The idyllic Parc National du Mercantour is just a ninety minute drive north of the already warm and sunny Mediterranean shore. Ascending through lavender-scented valleys we’ll be heading into woodlands where Hepaticas, Cowslips and Oxslip bloom amongst yellow and blue Violets and the rare and beautiful huthii form of Paeonia officinalis whose large pink blooms adorn one special hillside.
We’ll explore the fantastic Gorge della Reina, home to abundant pale lilac Primula marginata and the locally rare Primula hirsuta. Pretty Clematis alpina swarms over pathside shrubbery and we’ll find Military Orchids, Geranium macrorhizum and Sword-leaved Helleborines. The valleys below Tende and St Martin du Vesubie are home to pink rockroses, Italian Bluebells, sweetly-scented Mezereon and the tessellated bells of Fritillaria involucrata. There are swarms of both red and yellow forms of Elder-flowered Orchid as well as fine Ophrys drumana, a stunning Bee Orchid whose velvety red lip has a shining bluish shield-shaped mark in the centre. Duke of Burgundy Fritillaries are a common sight as we explore favoured sites for two lovely red saxifrages, widespread Saxifraga oppositifolia, and the glorious Saxifraga retusa.
In woodlands around Valdeblore rocky bluffs offer a cascade of white Saxifraga callosa. In the warm valleys below we’ll see Camberwell Beauties, gaudy Southern Festoons, and the local Chequered Blue. Higher are subalpine meadows where Black-eyed and Chapman’s Blues flutter past marvellous groups of the yellow tessellated moggridgei form of Fritillaria tubaeformis. Alpine Marmots whistle at us from boulders bedecked with pretty Androsace adfinis whilst Red-billed and Alpine Chough pick at fine alpine turf decorated with Snowbells, Pasque Flowers and Spring and Trumpet Gentians as well as the scarcer endemic Gentiana ligustica. Golden Eagles, Citril Finches and Nutcrackers add interest in the bird line, and we will see many Chamois, and maybe Wild Boar too! It is always a pleasure to see so many flowers freshly out especially with a backdrop as beguilingly beautiful as the Mercantour’s alpine meadows, forests and rocky peaks.
Flowers. Also Mountain Landscapes.
Quite easy. Walks of up to three or four miles on some days but much less on others, always at a slow pace, well-suited to photographers. The slopes are sometimes quite steep.
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport, accommodation, meals and tips in France. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, and items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, are not included.
One leader for a group of up to 6, two leaders up to the maximum group size of 12.
We start with a night in the Mas de Chardons, a lovely little hotel set in the Parc Naturel Régional des Préalpes d’Azur, and close by our magnificent peony site. Situated in a peaceful hamlet, the Hotel de Valdeblore is a characterful and welcoming family-run establishment. After four nights here, the last two nights will be at the excellent Chamois d’Or, whose large modern rooms overlook a beautiful alpine valley. All rooms at both hotels have en suite facilities.
UK direct return flights to Nice are available from various regional airports*.
*These routes may incur a supplement but many don’t.
Usually warm and sunny, occasionally rainy and cool.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. Flower, butterfly and bird checklists are available.