Top 8 intimate walks in the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Reserve

Say goodbye to the hubbub of city life and head out into orchards and olive groves swathed in gentle scents of thyme, rosemary and lavender… Criss-crossed with many rivers and streams, the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature is a haven of discreet, soothing walks.

Stroll through the Baronnies Provençales hilltop villages

The roads and lanes of the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Reserve are dotted with medieval villages reputed for their pretty façades, often set around a history-packed church, castle or tower, set gazing out over the valley. Begin your adventure with the village of Montbrun-les-Bains, one of France’s “Most Beautiful Villages”, surrounded by lavender fields and home to thermal baths – the perfect place to recharge your batteries! Rochebrune offers a delightful show of paved streets, flowering façades, blue and green shutters, little squares and gardens where crickets chirp. Last but not least, La Motte-Chalancon in Oule valley is a charming village encircled by mountains, offering superb sightseeing opportunities with its steep lanes, vaulted passageways, ancient fort, fountains and stone washtubs. Tucked away on the heights and sometimes protected with fortifications, these villages were ideal lookouts for enemy invasions. Climb to the top of the 13th-century Tour Carrée in Rosans, built with diamond cut stone and boasting 360° panoramic vistas.

Visit Serres and Garde Colombe, ancient “Little Cities of Character”

Serres and Garde Colombe are among the first villages in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to earn the “Little Cities of Character” label. In summer, “Les Belles Heures de Serres” brings together art and history lovers for a weekend festival dedicated to arts, crafts and heritage, while an open-air cultural and visual arts exhibition in September invites visitors to meet with exceptionally talented artists. “Le Chemin des Crèches” in December unveils a treasure trove of beautiful handmade “santon” figurines, leading visitors on a discovery stroll around the village. In the village of Lagrand, the former school converted into a priory promises a voyage back in time. Follow the Vieil Eyguians botanical footpath through woodbine, downy oak and snowy mespilus to a majestic Lebanese Cedar. You’ll find plenty of great local produce here, including exquisite goat cheese – enjoy your tasting session!

Push open the doors to secretive chapels and churches

Often hidden away at the end of a lane or set clinging to a rock, the local chapels are a must-see. Although well-preserved, please pamper them with due care while you’re exploring their treasures. So what will it be? The restored Romanesque church of Châteauneuf-de-Bordette, or Chapelle Saint-Jean d’Ollon on its rocky spur? In Benivay-Ollon, the trompe-l’œil frescoes and ancient paintings reproduced by artisans using sheepskin glue are a genuine feast for the eyes. Set to the rear of the chapel, the hermitage is a must for stargazers keen to spend their night hours contemplating the Milky Way. Saint Cyrice Romanesque church in the heart of the forest is also well worth going out of your way for.

Discover a Sensitive Natural Area at “Serre de l’Âne”

Located in the town of Charce in the Pays Diois area, Serre de l’Âne cliff was discovered in 1977. Today, it is recognized as a major geological site that has recorded the history of the planet non-stop for the last 5 million years. Geologists are mad about it of course: only 25 stratotypes have been identified in the world, including 6 in France – and this is one of them! Stratotypes are units used to determine geological stages. Gaze out at the view over the fertile countryside from the site’s terrace before heading out on the “Chemin des Temps Géologiques” to learn more about the mysterious “Serre de l’Âne” rocks. Budding and seasoned geologists alike will love the fossil garden, featuring reproductions of fossils found on and around the site during digs.

Meet the Milky Way

Particularly well-sheltered from light pollution, “Dark Sky” reserves such as the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Reserve – a favourite meeting place for astrophiles – offer magical stargazing opportunities. Contrary to other French and European sites at different latitudes and altitudes, the Baronnies Provençales reserve offers ideal observation conditions in all seasons, with around 300 clear nights a year – a real treat for amateur and professional astronomers alike. Grab your backpack and sleeping bag and head out from the village of Poët-en-Percip (at an altitude of 1,000 metres). Cross the lavender fields at sunset and raise your eyes to the lap up the show at nightfall. And don’t forget to make a wish when you see a shooting star!

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Play with sound at Ferme du Faï

Ferme du Faï is perched at an altitude of 1,000 metres at the heart of the high valley of La Maraize, just 2 km from the village of Saix. Rock erosion has formed two eyes carved into the mountain, offering a very loud echo when a sound in directed towards their centre. The phenomenon was discovered during work at the site, when labourers discovered the astonishing echo while they were hammering on a frame. The mountain’s unique acoustics have now made it a world-unique experimental site. Enjoy making your own music during your tour: you can roam the site’s 7 listening points at will. And when the fine weather comes around, the site welcomes the Echos festival – a truly memorable experience for sound fans.

Meet the flora and fauna of Beynaves forest

A haven for butterfly watchers from June to September, Beynaves forest is home to an impressive 120 butterfly species, 20 of which are rare. There are a thousand and one ways to explore this little paradise in Buëch valley, which includes a 300-metre discovery trail offering a fascinating insight into the local flora. The shaded rest areas dotted here and there offer welcome freshness and are perfect for a gourmet picnic in the countryside. The Pineraie trail (a 2.10 km loop) is a wonderful way to explore the pine wood by day – and soon by night! Our fave: enjoy watching the pretty migratory birds come to quench their thirst at the lake.

Climb Chabre mountain and lap up the view

One of the highlights of Buëch valley, Chabre mountain is an absolute must! Its summit complete with an orientation table unveils superb panoramic views and offers a foretaste of the delights that await you if you’re planning on touring the Ecrins, Ventoux and Lure mountains. To access the site, take the forest track from Méouge gorge then simply choose your walk: a shaded forest trail or along the sun-drenched pass. Set at a height of 1,352 metres, the views from the top of Espranons mountain are truly breathtaking!

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