Musée des Merveilles in Tende

80 kilometers from Nice, in the Mercantour National Park, the Valley of Wonders hosts several tens of thousands of rock engravings in a remarkable natural site at an altitude of over 2,200 meters. The Musée Départemental des Merveilles (Departmental Museum of Wonders) in Tende sheds light on the origin of these engravings and the occupation of the Alpes-Maritimes department from the Neolithic period to the second millennium BC.

Valley of Wonders

Below Mont Bégo, which peaks at an altitude of 2,872 meters, several archeological sites contain numerous rock carvings. The Valley of Wonders, the Fontanalbe lake, the Valmasque valley, the Valaurette lakes, the Col du Sabion and the Sainte-Marie lake are home to precious testimonies engraved in the rock by our ancestors, mostly between 3200 and 1300 BC.

Quoted in literature from the 16th century onwards, the site of the Valley of Wonders aroused the interest of researchers at the end of the 19th century. Numerous campaigns of excavations and archeological research carried out successively since 1879, which continue today, have revealed and catalogued nearly 50,000 engravings, while exhuming various archeological remains.

The official Valley of Wonders Museum

A visit to the museum will give you an insight into the beliefs and daily life of our distant ancestors who lived in these mountain territories from the Neolithic period to the last century.

The archeological collections include many remains from the various excavations. Visitors can admire weapons and tools made of flint and then metal, as well as ceramics. The stone and metal ornaments highlight the dexterity of the people who lived here, from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the slopes of Mont Bégo. The museum of wonders of Tende allows visitors to become familiar with the way of life of the breeders and farmers behind the engravings.

Some of the engraved rocks were removed to be protected from damage or theft and are now on display in the museum. The establishment also houses many casts, among the most characteristic of the site. You will be able to admire the rocks known as the échelle du Paradis (Ladder of Paradise) or the Chef de Tribu (Chief of the Tribe). Bovid, geometric figures, weapons, representations of human beings testify to the diversity of the engravings scattered over a territory of 14 km².

The ethnological collections consist of original documents, historical works, books and objects from the Roya Valley and the neighboring Italian valleys of Piedmont. Grouped into several themes, these objects evoke the daily life of the inhabitants of these isolated alpine valleys between the 18th and 20th centuries. We find patterns that are very present in alpine culture such as sun crosses, rosettes, dates and initials, religious, and schematic or geometric motifs. Reproductions of rocks also remind us that the tradition of engraving on the site of the Valley of Wonders has been perpetuated. From the 16th century, mountain dwellers in turn engraved the rock: pilgrims, sailors, soldiers, religious and shepherds thus wanted to contribute to this exceptional historical heritage.

Important scientific research

The Musée Départemental des Merveilles of Tende also pursues a mission of scientific research. The engravings are the subject of three-dimensional modelling work, in order to be better catalogued and protected for future generations. Prospecting programs are also carried out by the museum’s scientific team, with the agreement of the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs – Regional Service of Archeology of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

A library also brings together a rich collection of documents. Exchanges of knowledge between France, Europe and the rest of the world allow a better promotion of the archeological and ethnological heritage of the Upper Roya Valley.

Events and collections

The Musée des Merveilles regularly hosts exhibitions and events around history and ethnography. In 2019, for example, an exhibition was held on the notion of attachment to the Mercantour territories, entitled Paroles et visages du Mercantour (Words and Faces of the Mercantour), based on a short film by Luc Jacquet. Béatrice de Tende was in the spotlight in 2018 and 2019 during an exhibition bearing her name. This historical figure with a tragic destiny, sentenced to death after being accused of having taken a troubadour for a lover, has become a romantic heroine celebrated by many artists.

Practical information

  • Visiting time: two hours on average
  • Opening days: every day of the week except Tuesday. Closed from November 13 to 25, December 25, January 1 and May 1.
  • Winter schedule: (September 16 to June 15): from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Summer schedule:(June 16 to September 15): from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Address: Avenue du 16 septembre 1947, 06430 Tende
  • Access: from Nice, take the D6204 road (national road 204). The museum is located at the exit of the village of Tende.
  • Website:

Selection of museums in Alpes-Maritimes