Merveilles valley exploratory

Walking holiday exploring the Merveilles Valley in the Alpes Maritimes

In a nutshell

  • What's not to like about discovering an ancient Bronze Age historic site?

  • A mystical environment under the towering presence of Mont Bego and the Devil’s Peak.
  • The best of the Mercantour National Park – stunning flora in July!!!
  • Duration : 8 days, 7 nights
  • Also available as a short break

What's it all about?

Explore the Vallée des Merveilles and discover why Bronze Age man was drawn here.

Aside from the stunning Alpine scenery in the Mercantour, the major draw for the majority of visitors is the Merveilles Valley which conceals in excess of 35,000 Bronze Age rock carvings in magnificent surroundings.

The area, including the adjacent Fontanalba valley, has invoked great mystery for centuries and its carvings were first studied rigorously by an Englishman, Clarence Bicknell in the early 1900's.

Today, a guided visit to the carvings brings the culture of early man to life, as he elected to site his place of worship in these magnificent surroundings, and in the shadow of the imposing Mount Bego.

The area is rich with chamois, ibex, marmots and eagles, plus a wide variety of flora (more than 2000 species are present) so there is rarely a dull moment.


  • Day 1 - Arrive Nice train or flight, stay first night in hotel at Nice.
  • Day 2 - Take the "Train of Marvels" from Nice to La Brigue. This is an amazing train ride and well worth the effort, if not only to be amazed by the feat of engineering - at one point it does 6 coils inside the mountain to gain height before popping out again higher up the Roya valley! Meet up with Liz and Mel in La Brigue, have some lunch and then drive up to Tende and spend a couple of hours in the Merveilles Valley Museum. Drive up to Casterino and relax for the rest of the afternoon. Casterino is a tiny little hamlet, beautifully situated and there are plenty of short walks that guests can do at the end of the afternoon should they wish. Stay the night and evening meal in Casterino.
  • Day 3 - Leave Casterino, and start our two day exploration of the zone containing upwards of 35,000 Bronze Age rock engravings. We climb up past the small private refuge in the Fontanalbe valley, and just after we can take a circular excursion to the area containg our first set of engravings, which includes la Voie Sacrée. From here, we'll cross over the high plateau of the Fontanalba, and climb up to the col at Baisse de Fontanalba at 2,568m, before dropping down towards Lac du Basto at the head of the Valmasque valley. From here we descend past three beautifully set lakes to the small (cosy) Refuge de Valmasque, situated right on the edge of one of the lakes. Overnight in the refuge. Ascent 1000m, 8 to 10 hours walking.
  • Day 4 - Early start, and we climb back up the Valmasque valley to reach the Baisse de Valmasque at 2,550m overlooking the Merveilles Valley. After this we descend down the valley along the GR52, where we can see some of the engravings along this well trodden long distance footpath. We can picnic lunch beside one of the lakes at the base of the valley, and then join a group tour of the engravings which will take us to some of the more remote spots in the area. The tour will be in French, but your guide will be able to translate for you. At the end of the tour, we then ascend up to the Pas de l'Arpette at 2,500m, from where we can descend to our final destination of the day in the Gordolasque valley, and transfer to Berthemont les Bains. Evening meal with Mel & Liz. Ascent 800m, 10 to 12 hours walking.
  • Day 5 - Day to relax, with a visit to Alpha the wolf sanctuary at le Boréon.
  • Day 6 and 7 - Join Mel and Liz for two stunning day walks in other areas of the Mercantour National Park. The Old Salt Route – Col de Fenestre, and Pas de Ladres circuit.
  • Day 8 - Transfer back to Nice for departure.

What's included

  • Accommodation, including 2 nights in a mountain refuge.
  • Lunch at la Brigue day 2.
  • Berthemont accommodation – Gîte based - provisions and hot pastries provided for breakfast, picnic lunch, home cooked dinners – 2 meals enjoyed with your hosts, the balance delivered to your door ready to eat, or together with fellow guests.
  • Wine and beer provided at Berthemont, drinks at own cost in refuges.
  • Transport : To and from all venues. To Nice airport at the end of the stay.
  • Not included - 1st hotel night in Nice, train ticket to la Brigue.
  • Guidance and suggestions available for the Nice hotel booking and Tende train ticket reservation.

Dates :

2020 : Jul 18; Aug 08

Grade :

Walking - Challenging - suitable for adults and children age 16 or over

See our grades explained here

Pricing :

Gîte and refuge based : €1170 pp

Single supplement for non refuge nights €100