The Arrière Pays
The famous narrow-gauge rail track linking Nice and Digne serves the hillsfoot villages along the valleys of the Var and the upper Verdon. The train runs four times a day each way and delivers you into the heart of Nice at the Gare du Sud in about 1 hr 20m. The return fare is EUR18 with a 25% concession for those over 55 years. The train is heavily used for local shopping and for commuting to Nice or Digne. The 1911 steam train still runs from Puget-Théniers, through Entrevaux to Annot on many Sundays during summer and on public holidays. It is known as Le Train des Pignes because, it is said, that during World War 1 it often had to stop and gather pine cones to fuel its boiler.

From Entrevaux, there are spectacular scenic drives in every direction. One of the finest excursions in the region is a drive around the circuit du Cians-Daluis. Go west towards Annot and turn north along the red-rock Gorges de Daluis with the green torrents, sometimes 300m below. At Guillaumes turn east through the ski towns of Valberg and Beuil, once the possession of the powerful Grimaldi family, and then back down the Gorges du Cians. The picturesque Touët-sur-Var, sometimes known as the 'Tibetan village', clings to the hillside just to the east on the RN202. It also boasts a nationally listed restaurant at the Hôtel des Chasseurs. 

To the south-west is the busy market town of Castellane and the charming Moustiers-Ste-Marie (renowned for its faïence), two large lakes, the beautiful lac de Castillon and the lac de Ste-Croix, and the spectacular Grand Cañon du Verdon. A day-trip to Moustiers, the canyon and Castellane is thoroughly recommended: perhaps on a Wednesday, one of Castellane's market days.

The hilly country south-east towards Nice provides a varied landscape of mountain passes and verdant valleys. The hill town of Gourdon and the Gorges du Loup are well known for their scenic values and the towns of Tourettes-sur-Loup, Vence and St-Paul-de-Vence for their museums and arts and crafts workshops.

The Grand Cañon du Verdon

The new English version of the Michelin Green Guide for the French Alps covers this hinterland area known variously as the Moyen Var or the arrière pays.

For the more adventureous the rugged mountains, steep canyons and fast flowing rivers provide for activities such as rock climbing, via ferrata, white-water rafting and canyoning. More details can be found with the local guides at Base Sport Nature , who are based in Entrevaux and Castellane.

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Last revised 26 February 2011. Copyright © 2004 Margaret Bishop & Jill Ingham. All rights reserved.