The Picturesque Village of Saint-Martin-Vésubie
Known as ‘Nice’s Little Switzerland’ the picturesque village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie sits in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region of Southeastern France and is considered to be the gateway to the Mercantour National Park. Set amidst 3,600 hectares of forest, and home to several peaks over 3000 meters including Le Gelas (the tallest peak in the Alpes Maritimes department), this pretty little town is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. In winter the area sees an influx of downhill skiers and snowshoers while summer brings with it warmer weather, well-seasoned hikers, and nature enthusiasts who flock to the area to admire the array of native flora and fauna including Fario, Rainbow, and Salmon trout (all of which have made the nearby Lac du Boren Peche their home).
Drive 8-kilometers north of Saint-Martin-Vesubie and you’ll find yourself at a small commune known as Le Boreon which centers itself around a clear-blue lake. Here, horseback riding, fishing, picnics, and hiking are just some of the outdoor pursuits that are readily available, and there are several Lac du Boreon hotels and restaurants to keep you well rested and well fed throughout your stay.
Lac du Boréon Activities and Trips
Lac du Boreon is an exceptional destination for those who appreciate the great outdoors and visitors can expect to enjoy the freedom of exploring the surroundings on foot and observing the local wildlife which includes marmots, bighorn sheep, ibex, and chamois. A number of hiking roots depart from Boreon too, including the Vacherie du Cavalet which is an easy hike for beginners that winds its way through flower dotted meadows and over alpine landscapes. There’s also a number of trails and routes for mountain biking and road biking, with rental shops offering hourly and daily rentals to tourists.
Those who’d prefer to keep their feet on the relatively level ground may enjoy a game of tennis on the local outdoor courts or a private fishing lesson on Boreon lake, both of which activities offer great views of the surrounding mountains. Another popular Lac du Boreon activity is canyoning (swimming, jumping, and abseiling into pools of water) and aquarnado (canyoning for beginners). Guided canyon tours depart into the mountains throughout the summer and offer tourists the chance for an adrenaline fueled-day out amidst nature.
Saint-Martin-Vésubie Hiking Ideas
Several hiking trails run through the Mercantour National Park, each of which varies in length and are suitable for different levels of climbers ranging from beginner to advanced. While the lower level climbs around the village are lined with chalets, the steeper tracks that gain over 2400 meters of altitude lead you out of small-town civilization and into the pure wilderness. A popular hike of average difficulty is a four-hour circular route to Lacs de Prals where you’ll pass through flowery pastures and ascend to the magnificent lake. If you’d like to mix your outdoor excursions with indoor adventure add the Vesubia Mountain Park to your to-do list. This indoor sports center offers an array of activities all year round including canyoning, caving, and indoor climbing. The site also boasts a wellness area, a gym, and an aquatic room and is suitable for all audiences no matter your age or fitness levels.
If you’re traveling with children, or perhaps you're simply an animal lover at heart, the Alpha Center “Le Temps du Loup” is a family-friendly education center that aims to teach visitors to Saint Martin Vesubie about the local wolf population. The park is home to three separate wolf pack habitats and if you land on a feeding time you might witness these majestic beasts roaming into the park! The center is also home to a restaurant and on-site accommodation which makes it a popular base for exploring the park.
Another place of great interest is the Vallee des Merveilles, an open-air museum found in the nearby Gordolasque valley. The valley is home to the largest collection of Bronze Age petroglyphs (a form of rock art) in Europe and is considered to be a historical landmark. Another popular day trip by car is to Madone de Fenestre, a high mountain sanctuary that offers a spectacular panorama of Gelas, the highest peak in the Alpes-Maritimes.
After a day exploring Mercantour National Park and the surrounding villages, you’ll likely retire to your accommodation and head out to dinner at one of Saint Martin Vesubie’s restaurants. For a taste of authentic French dining with an affordable price tag check out La Treille, while lunch should be enjoyed at L’Alpage where you can dine on cheese and antipasti boards to your heart's content.
Trecolpas Lake in Mercantour
A visit to Lac de Trecolpas while in Saint-Martin-Vésubie is an absolute must as this beautiful fresh-water lake is set amidst the mountains of Mercantour and is a highlight of the region. A moderate out-and-back hike of 6.25 miles, at a medium difficulty level, can be done up and through the Boreon Valley. As you walk you’ll pass through picturesque woodland, rolling grassland areas, and fresh mountain streams! This particular route is best used between April and November when the weather is warm and the terrain is dry underfoot.
The hidden lake is also easily accessible on foot from the mountain hut of Cougourde, which is also a great resting spot for a picnic (keep your eyes peeled for chamois, a species of goat native to the mountains of Europe).
The Picturesque Village of Saint-Martin-Vésubie is a real highlight of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, and the small commune of Boreon is the cherry on the cake. If you’re a well-seasoned hiker or simply someone who wants to appreciate the beauty of France’s rural landscapes, a trip to Saint-Martin-Vesubie while on the south coast of France is an absolute must. The small village can be accessed from Nice in just over an hour by car and car rentals, tours, and transfers can easily be arranged for you by FranceRent.
Best restaurants on Cote d'Azur - France
Famous for its designer fashion brands, rolling vineyards, and historic monuments, France is a country with a lot to offer but it’s the nation’s gourmet cuisine that draws millions of visitors year after year. French dishes, which are usually full of flavor, made using simple ingredients, and boasting great finesse, have been replicated around the globe by passionate chefs aiming to try their hand at traditional dishes and haute cuisine. Below we’ve looked at some of the best restaurants in the south of France. Whether you’re looking for fine dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant (France is home to the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world) or hearty French cuisine at an authentic bistro, we’ve covered all dining options to suit every taste in this restaurant guide.
South of France by car
With 71 miles of winding corniche roads, numerous quaint Provincial villages to visit, and endless soft sand beaches to stop at and enjoy some sun-soaking, France’s Cote d’Azur is one of Europe’s dreamiest road trip destinations. Rent a car on the French Riviera and the Mediterranean Sea and the charm of southern France is at your fingertips! On your Riviera road trip, you’ll wind your way around a variety of landscapes, soak up a diverse range of cultures, and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding coastline. After all, there’s no better way to navigate the coast than to do so with the comfort and freedom of your own vehicle.
Boat activities on Cote d'Azur - France
The French Riviera, also known as the Cote d'Azur, is found on France's south-east coast and overlooks the glistening Mediterranean Sea. Known for its dazzling sand beaches, upmarket resort towns, and glamorous casinos, the Cote d'Azur has been a popular holiday destination with some of the world's wealthiest travelers since the 18th century. While boutique shops and Michelin-starred restaurants are certainly points of interest on the coast, one of the biggest draws is the array of water-based activities available. From yacht rentals, private boat tours, parasailing excursions, water sport rentals, and jet ski hire, the list of aqua-excursions is endless! Our simple guide to boat rental on the French Riviera takes a look at the different watersports available along the coast and the range of yacht and boat rentals available. After all, no visit to the Cote d'Azur can pass by without a day at sea.
Events and festivals on French Riviera
The Cote d’Azur is abuzz with glitz and glamour all year round but it’s the summer months that really get the party started on France’s sought-after south coast. Events and festivals are held every month and range from theatre performances and music festivals to cinematography celebrations and yacht races. A-listers, millionaires, and outright party people flock to the shores of the Mediterranean for a summer to remember as seaside towns and secluded beaches become the stomping ground for a summer of fun. Below we take a look at some of the best events and festivals on the Côte d’Azur and provide a handy event guide to help you plan your dream trip.
Top activities on Cote d'Azur
The scenic stretch of coastline known as the Cote d’Azur winds its way along France’s south coast from Saint Tropez to Menton, encompassing the chic towns of Cannes, Nice, and Monaco along the way. The area is known as a playground for the rich and famous, and a glamorous holiday destination for those looking to soak up the very best of the French Riviera. When it comes to Cote d’Azur attractions, there are plenty of things to do and places to visit along the coast to keep all character types entertained. Whether you’re exploring Nice’s charming Old Town on a free walking tour, people-watching at Monte Carlo Harbor, or admiring 19th-century art in Cannes, the Cote d’Azur doesn’t disappoint.
Shopping on Cote d’Azur
It’s no secret that the South of France is an area well known for its acquired taste in luxury living, and when it comes to shopping this affluent region has a real flair for fashion and a lot to offer for shopaholics. Dare to drag yourself away from the alluring arrondissements of Paris’s fashion district and you’ll be rewarded with a sunsoaked shopping haven on Cote d’Azur and when it comes to shopping, the French Riviera does not disappoint. From upmarket department stores like Galeries Lafayette (whose flagship store you’ll find in Paris) to independent art galleries including the Sheun Gallery in Nice, the array of shopping available on Cote d’Azur covers a variety of tastes and, believe it or not, can be tailored to suit all budgets.