On this nature and culture tour, you'll experience the best of the Southern Alps and French Riviera, famous for their alpine scenery and Mediterranean coastal beauty. Over three days, you'll discover the historic city of Nice, the valleys of Mercantour National Park, ancient petroglyphs, and much more.

Highlights

  • Take a private, guided hike in Mercantour National Park
  • View some of the 35,000 rock engravings in the Merveille Valley
  • Explore off the beaten path in historic Nice

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Hiking the Vallée des Merveilles ("Valley of Wonders") - Day 1 Tende
Day 2 Hiking the Vallée des Merveilles ("Valley of Wonders") - Day 2 Nice
Day 3 Off the Beaten Path in Nice Nice
Day 4 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Hiking the Vallée des Merveilles ("Valley of Wonders") - Day 1

Hiking the Vallée des Merveilles (
Hiking the Vallée des Merveilles ("Valley of Wonders")

Welcome to France!

The Provence region of southeast France is known for its chic resort destinations along the French Riviera—but there are also many opportunities for nature excursions. One great locale that combines world-class hiking with archeological history is the Vallée des Merveilles ("Valley of Wonders") in the southern Alps of Mercantour National Park. There's much to see here, and you'll discover much of it on a two-day guided hike. 

In the morning, hop in your rental car and head to the small town of Tende, located at the base of the Alps near the border with Italy. One optional (and unforgettable) experience is taking the Train des Merveilles, a two-hour scenic rail journey through the heart of the Roya Valley, passing medieval villages like Sospel, Breil-sur-Roya, and Saorge. It's one of the best ways to see the Alps.

Upon arrival in Tende, your guide will be waiting for you. You'll then embark deep into Mercantour National Park as you hike over stunning mountain passes and through green alpine forests. There will even be time for a picnic lunch on the shores of a glacial lake leading to the Vallée des Merveilles.

Eventually, you'll reach the Merveilles Refuge. Here you’ll relax over dinner and overnight in dormitory rooms. This is a moderate, 5-6-hour hike. 

Day 2: Hiking the Vallée des Merveilles ("Valley of Wonders") - Day 2

The famous petroglyphs of the Vallée des Merveilles
The famous petroglyphs of the Vallée des Merveilles

After breakfast with your guide, hike to the heart of the Vallée des Merveilles and an area featuring around 40,000 bronze-age petroglyphs. These ancient engravings were carved on stone outcroppings over 4,000 years ago and represent human figures, geometric shapes, and even weaponry like daggers. Horned animals such as bulls and oxen appear frequently as does an enigmatic figure known as the "Sorcerer." 

Here you'll enjoy a picnic lunch before descending the trail through the Roya Valley, which is known for its river canyons and wild alpine vegetation. The hike takes between 5-6 hours and ascends as high as 4,000 feet (1200 meters). At the end of the afternoon, you'll travel by rental car or train from Tende to Nice (50 miles/80 km), where you'll overnight.

Day 3: Off the Beaten Path in Nice

Colorful Port Lympia, Nice
Colorful Port Lympia, Nice

On the French Riviera, near the border with Italy, lies Nice. Nicknamed Nissa La Bella ("Nice the Beautiful"), this historic city is famous for its artistic spirit, grand plazas, crescent-shaped pebble beaches, and the narrow streets of its colorful old town, Vieille Ville.

Nice is a densely populated coastal metropolis (the seventh most populous city in France), which means there are secrets to discover and adventures to be had around every corner. You'll be able to enjoy one such adventure on a four-hour driving tour of the city led by a local guide. He or she will take you to must-visit sites like the Greek quarter (Nice was actually founded by the Ancient Greeks of the Massalia region in 350 BCE), and the Roman remains of an amphitheater and arena in the historic Cimiez neighborhood.

Also here are two other notable landmarks: the opulent Excelsior Régina Palace, where Queen Victoria of England used to summer, and the Musée Matisse, a museum showcasing the works of the expressionist master Henri Matisse. Other highlights include the Promenade des Anglais, Port Lympia and the ornate St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

The tour ends with a stop at the historic Negresco Hotel, where you can enjoy an aperitif in style and make a toast to your very own slice of the Belle Époque. 

Day 4: Departure

Farewell, France!
Farewell, France!

Today you will transfer from Nice to the airport, where you will catch your connecting flight home. Bon voyage!

Map

Map of Southern Alps and the French Riviera: Hiking & Culture Tour - 4 Days
Map of Southern Alps and the French Riviera: Hiking & Culture Tour - 4 Days