Day 2: Greoux-Les-Bains

We arrive in Marseille and transfer to Gréoux-les-Bains for a 6-night stay. This evening we enjoy our first delicious dinner in France.

Day 3: Plateau of Valensole

On our first walk we will discover the charming narrow streets of Gréoux, with its old castle, city walls and thermal baths. Then a short transfer takes us to the top of the Valensole Plateau - home to many lavender fields. The scenery on the plateau is magnificent, especially in the spring when the almond trees are in bloom. Enjoy the wide sweeping vistas of lavender and olive plantations framed by towering mountains. Enjoy some free time before tonight’s dinner.

Day 4: Rustrel / Simiane la Rotonde / Banon

We travel to Rustrel, known for its amazing ochre cliffs and small canyons which gave the village the nickname the “Provencal Colorado”. On our walk we will see an incredible succession of rust-coloured rocks, golden cliffs and red earthen chimneys which rise majestically out of the vegetation. Then we visit Simiane-la-Rotonde, listed as one of the most beautiful villages of Provence. Simiane is a place where Alpine and Mediterranean influences meet. Here we enjoy a visit of the medieval castle and free time to wander the charming streets of the village. Our last stop will be in the quaint village of Banon, renowned for its goat cheeses, and we will sample some specialties at a goat cheese factory.

Day 5: Forcalquier / Mourres Plateau / Abbey of Salagon

We begin at the picturesque hilltop town of Forcalquier - home to one of the largest and liveliest Provencal markets. After some time to explore the market we will visit a typical olive mill and take in the gorgeous views over the Luberon landscape. Then we proceed with our walk on the Mourres plateau. where mushroom shaped formations resemble human faces - a true geological wonder. We finish the day with a visit of the Abbey of Salagon - a peaceful 13th century priory with lovely theme gardens.

Day 6: Moustiers Sainte Marie

Today we walk along the ridge above the village of Moustiers-Ste-Marie, listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The town has ancient gates, medieval architecture, pottery shops and a gorgeous location below a narrow notch at the base of rocky cliffs. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Provencal Alps and Lake Sainte Croix from the plateau as we descend towards the village.

Day 7: Verdon Gorges

This morning we head to the lovely village of Quinson for a scenic walk along the lower Verdon Gorge. The walkway follows an old canal previously used to carry drinking water to Aix-en-Provence. The views of the turquoise waters of the Verdon Canal are truly amazing. We return in the afternoon to Gréoux where the rest of the day will be at leisure until dinner.

Day 8: Menton

We proceed to sunny Menton for a 6-night stay. After our included lunch we explore this delightful seaside resort and its lovely pastel-coloured old port. We will stroll through a cemetery where many prominent 19th century English and Russian figures are buried, with wonderful views of the old town and port.

Day 9: Cap St. Martin / Roquebrune

We walk along the Le Corbusier coastal path up to Roquebrune and around the rugged landscape of the Cap Martin Peninsula - home to some of the most beautiful villas on the coast. We explore Roquebrune - a picturesque village with winding cobbled streets, stone steps, narrow walkways, vaulted passages, lovely squares, fountains, wrought-iron balconies and picturesque vistas.

Day 10: Menton

At leisure in Menton to explore this exquisite town, visit the fantastic museum dedicated to the artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, or nearby towns like Monaco or Nice.

Day 11: La Turbie / Eze

Our walk begins in La Turbie. Overlooking the Principality of Monaco at 1150m, this small town resembles a balcony hanging over the Mediterranean and seems to float in the sky. The 49m high Trophee d’Auguste built 2,000 years ago for the glory of Emperor Augustus is impressive while the rest of the town, with its medieval vaulted passageways, bell tower and baroque fountains is enchanting. Then we proceed to Eze - a fine 14th century village once famous for its production of cloves and orange. Built on a hill, the exotic garden here offers magnificent views over the coast.

Day 12: Cap Ferrat / Villa Ephrussi

For our last walk we take the picturesque hiking path along the rocky seaside from Beaulieu and around the main peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Along the way we pass magnificent villas and discover that Cap Ferrat has remained remarkably unspoiled. We will conclude our walk with the visit of the Villa Ephrussi, home of the Rothschild family. The villas opulent furnishings, garden with musical dancing fountains and views of the Mediterranean are simply breathtaking – a wonderful way to end our journey!

Day 13: Italy / Dolceacqua / Aprical

We cross into Italy for a beautiful day of sightseeing. We first discover the beautifully preserved medieval town of Dolceacqua (meaning soft water) located in the Lugarian Hills. The town is enchanting with its scenic bridges and small houses that circle the Castello dei Doria. French painter Claude Monet immortalized the town in one of his famous paintings. We will enjoy a typical Italian lunch at a local restaurant featuring fresh locally grown food. Later we discover the perched village of Aprical - picturesquely surrounded by forested hills, included on the list of the 'Most Beautiful Villages in Italy'. Tonight enjoy a farewell cocktail followed by dinner.

Day 14: Home

We fly back to Canada via Paris.

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