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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.

NB! Important update as of January 2021: Due to heavy rains the area of Breil sur Roya is heavily damaged and the paths are not accessible. The tour will start in Sospel until all reparation works are finished. 

  • 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: Breil sur Roya

Nestled along the banks of the river Roya, your walking holiday begins in the picturesque town of Breil sur Roya, far from the bustle of the coastline. You’re surrounded by lush mountains and in a place where time is at a standstill. The town is shaped like a crescent along the river, with colourful streets laden with cobbles. Breil is easily reachable from Nice by train. Overnight in Breil sur Roya.

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

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 with its 15th-century stone bridge. Overnight in Sospel, dinner incuded.

Day 3: Sospel – St Agnes | 10 km

In the morning, you can visit the impressive Sospel cathedral. Then 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 (1239m). Overnight in Sainte Agnès (see the remark about the hotel in St. Agnes below), the highest hilltop village on the Côte d’Azur.

*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’ ambiance 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 – Gorbio – St Agnès | 10 km

Leaving Sainte Agnès, you climb towards the Col de Bausson pass, through a landscape of wild lavender and with great views of the village behind you. Beyond the pass, you enter a valley to the north, and with the highway and bustle of the coastline out of view, you’re left with the wild slopes of pine forests and wildflowers. A steep, zigzagging descent leads you to the village of Gorbio, worth a lengthy visit. On the main square, you’ll find two excellent restaurants for lunch. You return to Sainte Agnès along a shorter and easier route – the GR 51 – with views of the coastline accompanying you along the way. Overnight in Sainte Agnès.

Day 5: St Agnès – Castellar – Menton | 14 km

Walk through the pine forests on a balcony path until you reach the hilltop villages of Monti Castellar, then you head straight down into Menton’s old town, enjoying the fantastic sea views. Explore Menton’s old town and the Baroque church of St Michael and visit the Jean Cocteau Museum. Overnight in Menton.

  • Accommodation: Hotel De Londres or similar
  • Walking for the day: 14 km, 4-5 h, ↑250 m ↓950 m

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, add one hour. Overnight in Villefranche sur Mer.

  • Accommodation: Hotel Le Provencal 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
  • Walking for the day: 5 km, 2 h, ↑450 m ↓450 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 is possible at some places.

Click to view standard hotels

Hotel Le RoyaLa Chapelle Saint Gervais farmhouse, Hotel Le Saint Yves*, Hotel De Londres, Hotel Le Provencal

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’ ambiance 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. 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 at the villages and towns your are staying in.

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is appropriate for walks with an average level of fitness; 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 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 the beginning of 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 Breil sur Roya: 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.

Inclusions

Included

  • 7 nights double occupancy with private facilities, in hotels and guesthouses
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 1 picnic lunch (Day 5)
  • 1 dinner (Day 2)
  • Luggage transfers on walking days 2 to 5; on day 6 when transferring by train from Menton to Villefranche you will have to carry your baggage with you
  • Taxi transfer from Sospel to the Castillon pass (start of your walk on Day 3)
  • Travel kit with roadbook and integrated maps, vouchers for restaurants & transfers
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Bus and train transfers
  • 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 before or after the holiday
  • Upgraded hotels with a supplement

Gallery

Reviews

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Rating

     

Tania B.

To say that we had the trip of a lifetime is an understatement. My friend, Marian, and I decided to to book a walking tour in France. We come from South Africa and because of the strict Covid entry requirements into many countries we decided that France was our best option. Wanting to do something different we discussed walking through the Alpes to the French Riviera. Booking with The Natural Adventure Company was the best decision we could have made. Two women making their way through France via beautiful forests, mountain terraces and country roads couldn't have been more enjoyable. the entire tour ran so smoothly. Taxi's arrived on time, hotels and BnBs welcomed us, picnics were packed and the book with directions and information for the walks is something I will keep forever. The hikes were absolutely beautiful and varied - mountains, forests, farms trails and peninsula walks. At times we felt like we were the only people in France. Neither of us are avid hikers but after this experience we will be doing more. The accommodation was perfect, especially the farm house in Sospel, where I think we make a lifelong friend of Pascale the owner. St Agnes was breathtaking and the restaurant attached to the hotel was a favourite. I fell in love with Menton and wished we could have stayed longer. Summitting Cime de Boudan was terribly exciting and quite frightening - but we lived to tell the tale and would probably do it again. I have recommending this walk and The Natural Adventure Company to all my friends. Thank you for one of the best experiences.

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