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From the Alps to the French Riviera

Walking from the Alps to the French Riviera

Overview

Beautiful perched villages hide behind the French Riviera’s glamorous coast, nestled in lush valleys. This trip will take you through the Roya Valley from the mountains to the sea, weaving from one balcony path to the next, amongst pine forests and olive groves. Reaching the coastal town of Menton, your trip continues with some beautiful coastal walks around Villefranche sur Mer.

  • Genuine villages perched on rocky crags or nestled in wooded valleys
  • Unspoilt nature of the Roya river valley
  • A mix of Italian and French influences in the architecture
  • Fantastic sea views as you walk down to the coastal town of Menton
  • Unforgettable coastal walks around Villefranche

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 have 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 the summit of Mont Ours (1239 m). Overnight in Sainte Agnès (see the remark about the hotel in St. Agnes below), 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: St Agnès – Cime de Baudon – St Agnès | 15 km

Starting from the perched village of St Agnès, it is a steady climb over the Bausson pass. For ~30 minutes, you take a small mountain road with a panoramic view of the sea (this small road is not very busy with cars and is mainly used by cyclists). The summit of the Cime de Baudon offers an exceptional 360° view of the whole region and the surrounding mountain peaks: a gorgeous orientation table that allows you to see as far as the summit of the Sainte Beaume and the Alps. Overnight in St Agnes.

Day 5: Castellar – Menton | 7 km

Transfer after breakfast to Castellar. The town of Castellar, with its quiet streets, a 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 limoncello). Overnight in Menton.

Day 6: Villefranche via St. Jean Cap Ferrat | 11 – 14 km

After breakfast, you take the train with your luggage from Menton to Villefranche; it’s a short 30-minute scenic train ride (train tickets not included, EUR 4-5 per person). You leave your luggage at your hotel and start your first walk around the famous St Jean Cap Ferrat; it’s a beautiful three-hour coastal walk. You can also add a detour and walk around the Eastern arm of the peninsula, adding one hour. Overnight in Villefranche sur Mer.

  • Accommodation: Hotel Le Provencal or similar // upgraded option: Hotel Le Welcome or similar
  • Walking for the day: 11/14 km, 3/4h, negligible elevation gain/loss

Day 7: Eze Mer | 5 km

After breakfast, you take a 5-min train ride from Villefranche to Eze (train tickets not included, ~EUR 2 per person). Eze is a medieval village perched like an eagle’s nest on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The ancient fortified village is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle (torn down in 1706). The castle grounds host the well-known Jardin Exotique, and from the top (429 m) you’ll enjoy amazing views of the coast. After the walk, take the train back to your hotel (train tickets not included, ~EUR 2 per person). Overnight in Villefranche sur Mer.

  • Accommodation: Hotel Le Provencal or similar // upgraded option: Hotel Le Welcome or similar
  • Walking for the day: 5 km, 2 h, ↑400 m ↓400 m

Day 8: Departure

End of the trip after breakfast or extra nights Villefranche.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in simple but charming hotels and guesthouses 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 in Menton and Villefranche sur Mer is possible on request.

Click to view standard hotels

NB! A word of “warning” for 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 fantastic 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 confident 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!

Click to view upgraded hotels

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 and 1 packed lunch in St Agnes. 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. On some days, there are options to shorten the walks using local trains (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 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 the beginning of March and the middle of November. Late autumn, because of the beautiful colours, and early spring, because of the abundant flowers, are undoubtedly the most pleasant time 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 Villefranche to Nice, at the end of the trip, there is a direct bus to Nice’s airport.
  • Train schedules can be checked here: TER Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – Horaires

Inclusions

Included

  • 7 nights double occupancy with private facilities, in hotels and guesthouses
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 1 picnic lunch on Day 4
  • 2 dinners on Days 1 & 2
  • Luggage transfers on walking days 3 and 5 (1 piece up to 20 kg per person); on day 6, when transferring by train from Menton to Villefranche, you will have to carry your baggage with you
  • 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; luggage transport on day 6
  • All lunches and dinners not mentioned in included
  • 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
  • Additional copy of route notes and maps
  • Extra fee for sending the tour materials to the first hotel if booking last-minute
  • Upgraded hotels with a supplement in Menton and Villefranche sur Mer
  • Half board supplement (5 dinners) at the standard hotels

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