There are a number of beautiful valleys in the Alpes-Maritimes region in southeast France. As well as enjoying the scenery, you can take part in winter sports or go for hikes in the mountains in the summer. Take a drive on the spectacular mountain roads and discover hidden villages like St Paul de Vence or just admire the scenery.
Less than an hour’s drive from Nice is the town of St-Martin-Vesubie, entrance to the Vesubie Valley. Home to ski resorts in the winter, there are also many hiking trails you can follow in this part of the Maritimes Valleys. The Mercantour National Park has some of the highest peaks in the area, including La Madonne d’Utelle, which offers sea views on a clear day. St-Martin itself is a typical old Provencal town, with steep winding streets and a church with Gothic paintings. Animal lovers will enjoy the Alpha Park, where you can learn about wolves in the small museum before seeing the creatures in natural habitats.
The Esteron Valley is a great place to visit during the warmer summer months, as there are lakes at La Clave and Pont de Cerise that are safe for swimming and which are surrounded by high peaks and forests. Again, you can drive or hike to the tops of these mountains and enjoy the spectacular view over the Alpes-Maritimes. Explore the region further and discover the ruined castles at Thorenc and Andon or the caves that are prevalent throughout the Audibergue Massif. The Lou Ferouil museum is dedicated to the traditional crafts of the region and even has a blacksmith still working in the old-fashioned way. Les Mujols are a spectacular network of narrow canyons, which you can enjoy from the top or descend and try out kayaking or rafting on the river at the bottom.
St Paul de Vence
St Paul de Vence is a medieval fortified town, with ramparts and a fortress, which can still be explored. Perched on top of a hill, it is well worth climbing further, to the top of the walls, for the view. St Paul is now famous for the artists who lived and worked there, and many who are still resident in the area today. You can find many small independent galleries where you can pick up a bargain as well as museums showing works by well-known local artists. The White Penitent’s Chapel, built in the 17th century, was recently redecorated in a modern style by the Belgian artist Folon, including new stained glass windows and sculptures. You can also download a tour that traces the life of the famous painter Marc Chagall who lived in St Paul from 1966 to 1985 and incorporated the village into many of his works.