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Mercantour hiking: Alpine lakes and rock carvings

Mercantour hiking: Alpine lakes and rock carvings


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Set high above the French Riviera, the Mercantour National Park sets the scene for dramatic hikes in an alpine setting: above the tree-line, serrated peaks, sacred rock carvings, mountain lakes and refuges, abundant wildlife, alpine pastures carpeted with wildflowers, and all from the comfort of a stunning chalet.

You spend the first two nights in the authentic and picturesque village of La Brigue, nestled in the Roya valley, and complete a warm-up hike in lower altitudes. You're then transferred to the hamlet of Castérino, at over 1500m, where you settle into a cozy chalet-style hotel. Gateway into Mercantour National park, Castérino is the perfect base from which to explore the stunning alpine landscapes of the Mercantour.

Though we've chosen well-trodden paths in and around the park, it's important to note:
* this is indeed a hikers' vacation, for seasoned hikers
* and set in an alpine environment, with considerable altitude gain -- up to 800m -- daily

  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • The lakes, mountains, and rock carvings of the "Vallée des Merveilles"
  • Authentic villages nestled in deep, wooded valleys, surrounded by high mountains.
  • A true Alpine experience above the tree line
  • The Mercantour National park and its wild animals & nature
  • The cozy Chamois d'Or hotel: an unforgettable experience
  • 2 dinners and 3 delicious picnics

Day 1

La Brigue : back country of the French Riviera

  • La Briguechalet roya
  • You arrive in the timeless village of La Brigue, nestled in the mountains near the Italian border, with its beautiful architecture and its centuries-old homes with colourful façades. The village traded its Italian flag for a French one in 1947, and much of this valley is bathed in a Franco-Italian fusion of language, food, and culture.
  • Dinner included and night in La Brigue.
  • Access : Regular train lines from Nice
  • We recommend : arrive 1 day earlier, and have an extranight in Nice

Day 2

    • Distance :
    • 12 km
    • Elevation :
    • + 550m
      - 550m

Panoramic Views above Tende

alpine flowers

  • Loop walk from La Brigue > Tende  (4hours - 7 miles)
  • It's a hike in lower altitudes to warm your legs. You climb from the town of La Brigue, up a tight valley laden with wild lavender, thyme, and winter savoury (the Mirval hotel can prepare a picnic upon request, or there is a small grocery store in town). Passing the ruins of stone dwellings you reach the Boselia pass, and begin a breathtaking and panoramic descent to Tende, the very last town before the Italian border. Take a well-deserved pause in town, at a local café or restaurant. Though we have marked a walking route to return to La Brigue, the railway line links both villages, and so you can take the train to return.
  • Dinner on your own and night in La Brigue.
  • Market on Sunday morning in La Brigue

Day 3

    • Distance :
    • 10 km
    • Elevation :
    • + 600m
      - 600m

Cime de Gratin & alpine lakes

chamois mercantour wild goat

  • Loop walk from Castérino > Cime de Gratin (4 hours, 30 mins. - 6 miles)
  • Picnic included
  • In the morning, you are transferred to the hamlet of Castérino, in your cozy, chalet-style hotel, your base for the next three nights. Nestled at the base of the lush and green valley, the hamlet of Castérino is sprinkled with mountain chalets and surrounded by forested slopes.
    Leaving your hotel by foot you climb upwards through the evergreen forest, and soon the last of the larch trees give way to open pastures and bare rock. Atop the crest you'll enjoy panoramic views of the serrated peaks of the Mercantour National Park to the east. Atop a forestry track you'll encounter former bunkers, attesting to a not so distant military past. A leisurely descent leads back to the hamlet of Castérino.
  • Dinner is included on your first night in Casterino

Day 4

    • Distance :
    • 16 km
    • Elevation :
    • + 650m
      - 650m

Refuge des Merveilles & rock carvings

eidelweiss wildflower mercantour

  • Loop walk from Castérino > refuge des Merveilles hut (6 hours - 10 miles)
  • Picnic included
  • A short transfer (5 mn) takes you to the Lac des Mèches lake to begin your hike. Passing a former mining community, and then up the Vallon de la Minière, you enter the Mercantour National Park boundaries. Under the watchful eyes of the chamois and ibex that grace the slopes, and even the elusive wolves, you're surrounded by wildflowers, and leave the forest behind. Amid a setting of crystal clear mountain lakes and denuded peaks, you reach the Refuge des Merveilles hut. You can enjoy a hearty lunch at the refuge, and soak up the alpine ambiance. Your walk back to the Lac des meches Lake, for a transfer back to Casterino.
  • Option : From the refuge you can embark on a guided tour of the Vallée des Merveilles rock carvings, Europe's largest open-air museum, highly protected and only accessible with an accredited guide. Tours last about 2 hours and cost around 15€ per person.
  • Dinner  on your own and night in Castérino.

Day 5

    • Distance :
    • 16km or 20km
    • Elevation :
    • + 750m or 1150m
      - 750m or 1150m

Fontanalba & lac vert

lac chalet mercantour

  • Loop walk from Castérino > Fontanalba (5 hours, 30 mins. - 9 miles)
  • For Valmasque option (7 hours, 30 mins., 12.5 miles)
  • Picnic included
  • Today,  you climb through the bucolic Fontanalba valley, and once again enter the heart of the National Park. Reach the Lac Vert, from where you can explore some of the 100 000 sacred stone carvings, some of which are 6000 years old. Up until modern times, many different agricultural civilizations would carve their histories into stone -- quite literally -- before a time of writing. The site of Fontanalba regroups more carvings then elsewhere in the park, and many are set beside the marked trails, accessible to all hikers without an accredited guide. An optional route takes you to the pristine lakes of the Valmasque valley. Return to Castérino for your third and final night.
  • Option : From the lac vert lake hut, you can have a guided visit to the carvings. With sup.
  • Dinner on your own, night in Casterino.

Day 6

Bye Bye Mercantour ..

wildflowers mercantour lily

  • Transfer to La Brigue after breakfast. End of your trip.
  • Return: Regular train lines from La Brigue to Nice.

  • We recommend : If you'd like to continue your hiking all the way to the Mediterranean, have a look at our Walking from the Southern Alps to the Riviera trails holiday!

    - The rates are per person, based on a double-bedded room (1 bed) 
    - Sup for a twin-bedded room (2 beds) in some hotels 
  • GUIDED DAY - A fixed rate: the price is the same from 1 to 4 participants with one guide 
     The rate for the guided day remains the same no matter if you are 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 persons 
  • BOTH are subject to availability
  • Go to the TRIP INFO section below :
    - to check the minimum person BASIS of this trip
    - to check the single room ( 1 pers. ) supplement
    - if you're travelling SOLO: please contact us

Sup per period
    • Unavailable
    • High + 100€
    • Low

Choose your level of comfort according to your wish & budget !

> For a single room ( 1 pers. ) a single supplement will be charged
> See in our TRIP INFO section
> Keep in mind that your trip is always subject to availability

  • Hotel Le Mirval ** - La Brigue

    Hotel Le Mirval ** - La Brigue

    Located at the entrance of the medieval village of La Brigue, this charming hotel - fully renovated - is situated by the river, with a beautiful garden and a terrasse : an oasis of willow trees and lush vegetation.

    The panoramic restaurant offers a traditional cuisine - with nice & italian influences. 

    You will appreciate the quietness of this family-run hotel, along the friendly welcome of Mr et Mme DELLEPIANE.

  • Le Chamois d'Or

    Le Chamois d'Or

    Surrounded by splendid high-altitude lakes and inspiring mountain landscapes of the Mercantour National Park, the Chamois d’Or is a warm and elegant mountain chalet. It boasts 22 rooms, a restaurant, a café and a spa. You'll receive the warmest of welcomes possible in this cozy, yet refined accommodation.  

The rates are per person, on a 2 pers. basis and subject to availability

  • Most prices are based on a 2-person booking ( with shared accommodation for a hotel)
  • You will be able to select the exact number of traveller(s) when completing your reservation form
  • If you're travelling SOLO : please contact us
Repatriation insurance - 1 week trip
  • Repatriation insurance : applicable for all clients visiting the Europe-Schengen region that includes France
  • Rate : for a maximum trip of 1 week = 7 days
    Supplement for a trip above 7 days
  • See the insurance contract here 

TRIP rates 

The rates are per person, on a 2 pers. minimum reservation basis ( shared room), and subject to availability


  • 5 nights double occupancy with private facilities
  • 5 breakfasts
  • 2 dinners
  • 3 picnics
  • Day 3: transfer from La Brigue to Castérino
  • Day 4: transfer to and from the Lac des Mèches.
  • Day 6 : Transfer from casterino to La Brigue
  • Our Road Book with detailed walking itineraries, including highlighted maps
  • 1 hiking map of the region


  • Transportation to and from La Brigue
  • All lunches & dinners not noted-included in your itinerary
  • Entrance fees into museums, insurance, drinks
  • Items of personal nature
  • SINGLE supplement : 220 €uros
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Pre tour information document to download: