The Golden Isles are a pristine walker’s paradise located off the Provençal Var coast, inviting you to discover a rich littoral nature, endowed with an impressive fauna and flora and offering more 300 days of sunshine per year. The combination of the sun and the sea give them one of the mildest climates in France.
The legend has its that the four daughters of Prince Olbianus, a respected aristocrat, were exceptional swimmers. Their incomparable beauty was the pride of their father. One day, as they were swimming off the coast, pirates’ sails appeared on the horizon. Their father begged them to come back to the shore, but the girls were too far away. Desperate, the father made a plea to the gods, asking them to prevent his daughters’ abduction. Heaven heard his prayers: just as they were going to be seized by the pirates, the girls were turned into isles: the three princesses farthest away formed the golden isles of Port Cros, Porquerolles and Ile du Levant, while the one closest to the shore, already stretching her pleading arms towards it, became the peninsula of Giens.
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Day 1: Arrive in Le Lavandou
Today you will arrive in the pretty town Le Lavandou, your base for exploration of the Golden Isles for the next four nights. The (then) village is where the famous popular song A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square was written in the summer of 1939. The words were by Eric Maschwitz and the music by Manning Sherwin, with its title ‘stolen’ from a story by Michael Arlen. The song had its first performance in a local bar. In the spring of 2002, an attempt was made to find the bar where this classic song was first performed. Elderly residents were questioned, but it proved impossible to establish the venue.
Day 2: Isle of Porquerolles | 12 km
A ferry crossing from Le Lavandou (45 min, return trip included) takes you to Porquerolles’ island, the biggest of the three Golden Isles. Purchased by the State in 1971, Porquerolles became a part of Port-Cros National Park, which protects, replants and studies Mediterranean plants thanks to its Botanical Centre. Three superb beaches offer fine sand, gently sloping shores, and an exceptional pure sea to the north. You reach the port and walk through the quaint hamlet. The island is crossed in every direction by walking paths through pine and eucalyptus forests. A short climb leads to a viewpoint where the entire island is at your feet, and you enjoy the infinite expanse of the Mediterranean. A winding path through the heather descends on soft zigzags back to the coastline. Return to the port and ferry ride back to Le Lavandou.
Day 3: Isle of Port Cros | 9 km
A ferry takes you from the port of Le Lavandou to the island of Port Cros, set 8 km off the coast. The island is France’s smallest national park, and its dense forests of heather and cork oaks, olive trees and fruit trees and a few scattered lemon, orange and mandarin trees make for a real walking paradise. A return ferry is included to Le Lavandou.
Day 4: Cap Bénat | 10 km
Today you follow the “Sentier littoral”, the coastline path that passes along pristine beaches, hidden coves, on paths laden with lavender and lone pine trees. You will walk along the flower-covered cornices with a wealth of beautiful exotic plants. The protected coastline is unspoilt and offers magnificent landscapes of the jagged coast and turquoise waters. Halfway through the walk, the Estagnol beach is the perfect lunch break, with its beachfront restaurant serving grilled seafood.
Day 5: Departure or Extra Night
The tour ends after breakfast.
What to Expect
On this centre-based walking holiday, you will be staying in a welcoming 3-star hotel in Le Lavandou. We have carefully hand-picked all our accommodations and regularly monitor their quality. We always try to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. Optional upgrade to a charming hotel at a supplement.
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Sample standard hotel: Le Grand Pavois
Sample upgraded charming hotel: Hotel Espadon
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.
Breakfasts are included. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your accommodation or restaurants in the village near your hotel.
Difficulty & terrain
This is a relaxed centre-based holiday, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the local nature and culture. Daily walks are between 3 and 4 hours. The coastal trails have some short steeper ascents and descents (read more about difficulty grades). The trails are easy to follow. 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 from the beginning of March until mid-November. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date within the season. NB! From 15 June to 30 September The Golden Islands have strict security measures in place during the high season with regards to forest fires, including path restrictions. Whilst the inland paths on the island may be closed, the coastline paths always remain open. In the case of path restrictions, the information centre on both islands will provide you with a map indicating the paths you may take.
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The best place to fly in and out is Nice Airport; you can also fly to Marseille, Toulon and Paris. Then by train and bus to Hyeres and Le Lavandou.
By train or bus
Take the Eurostar from London St-Pancras International to Marseille via Paris, then change to Toulon and by bus to Le Lavandou. The total journey time is about 10 hours. Visit SNCF for up to date train schedules.
- Pre-departure info pack and detailed road notes and maps (electronic copy emailed in advance and a hard copy provided at the first hotel – 1 set per room)
- 4 nights accommodation in private en-suite rooms in a comfortable hotel
- 4 breakfasts
- Return public boat transfers to Port Cros & Porquerolles islands on Days 2 & 3
- Transfer to the start of the walk / pick up at the end of the walk on Day 4
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Entrance fees for attractions and museums
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
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)
- Hotel supplements are possible during the Grand Prix of Castelet (end of June) and the Cassis marathon in mid-October.
- Extra nights can be booked on request
- Hotel upgrade in a charming hotel
- Additional fee for sending documents to the hotel for last-minute bookings