From coast to coast, the French Riviera is scattered with picturesque towns full of charm and character, from culture to cuisine. It is these lesser known villages perched high above the sea and hidden among the hills that offer a truly authentic Côte d’Azur experience.
If you’re a traveller looking for a different perspective, ditch the crowds and discover the unknown gems of this glorious region instead. Here are our top 5 secret spots to add to your itinerary.
1. Paul Ricard Islands
White rocks, turquoise sea and majestic coves – the Paul Ricard Islands are a nature lover’s dream. Here you can escape the red lights and hustle and bustle of busy city streets in favour of rugged, untouched beauty. Purchased by Ricard, an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and ecologist, the islands include the Île de Bendor and the Île des Embiez. Île de Bendor, separated by a narrow strait of water, is the ultimate destination for a refined and intimate break. Île des Embiez is more known for its creeks and crystal clear sea beds, making it a haven for explorers.
2. Les Gorges De La Cagne
If you fancy a swim in a secluded, enchanting location, look no further than Les Gorges De La Cagne, or The Gorges of The River Cagne, near the St. Jeannet. A secret hideaway cut off from the buzz of its neighbouring towns, Les Gorges De La Cagne offers a refreshing dip in a natural pool with stunning waterfalls surrounded by lush green trees. A true paradise.
Located 10 kilometres inland from Menton, Sainte-Agnes is dubbed one of Les Plus Beaux Villages De France. Sainte-Agnes also holds the title of the highest coastal village in Europe. Reaching the top isn’t for the faint-hearted though. One must be fully prepared to drive up the steeply, winding, unpredictable mountain roads to get there. But with every twist and turn, you will be rewarded with incredible views of this quaint Provençal hilltop village. This off-the-beaten path medieval village will capture your heart once you reach the jagged peak. Prepare to be mind-blown by the endless stretch of Riviera coastline below while the atelier shops, local restaurants, and cobbled streets nearby beckon to be explored.
4. Lérins Islands
The French Riviera comes alive with the influx of tourists and spectacular festivals, but there are also spots in the region that offer a more laidback adventure, like the Lerins Islands. Accessible by boat from Cannes, the island is just a stone’s throw away but it will make you feel like you’re in a world of your own.
The largest island of the Lerins is the Île Sainte-Marguerite, or Sainte Marguerite, a little slice of Mediterranean heaven. Animal lovers will feel right at home in this virtually uninhabited island to which a myriad of protected migratory birds are endemic. And don’t forget to check out Fort Royal where the famous Man in the Iron Mask movie was filmed.
The other main island of the Lerins is Saint Honorat, a religious haven and isle of sacred vines. Blessed with 300 days of sunshine each year, the island boasts hectares of vines and gnarled olive trees. Here you will also find sacred landmarks such as old chapels, statues of saints, and abbeys. The fortress standing on the rocks near the sea is another must see. Aside from its rich history dating back to the 15th century, the views from the top are simply breathtaking.
The small village of Peillon offers a unique medieval experience atop the Alp’s rocky cliffs. Relatively more secluded than other towns in the region, the road to Peillon is not designed for cars; instead of roads, you’ll wander through stone pathways and steep stairs that will lead you to the top of the village, where the Parish Church of the Transfiguration is situated. What makes Peillon a real hidden gem is the absence of tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. Instead, learn to live like the locals in this unassuming yet utterly charming mountain village.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your dream holiday to the French Riviera today. And make sure to check out some of these hidden paradises along the way. Of course, the best way to experience this side of the world is by boat. Enjoy the finer things in life and cruise the blue waters on a five-star private boat charter from Rent A Boat. Make your trip unforgettable and visit https://rentaboatbyhour.com/.