Theme of the month - Mountains

 

Lufthansa travel reports Nice

 

Nice - From 0 to 3000

Mountains or beach? This question simply doesn’t arise on a vacation in Provence, where the mighty three-thousanders of the Maritime Alps dominate the landscape just about 50 kilometers from the glamorous seaside resort of Nice. Even some of the easy-to-climb peaks offer breathtaking views – as far as the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Visitors wishing to explore region will find a place to stay in picturesque mountain villages, authentic alpine huts, and beautiful Belle Epoque hotels – and even a true “Valley of Wonders.”

 
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Peillon:
Magical and timeless: The village of Peillon lies half-way between Nice and the Maritime Alps. The medieval hamlet, with a population of just 1300, perches like an eagle’s nest on a rocky spur 700 meters up with a steep cliff beyond its walls. Peillon is one of the region’s famous villages perchés. These villages’ apparent determination to make even the most inaccessible spots inhabitable give them an almost surreal quality. While some of the mountain villages have become tourist attractions, some, like Peillon, have retained their authenticity.

Info
Hotel Auberge de la Madone/Restaurant l’Authentique in Peillon: 3, place Auguste Arnulf, Peillon Village, Tel.: +33-4 93 79 91 17. Open: daily except Wed (restaurant and reception closed), closed from Feb 1-Nov 8 and over Christmas. Prices: start at €98 for single and double rooms. www.auberge-madone-peillon.com (French)
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Mercantour:
From the beach into the mountains – large areas of the French Maritime Alps belong to the Parc National du Mercantour, a specially protected nature reserve that offers a safe home for many of the region’s many rare plants and animals. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of an alpine ibex, a chamois, mouflon, marmot, golden eagle, or even a wolf. The adjoining Parco Naturale delle Alpi Marittime is on Italian territory and works closely with its French counterpart. The highest peak in the Maritime Alps, Monte Argentera (3297 meters) is also on the Italian side of the border, in Piemont.

Info
Parc National du Mercantour: www.mercantour.eu (French). Parco Naturale delle Alpi Maritime: www.parcoalpimarittime.it (English, German and Italian)


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Refuge de la Cougourde:
Sky high – in the Mercantour National Park alone, six proud three-thousanders reach for the sky. The smaller mountains are also popular hiking destinations. The striking Mont Mounier, for example, is easy to climb, and on a clear day you can see the Mediterranean island of Corsica from its peak. For those on a longer mountain tour, the Club alpine français offers good and inexpensive overnight lodging in their huts (refuges), one of the most beautiful being the Courgourde-Herberge. Reservations are recommended, especially in the summer.

Info
Club Alpin Francais (CAF) de Nice-Mercantour: 14, avenue Mirabeau, Nice, Tel.: +33-4/93 62 59 99. www.cafnice.org (French). CAF online reservation system: www.cafnice.org (French)


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Vallée des Merveilles:
The high valley at the foot of Mont Bégo is known as “The Valley of Marvels.” This is due to the approximately 40,000 Bronze Age drawings etched into the naked cliff face here, which was polished smooth during the last ice age. The nearby mountain was sacred to the artists, and their prehistoric graffiti portrays ritual acts alongside everyday farming implements. This site is one of the most important of its kind in Europe and has been an object of study since the end of the 19th century. The Museum of Marvels in the small town of Tende documents the results of this research.

Info:
Musée des Merveilles: Avenue du 16 septembre 1947, Tende, Tel.: +33-4/93 04 32 50. Open: daily 10am-6:30pm (May 2 – Oct 15), daily 10am-5pm (Oct 16-April 30), closed March12-24, Nov 13-25. Admission: free. www.museedesmerveilles.com (English, French and Italian)


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Lac d’Allos:
Crystal clear and ice cold. The largest mountain lake in Europe, Lac d’Allos also lies within the borders of the Mercantour National Park. The Lac d’Allos chalet on the south bank of the lake makes an excellent base camp for exploring this beautiful region, either on foot or on a mountain bike. One of the most worthwhile hiking routes is the three-hour trek up Mont Pelat. Towering more than 800 meters above Lac d’Allos, its summit offers a spectacular view of the lake and a seemingly endless alpine panorama.

Info:
Refuge du Lac d’Allos: Tel.: +33-4/92 83 00 24, refugedulacdallos@gmail.com . The hostel is staffed only June through September, when warm meals are also served. In the off-season it is unstaffed, but remains open as an emergency shelter.


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Snowy Peaks:
Even though the Mediterranean is nearby, the climate a little milder as a result, and the season somewhat shorter than in more northerly regions, in winter the Maritime Alps become transformed into to a white wonderland with excellent ski areas. The region around Val d’Allos alone offers skiers 230 kilometers of slopes, not to mention cross-country runs and snowshoe paths. Isola 2000 is not quite as beautiful but still very popular– the entire ski resort was only built in the 1970s. At that time aesthetic issues took a back seat to practical ones – the slopes begin here practically on the main street.

Info
Val d’Allos: www.valdallos.com (French and English). Isola 2000: www.isola2000.com (French and English)
 

Photos: mauritius images (3), Sudres/Cavalier/Fautre/Hemis/Le Figaro/laif (3)

 
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