Sainte‑Baume Regional Natural Park

Located at the gateway to large cities such as Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, the Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park was created in 2017. It became essential to classify this area whose natural wealth should be preserved and whose cultural heritage should be emphasized.

The heritage

The rich fauna and flora of the Sainte-Baume massif is part of the heritage of this Natural Park. The forest is a remarkable mix between the alpine influences of medium mountains and the Mediterranean. An intermediate fauna and flora have developed there such as scotch pines, oaks, lime trees, maples and beeches.

The census carried out in Mazaugues, one of the important towns in the Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park, has made it possible to list more than 143 species on the site. Some of them testify to the incredible quality of the environments in which they thrive and is a true natural heritage: white-footed crayfish, Rhone epipactis, golden eagle,  Emys orbicularis, Erebia epistygne, etc.

The Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park covers an area of 844 km² in the Bouches-du-Rhône and Var regions. The Sainte-Baume massif culminates at 1,147 meters of altitude at the Signal des Béguines. It is one of the highest massifs in Provence. From the crest, the difference in landscape between the two sides of the mountain is striking: to the north, the state-owned forest stretches, and to the south, the garrigue lines the valleys.

Towns and villages in the park

The Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park is made up of 26 towns in which approximately 58,000 people live. These towns are located in the Bouches-du-Rhône and Var departments: Plan d’Aups and its charming hotel at the base of the Sainte-Baume, le Castellet, its medieval village and its AOC Bandol wine, Brignoles and its picturesque alleys or Evenos and its castle that is being restored.

Tourist sites, emblematic monuments

Just like Lourdes, La Sainte-Baume has long been a high place of pilgrimage. To reach the Grotto where Mary Magdalene lived, first, the visitor must hike up a path that winds through the forest for almost 40 minutes. After climbing the last staircase, the hiker can admire life-size scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion before reaching the esplanade of the Grotto. It offers a magnificent view of Provence, its fields and vineyards. Inside the Grotto, the temperature remains cool whatever the season. This is where Mary Magdalene’s life ended. Legend has it that it is because of her tears that water is omnipresent at the Sainte-Baume massif. Mary Magdalene was from an Israeli city located near the Sea of Galilee and was a disciple of Jesus. She followed him until he was crucified and after his resurrection, she left to evangelize Provence accompanied by her brother Lazarus and her sister Martha, until she retreated in this cave of the Sainte-Baume massif. The seminary, hung on the rock of the massif at the entrance of the grotto, is still inhabited.

The small town of Cuges-les-Pins has the largest amusement park in the south of France: OK Corral. Shows and attractions take the visitor into the western universe where cowboys and Indians are the protagonists. The scenery is larger than life, especially in Silver Dollar City, where the Wild West epics are depicted one after the other: settling of scores with a pistol, train attack by feathered Indians, intervention of the Masked Avenger, etc.

The activities

The Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park is a paradise for hikers, especially in the summer, when its state-owned forest offers a bit of freshness. Starting from the charming hotel, always inhabited by Dominican religious, walkers can discover many paths. The shortest path to the top of the massif and to the famous grotto of Mary Magdalene starts there. On these paths where nature rules, the air is pure and invigorating.

The Grotto of Castelette is appreciated by speleology enthusiasts and beginners. After going down a 25-meter shaft, the visitor discovers the walls and cavities sculpted by the Huveaune underground river.

The Sainte-Baume massif is full of walls for climbers of all levels: wind spur, hanging garden, topaz spur, etc.

Practical information

The “Espace Tourisme et Découverte” inaugurated in May 2019 allows the visitors to discover the secrets of the natural and cultural heritage of the Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park and its surroundings. Everyone can appreciate this fun and interactive trail. It explains the history of this sacred mountain and presents the fauna and flora that thrive there and the waterways that cross it. The “Espace Tourisme et Découverte” aims at raising the public’s awareness on the environment, and inform the visitors about this magical territory and places to visit.

Selection of natural parks

 

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