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The Esterel Massif is a Mediterranean coastal mountain range in the part of Var and Alpes-Maritimes which is located in Provence, south-east France. The neighbouring cities are Mandelieu and Cannes on the east and Saint-Raphaël or Fréjus on the west. The soil and rocks of the mountain range are of volcanic origin, composed mainly of porphyry, which gives the hills a red color. The terrain is rugged, with deep ravines and oak forests. The highest point of the massif is Mount Vinaigre, 618 metres height. The massif area is 320 km², of which 130 km² are officially protected in the Forêt domaniale de l'Esterel or National Forest of Esterel. The nature reserve offers the visitors hiking and mountain biking trails including the GR 49 and GR 51. The Esterel mountains also host the Pierre et Vacances holiday village Cap Estérel. Legend has a fairy tale about Estérelle, that women were consulted for fertility, is the origin of its name. More likely, during movement of tectonic plate, the earth is cracked deeply leaving the washing up to the surface and thus giving birth to the purple rock, which is so called la rhyolithe (ou porphyre rouge). The true origin of the name of the massif is less fictionalized, so would the derivative adjective sterile,fr, which was the acid and low fertile terrain of the Esterel.
Exploring the Massif d'Esterel on Foot
There are seven points where you can access the massif and reach the highest peaks - sometimes a small walk is required to reach the highest points - and each has its own attractions, and most of them have impressive views stretching far out along the coast and across the mediterranean. It's only a little to discover, in the way of villages within the Massif d'Esterel itself, and a great deal of the forests that once covered the area have been destroyed by fire but what remains is still very impressive. Also there are several marked trails for hikers and off road cycling in the Massif d'Esterel and these are the best way to explore the region. Among the most popular are trails go to the Cap du Dramont, the peak of Mont Vinaigre (the highest point in the Massif), the walk to the viewpoint at Cap Roux (which is the fave one), and the Blavet Gorges at Bagnols-en-Foret to the north.
The coast road is one of the most scenic in France. In many places the cliffs of the massif reach the sea, forming small coves surrounded by the red rocks, with more jagged rocks emerging dramatically from the sea. Along the coast road there are a few small towns and resorts such as Agay, and beaches such as the one at Dramont beach but it is the scenery that is the big attraction. Dramont beach is also known for being one of the World War II landing beaches used by the invading allied forces that took place on the Mediterranean coast on the 15 August 1944.
The Massif de l'Esterel has lots of good walking trails that many of the more popular walks are signposted, such as those up to the Pic de l'Ours (496 metres) and the Pic du Cap Roux (452 metres). For some of the longer walks however, you'll need to come equipped with a good map or go with a guide. Best walks in Esterel: Pointe de l'Observatoire Barthelemy - Cap Roux, Starting point in Saint-Raphaël (Var) - 83 - Var, The Malavettes, Starting point in Saint-Raphaël (Var) - 83 - Var, Tour of Napoule, Starting point in Mandelieu-la-Napoule - 06 - Alpes-Maritimes Tour around Dramont, Starting point in Saint-Raphaël (Var) - 83 - Var, From the Belle Barbe Pass to the Ravines of the Estérel, Starting point in Saint-Raphaël (Var) - 83 - Var, The Peaks of Cap Roux, Aurelle and Ours via Sainte-Baume Chapel, Starting point in Saint-Raphaël (Var) - 83 - Var, Loop of the Infernet Ravines and Le Perthus , Starting point in Saint-Raphaël (Var) - 83 - Var. Above Agay close to the beaches, the fabulous Massif de l'Esterel is the ideal terrain for a comfortable hike, but is always different.
The Massif de l'Esterel has hundreds of kilometres of mountain bike trails to explore, one of the most popular is a ride through the hills behind Théoule-sur-Mer. The view from the top is spectacular. There's some great cycling through the Esterel too. The road cycle from Mandelieu-la-Napoule is also popular, and you can make it a 50 km loop by heading inland at Fréjus and taking the D6007 (Avenue de Fréjus) back to Mandelieu.
After hiking or cycling in the Provencal sunshine you will probably want to enjoy a drink in one of the costal resorts in the region! To the south of the Massif d'Esterel we recommend the resort of Saint-Raphael while to the east you can visit Theoule-sur-Mer, or carry on a little further to Cannes.
How to Get Tickets?
Massif de l'Esterel gets beautiful nature in all it's awe, thus, fantastic opportunity to take lots of stunning photos. There are many stop off points and best of all it's free!
How To Get Around?
You may go to nearest attractions by bus, train, taxi, car or towncar.
What Should I Wear?
Best Time to Visit
According to expert travelers, best time to visit is during May - June since it is not too hot at mid-day, the blue skies bring out the colours of the red rocks and wild plants clinging to the edge of the trails. The glistening sea looks very welcoming from the height that invites travellers for a refreshing swim after a cycling or hiking in the hills.
Will I Need a Guide?
Both guided or self-tours are available for mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers. However, it's highly recommended to go with a guide for novice, as there are many hiking walks and cycling routes that possibly lost the visitor(s).
How To Get There?
There are five ways to get Esterel from Cannes such as by bus, train, taxi, car or towncar. Should you go by bus, take Bus Line 30002 that takes you 47 minutes. The cheapest way is by driving which costs Rp 75.000 - Rp 120.000 and takes 25 min. The quickest way is by taxi which costs Rp 1.600.000 - Rp 1.900.000 and takes 25 min.
Regular markets are held in Massif de l'Esterel every Tuesday & Monday. Markets are mostly held in the morning unless stated.