No one can pinpoint precisely when walking for fun replaced walking as a means of hunting and survival, yet it’s evident that in this digitally connected age of the ‘always-on’, getting out into nature and clearing your mind has never been more important.
To examine the origins of hiking, we have to travel back in time 5000 years to when Otzi the Iceman is believed to have climbed up the Alps. The first recorded trek however was attributed to the Roman Emperor Hadrian to Etna, an active stratovolcano near Sicily, in the year 125. Fast forward to the 1400s and 1500s and the Incans regularly trekked the Andes for religious reasons, miraculously building the sacred city of Machu Picchu 8000 feet above sea level during this period. Then in 1953, New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepali-Indian Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest in a uniquely historical moment.
Today, the benefits of walking outdoors are boundless. Lower stress levels, enhanced mental wellbeing, reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improved bone density – the list continues. Here in the South of France, the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region has thousands of kilometres of hiking trails to explore, with a variety of long distance and shorter routes providing access to spectacular landscapes. We share our top three:
7-minute drive from Parc du Cap
Tucked away from the more urban areas of Antibes lies the coastal path known as ‘Tire-poil Path’, translated from French as ‘hair pull’. Located at the south end of the Cap d’Antibes, the walk will fill you with wonder during the two hours it takes to complete. Enjoy the sounds of the sea, wind and seagulls as you follow the 200-year-old path, passing by the Garoupe Castle built in 1907 and looking over to the Château de la Croë which was once the house of the Duke of Windsor and wife Willis Simpson.
20-minute drive from Parc du Cap
This is a stunning three-hour hike from medieval hilltop town Biot to Valbonne, along the Brague river valley. Walk through wooded hills, filled with alder, hazel and ash trees. With waterfalls along the way, you’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled into an enchanted forest. It’s worth making time to browse Biot first, a village renowned for its crafts, pottery and glass blowing.
1-hour drive from Parc du Cap
A former fishing village, the tour of Cap Ferrat trail starts in Saint-Jean and winds its way around the edge of the peninsula, following the limestone cliffs and passing alongside several millionaires’ villas. This two-hour hike is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the French Riviera coastline, providing an exquisite contrast between the lush green of Cap Ferrat and the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean where you’ll spot divers and fisherman alike. Ensure you allow time for beach swims!
For more details of these walks and more, visit www.activeazur.com/hiking/south-france.