The Corniche d’Or and the Forêt des Maures

Do you have to choose between meandering coastal routes and hairpin mountain bends? Not on this dynamic route, which guides you along winding roads of the Massif des Maures to the Corniche d’Or, celebrating the idle pleasures of seaside resorts and the crystal waters of the Esterel.

TourDuration6 days
Locations
Saint-Raphaël
Col de Vignon
Plaine des Maures
Grimaud & Cogolin
Saint-Tropez
L’Estérel & the Corniche d’Or
Step 1The Salty Air of the Côte d'AzurFrom Agay Harbour to Sainte-Maxime

Your trip starts at dawn at the Agay Harbour. A lovely sea cove, the village opens onto the Massif de l’Estérel. After a look at the Saint-Exupéry memorial, take the N98, which goes along the sea towards Saint-Raphaël. Admire the Cap de Dramont, then the Île d’Or ​​​​​​and its sempahore, which is believed to have inspired Hergé, the creator of Tintin. Your heart is in this trip. Windows open, you inhale the salty sea air as you approach the casino of Saint-Raphaël.  Immediately, you are immersed in the atmosphere of the Côte d’Azur. You want to take a dip, but it’s still a bit early. Before Sainte-Maxime, the N98 gets less urban. It hugs the coastline, so close you could get splashed by a wave. After a short break on the beach, it’s time to head to the hills, on the winding road of the Massif des Maures.

Discover the Protected Areas

Step 2Climb the Col de Vignon.....To the Sound of the Cicada's Song

Head towards Plan-de-la-Tour via the D25. The intrepid will stay on the D25 as far as the Col de Gratteloup. You’re off for a fine 10 km climb! Once at the summit, take the tiny, wiggly D44 back towards Plan-de-la-Tour. The view is magnificent, the ravines vertiginous. Forget the sea, which you just saw that morning, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the rocky, wooded landscape. After Plan-de-la-Tour, climb the Col de Vignon, perched at an altitude of 352 metres. The D74 becomes the curvy D75, lined with superb vegetation. The cork oaks are bare, causing the cicadas to sing so loudly you can even hear them with the windows closed. The fragrant landscape is transfixing. It almost smells as good as the delicious food that is made herbs of the south.

Step 3Towards the Plaine des Maures Olive trees, pines, and rare plants

At this altitude, the symbols of the region, olive trees, are rare. They only appear lower down the valley. Just before La Garde-Freinet, the vegetation changes again. It’s the beginning of the plateau of the Plaine des Maures. Its streams fill the ponds in the shade of the local star: the pine tree. Here, the ecosystem is fragile. Species of protected plants, such as ranunculus revellierii, Adder’s-tongue ferns and pink scarce tongue-orchids live in harmony. A signboard provides a botany lesson to the uninitiated. After La Garde-Freinet, the road widens to become the D55, which paves the way to a magical village: Grimaud.

 

Step 4Grimaud and CogolinA medieval village and a legendary pass

Grimaud is a charming medieval village. You will adore its paved, flower-lined streets which whimsically wind from the Romanesque church to the ruins of the feudal castle. A necessary break for relaxing and stretching a bit before you go down towards Cogolin. Legend has it that a Genoese martyr arrived in Saint-Tropez by boat, watched over by a cockerel which flew off and landed in a flax field. Voila, the village of the cockerels was born. Cogolin comes from Coq au Lin, aka Cockerel in the Flax. Another symbol of the village? The master pipe-makers, called maitres pipiers, whose work is on display in many shop windows. It’s so charming, isn’t it?

 

Step 5On the way to Saint-TropezFrom the land of palm trees

As you leave Cogolin, you will rejoin the N98 as far as Bormes-les-Mimosas and Le Lavandou to reach the Pays des Palmiers. Teeming with quintessential resorts, these two coastal towns take you towards the Corniche des Maures and Cavalaire La Sage. Thrill-seekers can take the Col du Canadel or continue towards Ramatuelle by passing through, once again, a protected wilderness perfumed with intoxicating Provençal scents. The D98A ends at the legendary Saint-Tropez. What a delight to discover the magnificent lights of the yachts and the old port, where painters work to their hearts’ content. Here, the extravagant motorbikes show off their sparkling chrome in front of the café terraces.

 

Step 6The Esterel Massif to the Corniche d'OrSharp turns and sunsets

Now set your GPS for the Estérel to start the second loop of this great figure eight. As the N7 climbs it becomes the RN7, surely because of its tight turns. It’s not just hairpins, but a crossing through a lace-like massif of chiselled red rocks. Popular with motorbikes, it is dominated by the Mont Vinaigre, which you can reach by road – it boasts a breathtaking view of the Estérel. After so many sensations, rich scents, and the gorgeous light, it’s good to end the route by circling the Esterel via the calming Corniche d’Or. The pressure drops, your body is bathed in sunshine and the memories accumulate. You reach Cap Roux and admire the setting sun that inflames the surrounding areas, turning the sea a deep colour against the background of brightly coloured rocks.

 

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