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Perched Villages of the Côte d'Azur 1

Perched Villages of the Côte d’Azur

Overview

This short walking break in the French Riviera takes you on a trail weaving from one balcony path to the next,  taking in the beautiful perched villages hiding behind the glamorous Côte d’Azur and finally reaching the welcoming coastal town of Menton.

  • Beautiful villages perched on rocky crags or nestled in wooded valleys
  • A mix of Italian and French influences in the architecture
  • Fantastic sea views as you walk down to the coastal town of Menton

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Sospel

Arrival in Sospel by train from Nice (not incl.). Please advise arrival time so we can organize the taxi pick up from the train station to your guesthouse. The most striking monument in Sospel is the fortified bridge (Pont fortifié) built in the 12th century and used as a toll bridge for travellers, spanning over the Brévera. On the Bévera, Sospel is grouped into two distinct old towns, one on each side of the river. The streets of the old town (both halves) are very narrow with tall buildings. The Place Saint Michel is by far the most colourful and picturesque site in Sospel. Enjoy a delicious homemade “table d’hote” dinner.

Day 2: Breil sur Roya – Piène Haute – Sospel | 15 km

Short transfer to Breil sur Roya. Today you will walk from Breil sur Roya to Sospel, passing by Piène Haute, with breathtaking views as you cross balcony paths and walk through olive groves. There are two choices of trails above the village, and we’ve selected the one less travelled, following abandoned stone terraces dotted with olive trees. You reach the stunning ghost town of Piène Haute, more Italian than French, perched above the valley. Your path then takes you to Italy – to the colourful town of Olivetta – before returning to France and the town of Sospel. Overnight in Sospel, dinner included.

Day 3: Sospel – St Agnes | 10 km

In the morning, a short car transfer will bring you from Sospel to Col de Castillon (15 min). Walk from Col de Castillon to the village of St Agnès via Mont Ours’ summit (1239 m). Overnight in Sainte Agnès, the highest hilltop village on the Côte d’Azur (800 m), listed among the most beautiful villages in France.

*The Hotel St Yves in the village of Saint Agnes is rather a simple hotel than a “standard” comfort one: it offers modest rooms, with a family and fellow walkers’ ambience that is extremely warm and friendly. The Saint-Yves hotel is set in the centre of the village of Sainte Agnès, listed among the most beautiful villages in France.

Day 4: Castellar – Menton | 7 km

Transfer after breakfast to Castellar. The town of Castellar, with its quiet streets, sole grocery store, bar and two restaurants, is the last bastion of tranquillity before arriving on the Riviera. From Castellar you find an old path winding down, and soon you will reach a set of ancient steps set directly above the old village of Menton. Menton is rightfully listed as the prettiest town on the Riviera with colourful and very well restored homes, and with rich and interesting religious architecture. The microclimate around Menton, even milder than the rest of the French Riviera, is favourable for growing citrus fruit. The local economy these days is based around high-end tourism, but the local lemons and lemon products are still to be found (including lemoncello). Overnight in Menton.

  • Accommodation: Hotel De Londres or similar
  • Walking for the day: 7 km, 2 h, ↑600 m ↓600 m

Day 5: Departure

End of the trip after breakfast or extra nights Menton.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in simple but charming hotels and country inns in private en-suite double/twin rooms. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. Optional hotel upgrade is possible at some places.

Click to view standard hotels

NB! A word of “warning” for the hotel Le Saint Yves in Saint Agnes
The Hotel St Yves in the village of Saint Agnes is rather a simple hotel than a “standard” comfort one: it offers modest rooms, with a family and fellow walkers’ ambience that is extremely warm and friendly. The Saint-Yves hotel is set in the centre of the village of Sainte Agnès, listed among the most beautiful villages in France. It’s the only accommodation in the village, and a wonderful way to experience the village once the tourist crowds have left when you get the village to yourselves, and see it in its authentic light, hovering high above the Mediterranean Sea. While the hotel is very welcoming, serves heaps of comfort foods for dinner, and hosts many other walkers such as yourselves, it is essentially a clean backpacker’s hotel. It is intentionally unpretentious. Nothing fancy, and certainly no bells and whistles. We still receive hand-written faxes from the Saint Yves as means of communication. Seriously. And because the village of Sainte Agnès is a true highlight of the back-country, a real gem-of-a-village, we feel strongly that this hotel should be a part of the holiday, even though the hotel hasn’t really conformed to the goûts du jour. We’re certain you’ll feel the same way too.    

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation. The prices and accommodation availability are on request during the Grand Prix de Monaco in the last week of May, a supplement is possible!

Meals

All breakfasts are included, as well as 2 dinners in Sospel. Lunch packs for the next day can be pre-ordered at each accommodation, or you can buy bread, cheeses and meats as well as fresh fruit and vegetables from the villages you pass through or at local markets. For dinner, you have plenty of options in the villages and towns you are staying.

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is appropriate for walks with an average level of fitness; the average walking time is 4-5 hours per day. Please note that this is not the typical Rivera walk, the terrain is mountainous and on some days there are steep ascents and descents – although no scrambling is involved and there are no exposed sections (read more about difficulty grades). The trails are generally well marked. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available on any date between early March and the middle of November.

Late autumn, because of the beautiful colours, or early spring, because of the abundant flowers, are undoubtedly the most pleasant times of the year for a walking holiday – but please note that these are also the months with the most rainfall.

The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season.

Note: Due to hotels being fully booked, it may not be possible to do the walk during the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco in late May and Monaco Grand Prix Historique in early June.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Nice.

By train or bus
  • From Nice to Sospel: you can travel on the Ligne des Merveilles, a panoramic train line offering a scenic journey. There is a direct link between the Nice Airport and the train station – you just need to take Bus 99.
  • From Menton to Nice at the end of the trip, there is a train: TER Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Inclusions

Included

  • 4 nights double occupancy with private facilities, in 2-star hotels and guesthouses
  • 4 breakfasts
  • 2 dinners (Day 1&2)
  • Luggage transfers on all walking days
  • Transfer from Sospel train station to your guesthouse on Day 1
  • Transfer from Sospel to Breil sur Roya on Day 2
  • Transfer from Sospel to the Castillon pass (start of your walk on Day 3
  • Transfer from St Agnes to Castellar on Day 4
  • Travel kit with roadbook and integrated maps (one per room), vouchers for restaurants & transfers
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Bus and train transfers
  • Tourist tax, if due
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Entrance fees for attractions and museums
  • Price supplement during the “Grand pix de Monaco” in the last week in May – exact amount to be confirmed after reservation
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Price supplement during the “Grand pix de Monaco” in the last week in May – exact amount to be confirmed after reservation
  • Extra nights before or after the holiday
  • Half-board plan: 2 dinners

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