St Baume Crete De La Sainte Baume J.auray
©Auray J.

7 walks at the heart of the Sainte-Baume Regional Nature Reserve

Considered as the “water tower of Provence”, this vast, fertile mountain range is swathed in a mosaic of Provencal scenery, ideal for walking and climbing alike. A genuine feast for the senses!

Roam Sentier de la Glacière in Gémenos

Nestling at the heart of the Sainte-Baume Regional Nature Reserve, adorned with pines, beech trees and lanky lindens, the shaded valley of Saint-Pons features a 3¾-hour loop spanning 11.5 km. A plethora of wonderful surprises awaits you here among the maples, holm oaks and yews: a wheat mill, paper mill and ice well evoking the valley’s rich industrial past, owed to its abundant water supply. Follow the trail along Torrent du Fauge, steeped in refreshing underwoods, to the “Glacière de Bertagne” ice well standing under the daunting gaze of Pic de Bertagne. The panoramic view over the Mediterranean Sea is simply magnificent and spans the vast bays of Marseille and Toulon, the Sainte-Baume, Sainte-Victoire and Mont Ventoux mountains, and snowy peaks of the Alps.

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Une publication partagée par Vincent Ayala (@ivincos)

A medieval voyage back in time in Le Castellet

The adventure begins and ends in Sainte-Anne du Castellet, a pretty village tucked away between a pine wood, vines and olive trees. Head towards Font de Mars, a hub of forestry, artisan and pastoral traditions since the Middle Ages. Flanked with sweet-smelling garrigue and maquis, the 10.2 km loop running along the hillside, near a natural spring, takes about 3½ hours and follows the medieval route leading from Toulon to Marseille. The short detour leading to the 19th century cade oven and pitch furnace is a must. Steeped in the atmosphere and mystery of bygone days, this superb walk also crosses a Roman bridge and heather fields…

Venture into the Aiguilles de Valbelle

Starting out from Siou Blanc and leading to Signes, this trail promises a deep dive into Provence’s extraordinary natural secrets. The 9.8 km hike, lasting 3¾ hours, features the spectacular rock formations of Valbelle – a genuine sight to behold. The surprises continue as you wind your way through the oak forests, home to stunning natural scenery and Mediterranean/semi-Alpine fauna. Various memorials and ancient sheepfolds proffer fitting reminders of the history and pastoral traditions of Siou Blanc plateau. Signes is a tranquil little village brimming with olde worlde charm, built around a ruined castle. Its pretty Gothic church and old fountains promise to delight. The route continues via Méounes-lès-Montrieux, a refreshing sanctuary of greenery irrigated by the Gapeau river and the perfect place for a tranquil rest.

Follow the Chemin des Oratoires to Notre-Dame du Beausset-Vieux

Le Beausset is set on the Bandol wine route, between the Sainte-Baume hills and Mediterranean shores. Opt for this short, 1½-hour hike spanning 3.3 km, combining a tour of the village with the charms of the hinterland and coast – it’s ideal for occasional walkers and families alike, and little feet won’t have any trouble keeping up! Le Beausset is home to one of the largest numbers of oratories in France: its 50 or so monuments are genuine heritage treasures that promise to astonish. The pilgrim’s trail leading to Chapelle Notre-Dame-du Beausset-Vieux alone features no less than 12!

Head out to explore Pourrières

Built on a rocky spur at an altitude of 350 metres, the narrow lanes of the village of Pourrières, set against the backdrop of Sainte-Victoire mountain, are perfect for a picturesque stroll. Admire the old Provencal stone houses, now restored to their former glory, before climbing the steep ascent to the pretty village square complete with a boules court and lively café terraces. Standing over a plain crossed by the Arc river, Pourrières offers incredible panoramic views over the wine-growing plain of L’Arc, Sainte-Victoire mountain, and the mounts of Aurélien and l’Étoile.

Stroll through the village of Tourves

The village of Tourves lies at the exit from Caramy gorge, at the foot of Château de Valbelle, between Brignoles and Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. This delightful walk alternates winding lanes and forest trails and promises a delicious dive into local heritage. First stop: the Musée des Gueules Rouges, a museum retracing the history of bauxite mining prevalent in the central Var for over a century, offering a fabulous foray into the area’s rich past from prehistory to the Gallo-Roman and medieval eras. Continue your adventure with a climb up to the castle esplanade and along the ruins. Treat yourself to a rest at Parc d’Auguste – a park belonging to the castle, harbouring an aviary, Greek, Roman and Egyptian statues, exotic shrubs and… a pyramid. Astonishing to say the least!

Climb to Belgentier via La Barre de Cuers

Encircled by hills planted with olive trees, pines and oaks, the little village of Belgentier, built along the Gapeau river, offers a delightful climbing adventure amid typical Provencal farmland. Stunning vistas over the mounts of Toulon, Gapeau valley, Golden Islands, Maures hills and even the Alps await you at Pilon Saint-Clément, the highest point of La Barre de Cuers. The ridge’s East-West orientation means it is sheltered from the gusting Mistral wind. The summit is accessible via a stony path, inviting walkers to imagine the days when these hillsides and valleys were laden with olive and almond trees flourishing on terraces…