When you think of the French Riviera, what comes to mind? Colorful umbrellas standing over sunbathers on pebble beaches? The wealthy elite partying on yachts over crystal blue waters? People strolling on wide promenades while admiring the calm waves? Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty of that on the French Riviera (known to the French as the “Côte d’Azur”). But while those azure blue Mediterranean waters get most of the attention (and rightly so), there’s another part of the French Riviera that is well-worth exploring. The Massif de l’Esterel and the Corniche d’Or.
The Massif de l’Esterel: Beautiful Orange Volcanic Mountains Rising from the Sea
The Massif de l’Esterel is comprised of a mountain range, volcanic in origin. The rocky red-orange mountains rise from the beautiful blue Mediterranean waters providing a stunning contrast. We decided that the best way to explore this area was to take a hike to one of the peaks of the Massif, Cap Roux. We found a nice hike on AllTrails to Cap Roux that was around 2.92 miles (4.7 km) and would take approximately 2 hours to do. There was only one problem – it was raining, which was pretty much most of our weather on this trip. 😩 But thankfully, around the mid-afternoon, the skies started to clear and we took this as our opportunity to head out to the Massif de l’Esterel. By the time we got there, we had good news and bad news. The bad news was that we had less than 2 hours before sunset meaning that we would have to hurry through the hike if we wanted to return before it got too dark. The good news was that, although this is typically a very popular trail, the previous rain and the late hour meant that we pretty much had the trails, the narrow roads getting there, and the parking spaces to ourselves.
One thing to note about the trail itself – although it’s less than 3 miles, AllTrails marks it as “Moderate” and that’s fair, because the elevation is quite grueling. The first part of the trail is pretty much all uphill, which makes sense since we were heading up to the peak. In addition, the trail was very rocky and we were very happy to have our hiking boots, otherwise I could imagine that it might have been painful wearing shoes with a thinner sole.
The trail starts with the interior mountain side of Cap Roux, so instead of seeing the Mediterranean, we started off with seeing the forests and peaks that make up the Massif de l’Esterel.
As we reached the summit, we had a beautiful 360 degree view of the the Mediterranean Sea, its coastal towns and the surrounding mountains of the Massif de l’Esterel.
We didn’t have much time to see the stunning sights, as our daylight was rapidly decreasing. We quickly made our way back down the mountain, though still with a little time to catch some of the beauty along the way.
The Corniche d’Or: A Golden Drive Along the French Riviera
The Corniche d’Or (literally “golden cornice”) is a 18.6 mile (30 km) drive along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, from Saint Raphael to Cannes. As I mentioned earlier, it was pretty much raining almost every day of our trip, ruining our plans to do this drive. Our first full day of sun would be … you guessed it … on the day we left. 😒 Wanting to take every advantage of this sunshine, we decided to prolong our drive back up to the north of France and detour to the Corniche d’Or before we said good-bye to this beautiful region.
We ended our tour of the Corniche d’Or in the town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule, whose attractions include the Château de la Napoule. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit, but that’s definitely something to save for next time!
The Côte d’Azur never fails to disappoint, even if the weather isn’t always perfect. With the ability to be as active as you want or the ability to relax as much as you want, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful region. We can’t wait for our next trip back!
Until next time,