Located between Italy’s Piedmont and Liguria regions and the French Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the Maritime Alps (Alpes-Maritimes or Alpi Maritime) is a small but impressive picturesque mountain range at the southernmost tip of the Alps. They may be smaller than the more famous Northern Alps, but the Maritimes possess breathtaking mountain scenery, exciting hikes and trails as well as a unique culture that is both northern Italian and southern French at the same time.
The Best Hikes in the Maritimes
There’s an array of hiking trails and tours to take in the region of the Maritime Alps, around 26 in total, each suited to various skill and experience levels. Here’s a selection of our favorites:
- Monte Argentera – Standing at an impressive 3,297m, Monte Argentera is the highest peak in the Maritimes and one for the adventurous to try and conquer. You’ll need to be an experienced climber to try this hiking trail and have a good head for heights, specifically. Ending at the Rifugio Bozano, this is a strenuous trail, but the views you’ll see at the end are unparalleled.
- Il Piano del Praiet – This hike that begins at the foot of Monte Gelàsis one of the most popular in the region. The trail up Il Piano del Praiet leads you past one of the last glaciers left in the Alps before heading into France via a historical salt smugglers’ trail.
- Lago del Vei del Bouc – This hike takes the award for the most scenic and features a lovely surprise at the end. After following a trail that leads through some gorgeous mountain scenery, you’ll find the crystal-clear waters of the lake Vei del Bouc at the top.
- Arbergh Valley – A moderate hike suitable for all experience levels, the Arbergh Valley trail takes you through all manner of alpine landscapes — lush meadows, beech forests, limestone and sandstone —all within a few kilometers.
Beyond the Mountains
The Western Alps surround the fabulous principality of Monaco and its most famous and glamorous administrative region, Monte Carlo, which is a must-visit if you want to get a taste of the high-life. Known as a luxurious playground for the world’s elite, the landmarks include the historic casino, which also houses the national opera and ballet companies as well as hosting numerous prestigious poker tournaments throughout the year.
Should you fancy something a bit more active than lazing by the marina sipping cocktails, head to the region at the northernmost part of the Maritime Alps. Also known locally as the “Alpes d’Azur,” this is the most mountainous of the regions and includes the magnificent Parc National du Mercantour, which is the ideal spot for activities like hiking, caving, rock-climbing, kayaking and mountain biking. Picturesque mountain villages such as Saint-Étienne-de-Tinéeand Saint-Matin-d’Entraunes are rooted in history, with both villages built around traditional churches. However, it’s in the northwest section of the Maritimes that you’ll find the best alpine ski stations and resorts, covering the slopes of Isola, Auron and Les Launes.
As part of the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) with its stunning coastline and sun-drenched beaches, the southern coast of the Maritimes is the most famous. Although this area does draw the most crowds, especially in the vibrant city of Nice and the international Cannes resort, visiting this region is unmissable. The year-round sunshine and pleasant weather are also part of the appeal, and those seaside towns like Antibes are the perfect place to while away the hours drinking in the beautiful coastline.