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Préalpes d’Azur Regional Natural Park

The Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur covers nearly 900 km² between the French Riviera and the high peaks of the Mercantour mountains. It has an exceptional biodiversity, which has made its reputation worldwide.

The territory

The landscapes of the Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur are typical of medium mountains, combining Mediterranean and Alpine influences. At an altitude ranging from 300 to 1,800 meters, you will discover gorges, forests and agricultural valleys shaped by men. Together with Camargue and Italy, the Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur forms a vast world-famous protected natural area.

The heritage

The Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur is a world-renowned preserved territory that hosts an exceptional biodiversity, part of its natural heritage. A rich fauna and flora have developed in these different rich environments. More than 2,000 plant species have been listed in this territory. It represents a third of the metropolitan French flora. 65 are nationally or regionally protected. Some of them are rare. Among them, there are 40 native south-western Alps or Provence plant species.

This territory has become a true sanctuary for many species, such as the white-clawed crayfish or the Orsini’s viper, whose numbers are dwindling in their natural range due to the progressive loss of their natural habitat. The varied landscapes offer preserved living areas for the fauna. Cave bats and many species of local beetles have found refuge in the caves and caverns of the Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur. It is also the case for a small native amphibian, the Hydromantes strinatii.

23 species of bats out of 30 in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region can be observed in the Préalpes d’Azur Natural Park. Several sites have been placed under the protection of the Natura 2000 network, in order to preserve their biodiversity.

The Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur also has a beautiful built heritage that dates back to the Prehistory. This exceptional territory testifies to the different eras. 6 classified tumulus under which the dead were regularly buried still remain from the Neolithic period. The Castellaras de la Malle and the Castellaras de Thorenc, both classified, are oppidums dating back to the Roman occupation. From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, perched villages were fortified to protect peasant communities from the dangers of these often politically turbulent periods. Many farms and sheepfolds, built on ancient Roman sites, were also equipped with defensive elements that are still visible nowadays.

The villages of the Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur have completely adapted to the steep relief of the landscape. Perched on the side of the mountains, they offer a magnificent view of this territory where nature rules. In the picturesque alleyways, visitors will discover a heritage that testifies to the habits, practices and customs of yesteryear: fountains, wash houses, wells, bread ovens, oratories and oil mills.

Tourist sites and emblematic monuments

Perched on a rocky promontory, Gourdon overlooks the Loup valley and is one of the most beautiful villages in France. On this former strategic defense site, many vestiges of the military past are still present. Ancestral know-how workshops are still open and the local crafts attract many tourists every year. The castle of Gourdon and its classical gardens designed by Le Nôtre are one of the main attractions of the village.

Grasse is known all over the world for its perfumers’ know-how. A museum dedicated to Perfumery has even been created to trace the history of perfume. Listed as a City of Art and History, Grasse enjoys a magnificent heritage. Strolling through the narrow streets lined with houses with ochre facades, the visitor can admire arcades, small fountains, the square tower of the town hall and an exceptional panorama overlooking the valley.

The activities

When snow covers the slopes of the Cheiron massif, the Gréolières-les-Neiges ski resort opens. With its 30 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, it is the largest Nordic ski area in the Alpes-Maritimes department.

In summer and winter alike, hiking enthusiasts can discover the Natural Park of the Préalpes d’Azur thanks to the numerous marked itineraries. From May to September, mountain bike enthusiasts can take advantage of the ski lifts in the Audibergue ski resort to ride down its twelve trails. This is the ideal time to learn about speleology thanks to the via-souterrata: a 44-meter long underground via ferrata.

Paragliding is a great way to discover the landscapes from the summits. Visitors can also go on a treetop adventure to enjoy the view.

Selection of natural parks