Alpes Maritimes – 6 nights
From the Alps to the MediterraneanBack to Routes
View along the coast to Monaco
Above La Brigue
Rocky mountain stream
On the way to Notre Dame des Fontaines
View from St Agnes
The scenery was stunning, and we saw barely any other people on the walk, which added to the peace and serenity. The accommodation is always interesting and adds to the experience. The office team is always extremely helpful and a joy to interact with.
Andrew McCracken, London, UK - September 2023
Richard gave us some really good advice about our walking plan and we can't rate him highly enough. He was friendly and courteous and proactively sorted out a minor glitch with our onward luggage transfer from La Brigue (as did the office team).
Andrew Homan, Winchester, UK - September 2023
We loved the walking which was varied and interesting. It was quiet and felt like we had the mountains to ourselves. We loved Sospel and did the self guided walk around the town before having a meal by the river at one of the recommended restaurants.
Paula Carter, London, UK - September 2023
Loved the peace and quiet of the countryside, being away from tourist areas it felt like we were experiencing the real France. It was great to finish on the coast and be able to relax there after some quite challenging walking. Given all the parameters - distances between places, hotels available, frequency of public transport, it is not easy to see how it could be improved.
Judith King, London, UK - September 2023
Great route. Loved the walking, the views and the variety. For us, it was just the right length. If we'd had a couple more days, we might have had a couple of 'days off' in the middle to explore locally, but we enjoyed the rhythm of moving on each day too.
Kathy Gemmell, Brighton, UK - June 2023
Chapelle St Gervais in Sospel - what an awesome place to stay. Pascale was fantastic, our room fantastic, the food too. Loved this place.
Tracey Richards, Victoria, Australia - June 2023
I really appreciated the detailed information packet so I knew what to expect and the personalized service in planning the trip itself. I did not feel like it was an off-the-shelf product, but rather, a customized trip that was perfect for me.
Susan Olson, Sebastopol, USA - September 2022
Loved the remoteness of the walking and independence the self-guided nature gave us. Very well supported by maps and guides. There were 'hard' stretches, but this was noted in advance.
Alan Huse, Hampton, Australia - July 2022
A fascinating and exciting journey from the foothills of the Alpes to the coast. Lovely wildflowers on the woodland walks.
Great contrasts - we enjoyed seeing sheep being herded up the steep mountainside at La Brigue and seeing the small productive veg gardens.
Bettina Reeves, Abergavenny, Wales - April 2022
It was a lovely holiday - great hospitality and food, lovely scenery, great weather and easy to follow walks.
Diana Palmer, Abergavenny, Wales - April 2022
Wonderful scenery and villages...
... and a railway that is one of the wonders of Europe, and exceptionally kind and friendly people.
Michael and Janet Lockett, Diss, UK - September 2019
Everything was wonderful and we had a fantastic time!!
The wildflowers were in bloom everywhere and were one of the highlights of each walk. I particularly loved the hike from Breil to Sospel with the varying terrains, olive groves, transition from Alpine to Mediterranean terrain and flora, and the river near the end. We also loved exploring the wonderful ancient perched villages.
Joseph Kravitz, Pittsfield, USA - June 2019
At a glance
The 6-night (5 days walking) version of the Alpes Maritimes route misses out one night in Sospel and the "Sospel circuit" walking day. See 'Prices' tab for what's included.
Suggested route pairing: Ligurian Hills or Northern Provence
How much walking?
Full days: 12-16km per day, 4-6 hrs walking
Using shortening options: 7-16km per day, 3-6 hrs walking
Villages perchés to Belle Epoque Menton
After a spectacular railway journey from Nice, reach the medieval village of La Brigue offering the chance to walk fascinating winding alleyways and old town houses. Explore the villages perchés high over the Roya valley and the town of Saorge, which climbs steeply up the valley side. Visit the ancient towns of Breil and Sospel and stay in the astonishing mountain-top village of Ste. Agnès, with views across to the Mediterranean. Finally arrive in Menton itself, Belle Epoque faded splendour now being restored to its former glory, and a stroll down the promenade before dining well in one of its restaurants. This route can be walked as a medium-hard walk or, using shortening options, as a medium graded one, and the route is well signed.
Walked by On Foot staff: Simon, Mary, Patrick, Debbie, Ellen and Harriet
Self-guiding introduction by Richard Petitjean (subject to his availability) – accompanying you on your first one or two walking days, or guiding services for whole walking route.
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews of this route submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit AITO.com.
TRAVEL ADVICE: To find the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for UK citizens travelling to France, click here. Citizens of other nations will also find it useful, but should always check their appropriate local agency.
- The “villages perchés” of the Roya valley
- Dramatic alpine scenery
- The flora of the Gorge de Bévéra
- Painted chapels and Renaissance altarpieces
- Chamois, ibex, moufflons, boars, birds of prey
- The Belle Epoque charms of Menton
- Saorge, its winding alleys and underground passages
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Coast, Mountains, Villages and farms, Drive to route
Things you should know
- Some of the accommodation is very simple (though Sospel and Menton accommodation is stylish).
- Be aware that some days are quite long, though shortening options are available.
- Some paths are quite rocky underfoot, with steep climbs and descents on loose material.
An extra night at La Brigue (to walk to Tende or to Notre Dame des Fontaines, or in summer to make an expedition to the Vallée des Merveilles), and extra nights in Menton by the sea front, just to relax. Consider pairing this route with our Ligurian Hills route (4 hour transfer by train)
Eating and Drinking
Expect Tarte Brigueaise, fried courgette flowers, bresaola, warm goats’ cheese, Nicoise stew, aioli provencale, cuttlefish (seiche) cooked with onions, celery, tomato puree…. the cuisine on this route is very southern (seiche, garlic, nicoise, provencale), but with a nod to the mountains (stews, mushrooms, goats cheese) and with a pinch of Italy (bresaola, cacciatore).
If you fancy a real treat to end your holiday, you could try The Mirazur in Menton. Italian-Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco draws on influences from both sides of the border, and his colourful dishes have earned three Michelin stars. You’ll need to book early…
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 7-16km per day, 3-6 hrs walking
Paths mainly marked, with numbered signposts, though careful attention to the route directions required; some steeper paths on days 2-3. Highest point on route: 1,050m. Some narrow paths with drops may worry the acrophobic.
Medium-hard: Average cumulative uphill stretches (CUSs) 670m (350m-980m) per day.
Medium: CUSs 450m (50m-620m) per day using shortening options where available and doing Sospel town exploration rather than full Sospel Circuit.
Acrophobia/vertigo warnings: Potential issues on the Breil to Sospel day for the acrophobic.
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: April, May, June, September, October.
Other possible months: July, August (but please note that our hotel in Menton cannot accept one-night stays between mid-July and mid-August)
Enjoy the Alpes Maritimes particularly in late April and May for the spring flowers and in September and to mid October for the warm seas. You can also walk throughout the summer as the mountain air is cooling though, as you near the coast, the temperature rises. If you have a real yen to be in the area in the earlier spring or after mid-October, we would suggest 2 or 3 nights in Sospel, using the train back to Breil to complete some of the walking. Do talk with us!
Please note that during the Monaco Grand Prix in mid/late May, the hotels we use in Menton are fully booked, and we cannot therefore offer the route for dates which would end around this time (see calendar).
Temperature and rainfall chart for Breil-sur-Roya
Day 1 - Arrive in La Brigue
We recommend the railway journey from Nice as a mini-highlight, as much looping inside the mountain as clinging to the side of the valley. Freshen up, wander round the old village and eat well tonight.
OPTION: For those arriving early at La Brigue we have two suggestions. Either try the Tende Circuit: Over the hill to the old town to get lost in its maze of medieval alleys (Medium: 4¼ hrs walking (allow 5½ hrs), 10¾ km (6½ miles), CUSs 540m), or a shorter stroll to Notre Dame des Fontaines and a splendid chapel with well-restored frescoes (Easy: 3 hrs walking (allow 4 hrs), 9 km (5½ miles), CUSs 400m).
Day 2 - La Brigue to Fontan
A steepish walk through woodland to the hamlet of Granile (a good stop for a picnic). An afternoon through magical leafy glades far above the Roya to the villages perchés of Berghe, before returning down to the Roya at Fontan and then catching a bus or train back to La Brigue. (Medium-hard: 6½ hrs walking (allow 8¾ hrs), 22 km (14 miles), CUSs 1220m – plus a visit to Saorge if you are missing out tomorrow’s walk below for any reason.)
Day 3 - Saorge to Breil
Take the bus to Saorge and after a visit to this magical village (allow 1½ hrs for exploration), you follow the GR52a via a substantial climb on generally good paths before descending again. The route then follows the valley floor before climbing above La Giandola and descending more gently towards the river and on into Breil. (Longer version: 6¼ hrs walking (allow 8¼ hrs), 11¾ km (7½ miles), CUSs 1050m; Alternative shorter version, with lift to start point: 3¼ hrs walking (allow 4hrs), 6¾ km (4 miles))
Day 4 - Breil to Sospel
Up onto the valley sides again and onto a glorious narrow path to the hilltop village of Piène Haute for lunch, then the Sentier Botanique of the Gorge de Bévéra before arriving at the medieval town of Sospel. (Medium: 5 hrs (allow 6¾ hrs), 14 km (9 miles), CUSs 500m)
Day 5 - Sospel to Ste. Agnès
Through the woodlands of the eastern slopes of the Merlanson valley to the Col de Castillon for a picnic, then a climb to the Baisse du Loup and on to fabulous views from the Col de Verroux, before a descent towards the extraordinary mountain village of Ste. Agnès, high above the Mediterranean. (Hard: 6¼ hrs (allow 8¼ hrs), 16 km (10 miles), CUSs 1100m). Alternatives – after Col de Castillon take the shorter/easier track (total walk 4¾hrs walking (allow 6¼ hrs), 12¾km, CUSs 850m); or a bus to Monti and the GR51 up from there (2¾hrs walking (allow 3¾hrs), 5½km (3½ miles), CUSs 500m)
Day 6 - Ste. Agnès to Roquebrune (and Menton)
Your final walking day along the mountainside to the beautiful vieux village of Roquebrune where we recommend a celebratory lunch in one of the village restaurants, overlooking the Mediterranean, and a train to Menton or (if you’re still in walking mood) a stroll along the seaside path of Cap Martin, the full promenade of Menton, and your comfortable hotel. (Medium: 4 hrs walking (allow 5 hrs), 11 km (7 miles), CUSs 440m to Roquebrune Gare; all the way to Menton: 6 hrs (allow 8 hrs), 15¾km (10 miles), CUSs 450m)
Alternatively use the fine old mule track straight down to Menton, giving yourself more time to explore this fascinating old resort. (Easy: 2 hrs)
Depart for home – or maybe spend an extra night in this lovely old resort?
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway station:
Start: La Brigue
Sample journey by rail:
Via Paris: TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Nice and local train from there to La Brigue ~9 hrs.
Menton to Paris: Direct TGV to Paris Gare de Lyon ~8 hrs.
We suggest thetrainline.com for times, ticket booking and other information.
ARRIVING BY CAR
Parking in La Brigue is on the public street but close to the hotel in a quiet village square. You can leave your keys with our host at the Fleur des Alpes. Return by direct bus after your final night in Menton.
ARRIVING BY AIR
The best “local” airport is Nice. Intercontinental flights use Paris – overnight stays advisable. Then either TGV train or domestic flight onwards to Nice.
Land by: Nice 15:00 for public transport connections to La Brigue (~3½ hrs) – later arrivals possible with train/short taxi OR stay a night in Nice if arriving late (see Where you’ll stay and Prices)
Return flight earliest: 10:00 for airport bus service from Menton (~1 hr) – limited service, but other bus/train combinations available.
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
See “Getting to start” below for transfer information.
Getting to the start of the walk
The first hotel is in the village of La Brigue, and the last on the coast in Menton. Transfer times and methods are also suggested for Nice airport below.
Transfers from train stations:
Outward: La Brigue (short walk or lift to first hotel)
Return: Menton (20 mins walk or short taxi ride from last hotel to station)
Outward: Bus then train: 3½ hrs. Allow 2 hrs from touchdown at Nice airport to train departure time from Nice-Ville. Flight arrivals after 13:00 may require train to Breil then taxi. For train times (Nice-Ville to La Brigue) on your day of arrival check the website: en.oui.sncf/en OR stay a night at the beginning in Nice for a more relaxed start (see Where you’ll stay and Prices).
Return: Airport bus from outside hotel (1-1½ hrs), train Menton/Nice then tram to the airport (~2 hrs) OR taxi the whole way from Menton hotel to Nice airport (40 mins).
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information.
Where You'll Stay
Starting in La Brigue, you’ll stay in a welcoming, family-run hotel right on the village square – and the food receives consistently good reviews too. Our pension in Breil has recently been refurbished and the chambres d’hotes we have selected in Sospel are charming, with excellent locally sourced food, friendly hosts and good rooms. In Ste Agnès, you’ll stay in small, basic rooms dotted throughout the village (the St Yves restaurant for dinner that night is good) and, finally, to your beachfront hotel in Menton which receives great feedback from our clients who enjoy a special treat at the end of their holiday.
For late arrivals a night in Nice may be necessary at the start.
Breil – La Bonne Auberge (dinner, B&B)
Popular auberge in heart of town with excellent restaurant.Website
Menton – Hotel Princess et Richmond (B&B)
Right on the promenade overlooking the sea, a family-run hotel of quality in the best position in town.Website
Total 6 nights in double/twin room, all breakfasts, 3 picnics and 3 evening meals, luggage transfers between all hotels on walking route; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £195
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £265
Large Party Saving (LPS): Groups of more than 2 people (on an identical itinerary, on the same booking and booked at the same time) – discount of at least £40 per person
Maximum party size: 6
Extra nights possible throughout the route: Contact On Foot for ideas and prices
Further night/s in Menton at end: Prices vary with season and room type. Contact us
Taxi from Breil to La Brigue: From £60
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK: £20-£60 (per pack, location dependent)
Our local team
Richard came to the Côte d’Azur to study tourism and has lived here for 30 years working as a licensed Tour Guide. Since 60% of the French flora is represented in this area, Richard’s keen interest in botany is put to the best possible use.