Your first steps through the heart of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region fill you with vivid impressions and emotions. In this region bordered by the sea, the light emphasises colours, making them richer than usual.
The blue of the azure sky sparkles. The white limestone rocks shimmer. In the garrigue, the dark brown earth mixes with the green of the vines, olive trees and almond trees that grow on the steep hills.
From up high, you can see the Mediterranean. The sea has been a frontier on the southern border for all those who ventured on journeys here, lulled by dreams and poetry.
In this Collection, I propose discovering this region on its iconic long-distance hiking trails: the GR 9, GR 51 (more commonly known as ‘the Mediterranean Balconies’), the GR 653, the Via Francigena, and others. This 510-kilometre (316 mi) itinerary takes you from Menton, on the Italian border, to Marseille, the city of Phocaea. In Paris, from the Gare de Lyon, you can hop on a TGV to Marseille (direct line) and Menton (with a change in Marseille or Nice). If you want to shorten your itinerary, you can find the following train stations: Drap–Cantaron (stage 2), Colomars-la Manda (stage 3), Cannes (stage 9), Les Arcs (stage 12) and Puget-Ville (stage 18).
This Collection is drawn between land and coast. You walk through preserved environments, with an abundance of fauna and flora, between the Préalpes d'Azur, the Esterel, the Maures, and the Calanques. Then, there are the cities’ lively seafronts in the south, such as Cannes, Cassis, or finally Marseille, your destination. These places give the route a unique flare that cannot be found anywhere else.
Throughout this beautiful walk, you find a shop, restaurant or accommodation on almost every stage. If there isn't, I'll let you know if you'll need to pack your bag with food. Wild camping is tolerated, as long as you are respectful of nature, clean and discreet. However, some natural parks formally forbid them. I'll tell you about this as well if necessary.
In order to benefit from a milder climate and less frequented trails, I recommend this itinerary during spring and autumn. However, the heat can become stifling during the hottest parts of the year so remember to hydrate regularly.
In the region, aridity reaches its peak during the summer. With the mistral, a dry northwest wind, the vegetation is prone to wildfires. From June to September, fires remain a major concern for the inhabitants and the public authorities. They are strictly forbidden, and the use of your gas cookers is strongly discouraged.
If you appreciate literature, take works by Jean Giono, the Provençal author who was born and died in Manosque, with you in your backpack. Colline (1929), Un de Baumugnes (1929) and Regain (1930) are three stories that wonderfully characterise the peasant life of these hot and musical regions.
From now on, all you have to do is put on your shoes and your backpack.
Have a good walk!
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Last updated: June 26, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Here you are at the start of this long and beautiful roaming on the paths that border the Mediterranean. To reach the Italian border, the journeys were probably long and demanding. Your legs swarm, you tie your shoes very quickly before tackling your first kilometres.
On leaving Menton, you climb very…
At the start of this second stage, still on the GR 51, you quickly leave Gorbio to go back to chatting with the crickets singing in the scrubland. Before you get too far from the village, don't forget to turn around to enjoy an exceptional panorama of the latter.
Along the way, as you pass Mont Gros…
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This third leg is one of the shortest on your route along this Collection. During these almost ten kilometers along the GR 51, I invite you to venture into the old alleys that branch out from Tourette-Levens, Aspremont or Gattières. These towns with their typically Provençal charm that swarm your route…
Before the start of this fourth stage, do not hesitate to fill your bag with food since your day ends in a hamlet with no shops.
In Gattières, on the GR 51, you head towards the picturesque town of Saint-Jeannet. Flanked at the foot of the mountains, Saint-Jeannet makes an excellent stopover to recharge…
During this fifth day, you are about to tread the lands of the regional natural park (PNR) of the Préalpes d'Azur. After your bivouac, you cross a large plateau used during summer pastures by sheep farmers. If you come across cattle, be discreet and above all, do not feed them yourself.
After the village…
From the start of this sixth and short stage, you stay on the GR 51. You enter a vast and barren plateau for almost ten kilometres. Be vigilant during high season, as temperatures quickly become stifling.
At the end of the latter, after crossing the Col de Cavillore sinkhole, you reach the picturesque…
During this seventh stage, you take almost all of your route a balcony path, marked by the GR 51. Often made of gravel, the path is easily accessible and appreciated by walkers and cyclists. Below, the views of the Mediterranean and the towns surrounding Grasse multiply.
Before the end of your stage…
During this eighth stage, get ready to walk on often paved surfaces. From the Bois d'Amon, the route of the GR 51 leaves the PNR of the Préalpes d'Azur and descends quickly to the village of Tignet. If you go there early in the morning, do not hesitate to stop in a bakery for your breakfast.
This ninth stage continues its route along the GR 51, between small villages, green valleys and exhilarating panoramas. Indeed, you point in the direction of Cannes, towards the south. Throughout your day, the views of the Mediterranean and the city of Cannes follow one another.
During your descent towards…
At the start of this tenth stage, you abandon Cannes and the dream of becoming the next rising star of the big screen. Nevertheless, I suggest you, to conclude this stage and the next, a bivouac. So remember to fill your water bottles well and get enough food for two to three days.
Along the path that…
Throughout this eleventh stage, you continue your roaming in the heart of the magnificent Esterel massif. From the Col du Testanier, turn west towards the Petit Roc and the Pic de la Gardiette.
Later, you begin a steep descent before sinking into the Gorges du Blavet, your destination for the day. This…
At the start of this twelfth stage, you take the winding paths to the exit of the Esterel massif. Don't forget to stop one last time at the belvedere overlooking the Blavet gorges. The panorama there is fantastic.
From the heights, you will then find the bed of the Endre, a small bucolic stream that crosses…
At the start of this thirteenth stage, you catch up with a portion of the GR 51, towards the village of Roquebrune-sur-Argens. On the road, you walk along the rock of Roquebrune which I recommend you climb. At its summit, three crosses are planted there and, from the top of its 372 meters, the panorama…
During this fourteenth stage, your shoes tread the beautiful red runs of the Massif des Maures. With a mostly descending gradient, spare your efforts and take multiple breaks to admire this territory with its rich geology.
After crossing the D 25, you begin to follow a balcony path to the Col de Vignon…
Departing from Plan-de-la-Tour, you start walking in a southerly direction, as far as Grimaud. During this fifteenth stage, I suggest you a nice stopover in this magnificent city of the Var with a thousand facets.
In the old town, take advantage of the various monuments that make up its old centre: the…
During this sixteenth stage, I suggest you follow beautiful forest tracks and pleasant little balcony roads. Throughout your journey, the landscapes that pass by on your left give off a breathtaking view of the bay that runs from Cavalaire-sur-Mer to Le Lavandou.
On these paths, water is scarce so be…
For this 17th stage, I invite you to leave the balcony paths to venture into the unfathomable forests of Provence. Quickly after the Col du Landon, you head north through motorable tracks that wind through dense vegetation. A real haven of freshness in the morning, these forests can however become very…
This 18th stage is the exit from the Massif des Maures and its verdant forests. From the Grand Gageai, I invite you to go down to the plain on fertile and wine-growing land.
Throughout your walk, you alternate between small hills and abundant crops. As you pass through hamlets, do not hesitate to stick…
Departing from Puget-Ville, this 19th stage takes you towards the Sainte-Philomène chapel. Nestled against the hill of La Blaque at almost 300 meters above sea level, this picturesque chapel is a place that deserves special attention. Do not hesitate to take a break there to visit its enclosure.
At the start of this 20th stage, I invite you to start your walk with a nice drop. At the end of five kilometers, the effort fades. You reach the Pas de Belgentier, which officiates as the gateway to many forest trails in the Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park.
You then continue your path in the forest…
Hiking Collection by SimonWicart
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