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Le Var (83)

​Massif des Maures

The rebel side

Not Saracens on the horizon: in Provençal mauro means dark wood. And the solid brown-skinned. The only invaders have the green foliage of the pines or the feather pink flamingos who come to seek shelter in the ponds Villepey or Giens. Between marine scent and fragrance spicy of the maquis and forests, facing a cord of islands that it seems to have himself who, the massif des Maures looks like a rebel. With a motto appropriate: under the trees, the beach...

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Location and access

Treasure of the var, the massif des Maures coast extends from Toulon to Fréjus, Hyères, Ramatuelle and Gassin. It gives a high front to the sea and extends to Cannes by the massif de L'esterel.
Marseille by the A57 to Toulon, then the RN8. Hyères, take the RN98 (Saint Tropez/Sainte-Maxime) but prefer the D559 to join Le Lavandou and the coastline by sea. One can also choose to reassemble the D14 to Collobrières.


The massif des Maures consists of dark metamorphic rocks that opposed it to the Esterel massif and its from red tinges of volcanism. But it is also a land of contrasts. With its golden beaches, its forests of pines and Oaks (green, white, or Cork) and its shimmering maquis hemmed fig trees, which stretch in dense clusters of Strawberry tree (with its fruit plum color), honeysuckle and Heather.

Fauna and flora

The massif is known to house the Queen of flowers: the orchid. More than 30 wild species grow in the massif:
•    the Provence orchis under the chestnut trees in the heights, orchis Butterfly at the foot of the hills,
•    the tresses of summer at the bottom of the valleys
•    the serapias (everywhere, with its purple like an iris).
There are "endemic" arising from the constitution (acid) of soils: the Gallic silene, the lavender of the Moors (thick), flax broom and the beautiful asphodelus Berry.
The wise eye will recognize bouquets of yellow flowers in fleshy pink boxes: the cytinet, which grows in thickets of Cistus, is the only European specimen of a family of tropical plants. On the seaward cling, as an arapede or an anemone to its rock, the perce-pierre, the sea lavender, "the immortal" draped in his woolly cloak or beard of Jupiter to silver foliage.
Many animals share this garden, starting with birds that high (Northern Gannet, cormorant, puffin...) sea cliffs (Kestrel choucas, merle, swift, OWL Dove of the Harrier... wood) passing through the maquis (Nightingale, blackcap...) and pine (cuckoo Jay...) found there a corner of paradise. Lizards and insects abound and birds share the feast with a host of mammals: bat, Badger, Vole, shrew, loir, mouse, black rat, ferret, weasel... In the maritime regions, the star moves with his house on his back: the Hermann tortoise and the European pond terrapin are both the protected massif species. With the aesculapian Snake (inoffensive) found on the Caduceus of the medical profession.


The var coast is one of the most accessible. And for cause if the GR9 prefers the peaks of the massif (in edge Gonfaron), the sentier des Douaniers created under the first Empire was rehabilitated in the 1970s and provides free access to the sea for walkers. This trail, viewpoints and areas, stretches on nearly 200 km.
•    Cap Lardier
Cap Lardier, that's kinda the teeth on the side. It launches its waves of pines umbrella assault cliffs, coves and caves that dot the sides of the Mediterranean, at the forefront of Ramatuelle. Closing in is the Bay of Cavalaire, cap Lardier is the last burst of the massif des Maures before the sea, less prestigious than the pink granite of the cap Camarat Saint-Tropez-tipped, but much less common. The sandy beaches of the coast (including the nearby gigaro) yield here to 260 ha of rounded hills populated by Cork, of cistaies, of Arbutus scrub Oaks and tree Heath access to this area of the Conservatoire du littoral is done either by the Gigaro Beach and the Valley of the same name, or, to the North by the pass of Colebasse (N559).
One of its treasures? The beach of the Brouis was accessed only by boat or on foot (signposted route), through a vegetation that is among the most lush coastal.Departing from Gigaro can follow the coastal path and several forest tracks playing jump-vallons. These tracks take you to the heart of the massif, the discovery of cracks or the tip, Kingdom of squirrels and the gulls. In winter may be there cross gannets boobies and of little penguins from the North Sea, in summer, from fabulous butterflies like Jason, the sphinx of bindweed or the Vulcan and its purple wings.
Via the Cape Taillat grounded by a sandy isthmus, the site can be also rallied from Saint-Tropez (13 km) by a path which starts from the famous beach of Pampelone
•    Ponds Villepey
Three "wet" sites serve as sanctuary to the flora and fauna and birds of passage:
•    the tombolo of Giens and its marshes of the Estagnet
•    the old salins of Hyères and
•    ponds Villepey in Fréjus.
Nestled behind the dunes of the beach of Saint-Aygulf, South of the mouth of the Argens, these ponds embedded in agricultural lands form the only lagoon between Nice and Marseille and have great ornithological value. On these 200 ha alternate loads of reeds, tablecloths of glasswort or saladelles and clumps of rushes. Lawns and Woods stretch away from the cows and found same places (rare on the French coast) Africa tamaris. At the discretion of the migration, around 170 species of birds share these ponds of fresh water, salt water and these forests of Alders, ash trees and poplars that are worth the trip. There are ducks, marine species, waders of course (heron, Flamingo...) but also the rare Bittern and luscinioles. The winter these ponds are the only shelter Reed Bunting, Osprey, and the penduline tit. The RN98 and the D7 in the direction of Fréjus (ponds are near the airfield) pass through the area and several trails lead to the dunes from parking areas specially upgraded cord. But the environment is very protected and is home to a dense flora dominated by the lily of sands and dunes blue thistle. In some places, even orchids come to rest.
•    The forest of the Sabatiere
At the gates of the massif des Maures, 'Make-Brown' wood (17 ha) stretches its Aleppo pines towards the sky, 15 km from the village of Carqueiranne, East of Toulon. The understory are dense and fragrant Rosemary and trails, steep, reaching the top of the forest and its panoramic view of the sea. It is one of the oldest pine trees in the region (even if it is also covered with garrigue) that are particularly fond of finches. Most trees have here reached their size limit, which contrasts with other var pinewoods which bear all the consequences of fire

Iles d ' Hyères: Moles of the Mediterranean

Nicknamed the Golden Islands, these jewels of greenery planted off the coast of the Bay of Hyères are a paradise for birds. Furrowed by numerous scented paths, you will discover the magnificent conservatoire botanique de Porquerolles with its orchard to old varieties of fruit trees and the underwater trail in the national park of Port-Cros. Enjoy... between two baths!

Location and access

These islands, spare chain of Moors close to the South the Bay of Hyères.
Year-round boat from Toulon, Hyères-plage, La Capte, Giens, Le Lavandou, Cavalaire. In season also, since La Londe, Saint Tropez and Saint-Raphaël.


Although marine softness allowed acclimations it of exotic plants (eucalyptus, yuccas, agaves Palm...), most of the surface of the Golden Islands is covered with a maquis often exuberant. On the other hand, the coast of these islands all have a very different face: steep cliffs notched calanques face off; beaches, coves and bays facing the coast.

Fauna and flora

Since 1963 Port-Cros is a national park. There are easily a variety of species: Cormorant, gull, puffin Ashy, Peregrine Falcon, blue merle, hoopoe, Western screech-OWL. The Islands constitute a stopover for migrating such as bee-eaters, thrushes and des ramiers. To enjoy the flora don't miss to visit the Conservatoire botanique de Porquerolles or lose yourself in the dense oak and the dark Bush of Port-Cros.

To discover

•    Porquerolles, the Garden Island
A North nibbled by beaches fringed by pine trees, a steep South Coast hatched cliffs where to Pierce a few coves... Porquerolles is the largest island (1,257 hectares) of the iles d'Or. It remained private until 1971, date on which the State entrusted the management to the national park of Port-Cros. Several visits are necessary: firstly, the lighthouse located on a spit of land in the extreme south. The view is superb, encompasses the island in its entirety and MOP away the city of Hyères in the Moors. Then, towards the Conservatoire botanique, created in 1979. There, scientists are working hard to save plant species threatened the region an orchard of 180 ha offers a wide range of fruit trees to the heavy branches of old varieties of apricots or figs. Do not miss the old Grove trees or plants rare and endangered of Corsica and the continent.
•    Port-Cros, the Green Mountain
Covering 650 ha long 4 km and 2.5 km wide, it is the only national park in France and Europe which is located on the marine environment. Off the coast of the island, a sea area of 600 m wide is also protected. On the Harbour, reception and information centre offers guides to discover the nature of the island. You can also pick up a plastic wafer that will allow you to read the landscape of the underwater trail located at the beach of la Palud. Posidonia, algae, sea stars, sea anemones, Scorpion fish, moon, or wrasses. .
Several trails have been constructed to discover the botanical features of the island. Pickets along the route to follow. One of them part of the wake (direction fort mill) and allows a beautiful promenade. You will discover the most beautiful landscapes of the island composed of Oaks, tree heaths, Aleppo pines - they cover almost 3/4 of the island-, euphorbias, halophytic plants whose characteristic is to withstand the salt (beard of Jupiter, lotus, cineraria), but also a few prickly leaves kermes Oaks and Wild olive trees. A perfumed stroll!
•    The Cove of the Moor: a jewel case at Porquerolles
In the continuity of large tamarisk-fringed beaches occupying the front of Porquerolles (Notre-Dame, Courtade, Silver Beach...) hides the Creek of the Moor away from the path which circumnavigates the island and which here tumbles of Cape Rousset. The descent is a little acrobatic but the surprising discovery. With a small sandy beach surrounded by slabs of rocks and tiny coves, the Cove offers a magical perspective on the peninsula of Giens and the massif des Maures, who gave him his name. The sea is calm, clear waters and this Cove is protected from winds by an exhibition due west and the Rosary of islands which face, which the Petit langoustier where wet boaters. The ruins of the fort of the Grand Langoustier in Anne's point (which can be seen from the path), give the place a little more magic.
•    The ride of the trees
With its farming Hamlet, Porquerolles is a real forest and offers a stroll of trees, as might the dubbed. All begins at the wharf where it joined the village by crossing the palms and palms of the Canary Islands (which are distinguished from the former by a thicker trunk). After the eucalyptus-lined village square, take the direction of the (Panel) Lighthouse which is located across the island and is one of the most powerful Mediterranean. At the crossroads which will take shape before you, take right after having admired the trees of an old olive grove and its parterre of aromatic plants the track Earth you borrow then lanyard left the collections of apricot, peach, almond and mulberry trees that you can visit. The same trail leads to the farming hamlet under a canopy of pines and a beautiful alley of mastic trees. From there the island maps allow you to continue the tour or visit the garden of demonstrations (pines, Cistus). We cannot advise too you push to behind the hamlet to discover a garden of oleander.
•    The island of Levant: the coast updated nude
At the start of le Lavandou and Hyères (1 h 30, crossing), the majority of the vessels that connect the coast to Port-Cros stop the Levant, to the East, the smallest of the iles d'Or. As his two cousins, it is posed as a mole in the middle of the Mediterranean this island is less famous than Port-Cros and Porquerolles for walks but she is probably most famous for was the first in France to allow the naturism (tolerance date 1932).
A naughty reputation that does not suit his second feature, since the island is mostly reserved area of the Navy and military base today. Not far from the landing, to visit a side serrated and travelled fragrant paths (they are lined with Mimosa and oleanders), lovers of relaxation can find lovely beaches at their feet.

In the Var

•    The Sainte-Baume and the Ecomuseum
At the edge of the massif de la Sainte Baume, one of the highest in Provence (1 147 m) the Ecomuseum has the allure of an oasis posed in the middle of a Beech and Holm tide flowing all around over a thousand hectares. The Eco-Museum pays tribute to the virtues of the forest and the traditions of the place. In reconstructed huts one can discover the daily life of the charcoal burners, their tools, their technique, their courage of men of the Woods. Wood sacred because from time immemorial they are forbidden to cut and therefore populated by giant trees, as these huge lime trees to the roots without end. The forest is home to Holly Ivy and the ifs. Found this vegetation both typical and atypical in showcase I Ecomuseum and departing from the maze of trails that surrounds it. Just like the legend of St. Mary Magdalene, a Princess of royal blood, which will be installed in a cave for 33 years to atone for his sins. It is this cave which gave its name to the massif since in Provençal, these cavities are called balms.
•    Ecomuseum of Cork
At Gonfaron, it did is not that the donkeys who steal, there are also plugs; and the Ecomuseum of the village is there for the recall, he who declines the memory of traditional industries of Cork. From harvesting to processing techniques, the Ecomuseum draws anthology of this forestry which counted up to 900 workers at the beginning of the century. It passes from theory to practice in having replenished a sterilized with older machines. Light, low, driver, flexible, Cork was also used to make parts of cannes to fishing, floats and insulation.
•    The village of turtles (Gonfaron)
This very special village is a center of repopulation of the Hermann tortoise, the oldest species of vertebra in France, who confesses, without blushing, a more than respectable age: 35 million years! An authentic living fossil... Common in the South of the France in the 19th century, it is more present today than in the single Department of the Var. Concrete, traffic and fire were correct it: 1 000 eggs laid in nature, there is only a single turtle after 5 years... Here, in any case, on 2 ha covered with lavender, cork oaks and olive trees, more than 2,500 turtles breed in peace. Every year, between 300 and 500 of them are released in the massif and the plaine des Maures to repopulate it.


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