region of southeastern France is known for its beautiful and high-class destinations along the French Riviera
. However, outdoor enthusiasts will be pleased to learn there's also plenty of nature excursions in the region. One great outing that combines world-class hiking with fascinating archeological history is found in the southern Alps of Mercantour National Park
, at what's known as the Vallée des Merveilles
("Valley of Wonders"). A two-day hike of this area reveals the valley's secrets.
The excursion begins in the town of Tende
, located at the base of the Alps near the border with Italy. After meeting your guide, you'll embark deep into the park, journeying through stunning mountain passes and green alpine forests. There's even time for a picnic lunch on the shores of a glacial lake that leads into the Vallée des Merveilles.
After dropping off your heavier gear at a mountain refuge, you'll continue to the petroglyph zone. It's an incredible site; there are around 40,000 stone engravings in this area, which were done by humans over 5,000 years ago in the late-Neolithic era. They feature representations of men and bulls and geometric shapes and even weapons like daggers and halberds. Your guide will always be on hand to explain any hard-to-decipher images and contextualize the experience by summarizing the archeological history of the area.
After viewing the petroglyphs, it will be time to return to the refuge. All told, this is a medium-difficulty trek that involves 5-6 hours of hiking.
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