Absolutely unique and amazingly interesting from a historical and cultural point of view the French Mercantour National Park is that place in the Maritime Alps, which every tourist aims to visit!
This is the tenth in a row and the youngest by «age» National Park of France that began its work in 1979 for the higher purpose - to protect the natural heritage on a specially allocated secured area.
Since then, every year the Mercantour takes about a million visitors - in fact one of its most important tasks is to inform people interested in the history of France and its nature.
The Mercantour area extending to one hundred and twenty kilometres - from the Tende Gorge to the Ubaye Valley - is 68,500 hectares! (The Park territory includes the valley of 7 French rivers).
The Park, as scientists have found, is located in an area inhabited by people over about six thousand years ago. There is a place here called the «Valley of Wonders» where one can see more than 30 thousand petroglyphs left on the walls of caves since ancient times!
In this wonderful place you will certainly be happy to spend more than one day – because tourists go over the park leisurely following the hiking trails (or moving on a specially laid routes on bicycles). You can even «hire» a donkey which will carry your luggage, while you admire the nature light-handed. You will be shown the way by experienced guides who will tell a lot of interesting things.
It is eyeful - in the Mercantour Park there are more than two thousand species of different plants. The most rare and beautiful flowers grow here – the edelweiss, and powerful European cedars, getting, it seems, with their heads to the sky! Walk the scenic river valleys and climb the hill - magnificent views will open from there.
Also here on any of the tourist trails you can meet a lot of little animals and birds. Ermines and marmots, hares, and rapid chamois, deer with roes run past. If you're lucky you will see and photograph even a wolf or wild boar!
Mercantour Park is not only a wildlife, but also the charming alpine villages with their indescribable flavour. Belvedere is a small settlement which seems caught on the slopes of Mont Bego (Bego Mountain). It is 35 km from the sea coast, north of Nice, and is a part of the Mercantour National Park which since 1985 is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.Visit Barels, Villeplane, Péone settlements (and admire the «stone mushrooms» «growing» there), the small, historic mill in Châteauneuf ...
And if you like skiing come to the Park in winter!
In summer the «park houses» work for you in the Park, - the offices where the leisure themed events are organized for the tourists. Here you will be given a guide, as well as all the useful information about routes, food, hotels. You cans relax and have a tasty meal in the Park visiting one of the 19 special places, restaurants and eateries.
Regular trains and buses go here- you will get to the Park after a half hour journey.
For those who decide to stay in this «paradise» for a while there are houses for every taste and budget (eco houses from the chains of Gîtes Panda, Hôtel Savoie or a hostel).
If the time is short you can come to the Mercantour Park for short while – it is easy to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful nature if you get on the Train des Merveilles («Train of Wonderland») in Nice and go to Tende and then it’s «stone's throw» to the «Valley of Wonders».