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The Southern Alps

Splendours of the Mercantour National Park
 
A treat for adventurous walkers and lovers of rural France, this self-guided walking holiday has the lot: superb mountain scenery and ‘hidden’ villages; an abundance of wildlife; rustic and friendly hotels; ancient rock carvings, and a highly recommended day trip to the magnificent Vallée des Merveilles.
 

Holiday information

 

A walking holiday in southern France

Just 30 kilometres from the Côte d’Azur, as the crow flies, lies another world entirely – a mountain paradise where eagles soar, where streams meander among tracts of wildflowers in summer, and where the abundant wildlife – ibex, chamois and marmot – is outshone only by the astonishing human legacy of bygone ages – the 50,000 or more stone carvings which together comprise Europe’s largest open-air museum.
This is a true walkers’ adventure, on which the progressively more challenging routes lead to ever greater rewards: leisurely forays among hidden mountain villages are succeeded by more strenuous explorations of stupendous Alpine scenery in a wonderfully remote-feeling Franco-Italian borderland. Two simple yet welcoming hotels complete the picture.
 
Gallery
 

Itinerary

The key to Inntravel holidays is flexibility. You can start on the day of your choice, and are free to add extra nights.
  • The average maximum daytime temperatures and monthly rainfall relate to the nearest weather station and are intended as a guide only.
    Average temperatures and rainfall
      Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
    °C 2 3 7 9 13 17 21 21 17 12 7 3
    mm 53 46 80 146 158 132 124 112 103 103 107 54
  • Arrival in La Brigue
    Night 1: at Hotel Le Mirval (the first of three nights here).
    As your first night’s accommodation is on the day of travel, Day 1 is your first day of walking.
  • Circular route via Notre Dame de Fontaines: 9km, 3hrs; 265m ascent/descent
    This is an ideal first walk – a gentle leg-stretcher and introduction to the magnificent and wild scenery of the Southern Alps. You follow a botanical path across peaceful wooded slopes to Notre Dame des Fontaines, a beautifully sited chapel boasting some well-preserved 15th- and 16th-century frescoes. Upon your return, take time to explore the delightful cobbled streets and ancient houses of the village of La Brigue.
    Returning to La Brigue from Notre Dame des Fontaines
  • Circular route via Tende: 12km, 4.5hrs; 630m ascent/descent
    This is a rewarding walk that rises steadily to the Boselia Pass through Alpine pastures and via ruins of stone dwellings. Beyond the pass, you continue along a spectacular traverse high above the Roya Valley, before a zigzagging descent to the picturesque village of Tende – the last stop before the Italian border. Explore Tende’s open squares and narrow cobbled streets, then pay a visit to the excellent Musée des Merveilles (closed Tuesdays), with its collection of petroglyphs from the Mercantour National Park, before returning along woodland tracks and mountain paths via the Loubaira Pass for a final, exhilarating descent back to La Brigue.
    Tende
  • Circular route via Fontanalba Valley: 15km, 5.5hrs; 920m ascent/descent (following transfer to Castérino)
    A half-hour taxi transfer after breakfast brings you to Hotel Le Chamois d’Or in Castérino, a remote mountain hamlet which, at an altitude of 1,500 metres, makes an ideal base for exploring the Parc du Mercantour itself. Setting out from the hotel door, you follow a former military road up the Fontanalba Valley – a cobbled track leading you high above lush forests and into storybook Alpine pastures. Here, you reach the heart of the Mercantour National Park, with abundant flora and fauna, including ibex, chamois and marmot. Admire some of the remarkably well-preserved rock carvings near Lac Vert (some of which have been here for more than 6,000 years), as you puzzle over the mysteries of previous civilisations, who have – quite literally – carved their histories into stone. Return to your hotel via Lac des Grenouilles and the Castérino Valley.
    Exploring the Fontanalba Valley
  • Choice of walks from Castérino: 10km-20.5km
    For your last two days, you have the choice of three more routes, each of which presents more of a challenge than the earlier part of the holiday.

    Cime de Gratin walk: 10km, 4.5hrs; 815m ascent/descent
    With extension to the Col de Sabion: 20.5km, 8hrs; 1,275m ascent/descent
    From the hotel door, you ascend out of the steeply enclosed valley. A peaceful evergreen forest gives way to sparse larch, before you pass above the treeline. Follow a forestry road atop the crest, through Alpine pastures and passing military bunkers: this highly strategic region passed from Italian to French hands in 1957, and has been closely protected for centuries. You reach a local summit with far-reaching views of the Mercantour valleys to the west, and the ridgelines of the natural Italian borders to the north and east. More ambitious walkers can extend their journey to the Col de Sabion, where there are sweeping views across the crystal-clear waters of Lago della Vacca, and can even take a step or two over the Italian border. You return to Castérino via a cobbled track that snakes back down into the valley.
       
    Lac de l’Agnel walk: 16km, 6hrs; 875m ascent/descent
    Setting out from your hotel, ascend to the head of the Castérino Valley, where all roads end. Continue your climb by heading west up the lush Valmasque Valley, under the shade of larch trees, then leave the river behind as you ascend a rocky path. A short but steep section takes you up to a plateau, where you reach one of the largest Mercantour lakes – Lac d’Agnel, where ibex and chamois are liable to be your only company against a backdrop of imposing peaks. You then retrace your path back to the hotel.
     
    Valmasque Valley walk: 20.5km, 8hrs; 1240m ascent/descent
    For those fancying an even greater challenge, this stunningly beautiful walk (not advisable in poor weather) begins in the same way as Day 3 – by climbing the former military road up the Fontanalba Valley. The cobbled track then gives way to a stony path as you continue to ascend. You pass through a profusion of rocks at the Baisse de Fontanalba pass (2,568 metres), before dropping into the remote Valmasque Valley itself. Enjoy the tranquillity of the three fairy-tale Alpine lakes (Lac du Basto, Lac Noir and Lac Vert), then take a break at the remote Refuge de Valmasque before descending the valley via waterfalls and lush vegetation back to your hotel. This walk provides a real sense of achievement, and makes a fitting finale for your discovery of such a timeless and unique corner of Europe.
    Cime de Gratin route
    Lac de l'Agnel
  • Explore the ‘Valley of Marvels’: full-day, 4WD journey including 2hrs' walking
    We highly recommend adding an extra night in Castérino so that you can gain privileged access to the Vallée des Merveilles itself, the most celebrated – and protected – part of the region. Spectacularly remote, and presided over by Mont Bégo, home of the ancient Ligurian gods, it is snowbound for much of the year, yet reveals a treasure trove of Neolithic and Bronze Age rock art each June. Pre-book your guided, four-wheel drive and walking excursion through us – pay locally (€90pp) – and you can look forward to an unforgettable treat. (The terrain is rocky, so not for anyone with a bad back.)
 

Accommodation

These rustic and friendly hotels in quiet mountain villages are ideal for walkers.
 

Options to extend or shorten your stay

 
Prices & travel options
All prices are in £ sterling (GBP). If you'd like to see what they equate to in your currency, use the converter.
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  • 6 nights: 12 June 2020 - 30 September 2020

    Start any day | End by latest date(s) shown above

    Starting Price Single room
    12 - 25 Jun 2020 £845 £180
    26 Jun - 28 Aug 2020 £920 £205
    29 Aug - 23 Sep 2020 £845 £180
    3rd & 4th person discount £0
    Single traveller supplement £0

    Includes accommodation, meals and services integral to the holiday as described, plus walking notes and maps, but no travel from the UK, nor any connecting travel from the airport unless stated below.

    Please note: if adding an extra night in Castérino, pay locally for the Vallée des Merveilles excursion (€90pp, minimum 2 people).

    Book your flights through us and we'll find the best route and times to suit you. Please contact us to find out more about our flight booking service. We can also book connecting travel - see below.

    6 nights: 12 June 2020 - 30 September 2020

    Start any day | End by latest date(s) shown above

    Starting Price Single room
    12 - 25 Jun 2020 £1195 £180
    26 Jun - 28 Aug 2020 £1265 £205
    29 Aug - 23 Sep 2020 £1195 £180
    3rd & 4th person discount -£55
    Single traveller supplement £55

    Includes all elements in the 'walk price', plus standard-class travel by Eurostar from London St Pancras or Ebbsfleet International to Lille or Paris, with onward travel as described below.

    Included travel from the UK: UK-Paris (Eurostar), Paris–Breil (TGV/regional rail), approx duration 11h30 plus 0h25 taxi transfer. Home, Breil-Paris (TGV/regional rail), Paris-UK (Eurostar), approx duration 12h30 plus 0h45 taxi transfer.

    Please note: if adding an extra night in Castérino, pay locally for the Vallée des Merveilles excursion (€90pp, minimum 2 people).

    If you book your holiday less than 6 months in advance of your travel date, seats may no longer be available at the tariffs on which our prices are based, but we may be able to offer you seats on the same services at a supplement.

  • Room upgrades (£ per person per night)

    Hotel Le Chamois d’Or, Castérino
    Balcony: 12 Jun - 30 Sep 2020 £12

    Extra nights (£ per person per night) in a double or single room

    Pay locally for Vallée des Merveilles excursion: €90pp
    Hotel Le Chamois d’Or, Castérino (B&B) Double room Single room
    12 Jun - 30 Jun 2020 £90 £122
    01 Jul - 31 Aug 2020 £108 £148
    01 Sep - 30 Sep 2020 £90 £122
  • RECOMMENDED AIRPORT(S):
    Nice

    Travelling from the UK

    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend flying via Nice. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    Outward route Airline
    Belfast Intl. - Nice easyJet,  jet2 
    Outward route Airline
    Birmingham - Nice (via Paris) Air France 
    Outward route Airline
    Bristol - Nice easyJet 
    Outward route Airline
    Durham Tees Valley - Nice (via Amsterdam Schiphol) KLM 
    Outward route Airline
    Edinburgh - Nice easyJet 
    Edinburgh - Nice (via Paris) Air France 
    Edinburgh- Nice Flybe 
    Outward route Airline
    Glasgow - Nice (via Amsterdam Schiphol) KLM 
    Outward route Airline
    Leeds Bradford - Nice Flybe,  jet2 
    Outward route Airline
    Liverpool - Nice easyJet 
    Outward route Airline
    London City - Nice British Airways 
    Outward route Airline
    Gatwick - Nice British Airways,  easyJet 
    Outward route Airline
    Heathrow - Nice British Airways 
    Heathrow - Nice (via Paris) Air France 
    Outward route Airline
    Luton - Nice easyJet 
    Outward route Airline
    Stansted - Nice Ryanair 
    Stansted - Nice easyJet,  jet2 
    Outward route Airline
    Manchester - Nice British Airways,  easyJet,  jet2 
    Manchester - Nice (via Paris) Air France 
    Outward route Airline
    Newcastle - Nice easyJet 
    Newcastle - Nice (via Paris) Air France 
    Outward route Airline
    Southampton - Nice Flybe 
    Southampton - Nice (via Paris) Air France 
    Travelling from outside the UK

    If you are flying from outside Europe,  we recommend flying via Nice. To discuss onward connecting travel to the start of your holiday, please contact us.

    This list of flight options should be used as a guide only, and you should check each airline’s website for current routes, frequency and schedules. Not all flights operate daily, and may not run for the entire season. You should also heed the latest flight arrival time and earliest flight departure time stated in the connecting travel section, as it may not be possible to arrange connecting travel outside these times. Please do not book your flights until we have confirmed your accommodation to you. Alternatively, our expert reservations team will be happy to offer advice and to make flight bookings for you. We charge £35 per person for our flight booking service (£60 for India and Nepal). Your flights are then covered by our package-booking conditions, which give you greater protection in the event of delay or cancellation, as well as providing ATOL cover.

  • Prices below are based on 2 people travelling together. If you are travelling solo or as a party of 3 or more and our arrangements include a taxi, please contact us for prices; additional passengers often pay less.

    Unless otherwise stated, connecting travel by rail or bus tends to be from the city centre station, rather than from its airport, and connections between the two should be paid for locally.

    Connecting travel options - flying via Nice

    Outward route Price per person Latest flight
    arrival time
    rail Nice Ville to Breil-sur-Roya (1h25), taxi Breil-sur-Roya to hotel (0h25) £38 1530
    direct taxi Nice airport to hotel (1h35) £108 flexible
    Homeward route Price per person Earliest flight
    departure time
    taxi hotel to Breil-sur-Roya (0h45), rail Breil-sur-Roya to Nice Ville (1h10) £52 1430
    direct taxi hotel to Nice airport (2h) £124 flexible
What is included
  • 6 nights
  • 5 dinners
    5 picnics
    6 breakfasts
  • route notes and maps
  • transfer between hotels on day 3
 
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FAQs

If you have any questions relating to this or any other Inntravel holiday, our friendly travel experts will be happy to help. You might also find our General FAQs section helpful.
  • We’ll send you route notes and maps 2-3 weeks before your holiday. The route notes not only contain directions to get from hotel to hotel, but also include practical information about places of interest and eateries along each route, plus cultural information about the area. If/when you are moving between hotels, you leave your luggage in reception as you leave, and it will be transferred ahead to your next accommodation, meaning that all you need to take with you are a camera, sun cream, drinks, food and waterproofs.

    For more detailed information, see our walking holidays in Europe page.
  • We can book a wide range of airlines and routes from the UK. As well as being more convenient for you to book all elements of your holiday together, it also means that we’ll accept liability for your travel arrangements, so if things go wrong, such as the airline going bust, we’ll make suitable alternative arrangements for you. For Europe and Morocco, there’s a £35 booking fee per person (£15 for children aged 2-11). For India and Nepal, the booking fee is £60 per person. More information on flights >
  • We can’t book flights that originate outside the UK, but if you wanted book your own flights to London (or elsewhere in the UK), we can make all onward travel arrangements (including flights) from there. Alternatively, if you are booking your own flights to an airport in continental Europe that’s appropriate for your holiday, we can book onward rail travel and/or taxis. More information about how we can tailor holidays for customers outside the UK >
  • Since our holidays are self-guided, we recommend calling us for a chat about your plans before making a booking, especially if it’s the first time you’ve booked with us.
    The price panel shows the supplement for a single room and also the single traveller charge (this covers (luggage) transfers and other costs which are usually shared between two people).
  • Once you’ve decided on your exact itinerary (our travel experts will be happy to offer advice), you need to provide us with your party’s details, either by phone or via our booking form. At this point we also ask you to pay a deposit so that we can secure a room for you immediately on confirming availability with the hotel(s). If it turns out that we can’t secure the accommodation for the holiday you’ve requested, or offer an acceptable alternative, we’ll refund your deposit promptly and in full. After booking your accommodation and other key elements, we'll then book your travel (or you can do so if you’re making your own arrangements) and send you a Booking Confirmation and Invoice.
  • Yes, it’s something we insist on, even for holidays in the UK. The vast majority of holidays go smoothly, but when things go wrong, it can be expensive to put them right. Buying a new pair of walking boots after your suitcase is stolen mightn’t seem so bad, but the bill for being airlifted down from a mountain with a broken leg or flown home while still recovering from an illness or accident can cost tens of thousands of pounds.

    You don’t have to buy our policy (if you live outside Europe you’ll definitely need to make your own arrangements, as the policy is only for UK and EU residents), but you do need to make sure that you’re covered for medical emergencies and repatriation. We also recommend that you are covered for other eventualities, such as cancellation and loss of luggage and passports.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure you are in possession of the correct travel documents, with the correct validity. If you’re a UK citizen, you need a full British passport to travel to France, but not a visa (if you are travelling after 31 October 2019, see the Brexit question below for more information). If you are a citizen of another country, you’ll need to check requirements with the national embassy or your own consulate.

    Current information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found through the following NHS link: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/ You must make sure you have adequate insurance cover for illness, accidents and repatriation (see the insurance question). UK citizens should also obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) by applying at a Post Office or at www.ehic.org.uk. The EHIC allows reciprocal health care but should not be seen as a substitute for travel insurance. EHICs may cease to be valid in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
  • The official language is French. The currency is the Euro. French time is GMT/UTC + 1. It uses Daylight Saving Time, so in summer is on BST + 1.
  • Even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it’s been confirmed that flights will continue as normal and that you won’t need a visa to go on holiday (the limit on stays is 90 days). What you will need if there’s no deal is a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of your arrival (extra months added because you renewed your passport early do not count) and adequate travel insurance to cover you for accidents and illness in case reciprocal health deals are suspended. If you are driving while on holiday, you will probably need an International Driving Permit (plus a Green Card if you are taking your own car to Europe). More information >
  • The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides up-to-date, country-by-country travel advice, as well as information on security, local laws, passports and visas for UK citizens.
    If you live outside the UK, see our essential travel information page for a list of relevant websites.
  • You are the best judge of your child’s/children’s capabilities. We are happy to take bookings for families of older children/teenagers if they walk regularly, love the outdoors and are comfortable with the distances and ascent/descent involved. Please note that the bedrooms at most of the accommodation we use will normally only sleep a maximum of 3 people, and sometimes only 2.
Last fetch time is : 12/8/2019 8:45:41 AM