Pretty as a picture, seaside Sanary-sur-Mer is a stroller’s dream. Watch the fishers unload their catch on the quay, or admire the traditional fishing boats from one of the seafront cafes. Wednesday’s colourful market draws crowds from miles around. Shops line interior streets. Novelist Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) called Sanary home in the early 1930s.
Les Arcs-sur-Argens & La Motte
The extended urban development around Les Arcs and La Motte is nothing special, but the nearby area (such as the stretch along the D25) is rich in vineyards and wine-tasting opportunities. There are some great restaurants, and the medieval quarter of Les Arcs is a fun stroll.
High on a hill, this labyrinthine walled village with a tree-studded central square got its name from ‘Rahmatu’llah’, meaning ‘Divine Gift’ – a legacy of the 10th-century Saracen occupation. Jazz and theatre fill the tourist-packed streets during August’s Festival de Ramatuelle and Jazz Fest, and it's a wonderfully scenic stroll.
This medieval postcard-perfect hilltop village sits 3km inland from the Golfe de St-Tropez. It's crowned with the dramatic shell of Château du Grimaud, built in the 11th century, fortified in the 15th century, destroyed during the Wars of Religion (1562–98), rebuilt in the 17th century, and wrecked again during the French Revolution.
Entrecasteaux (population 1100), with its giant 17th-century château, old stone houses sun-baked every shade of gold, and fountain-clad square, perches dramatically over a river. Grab a coffee at the green-canopied Bar Central – you won't get more local than this – which overlooks the château's manicured gardens. The village is known for its honey.
Parts of the tiny stone village of Cotignac (pop 2000) are dramatically built into tuffa cliff faces. The River Cassole carves its heart, and villagers stroll the tree-lined promenade of cours Gambetta. The Tuesday-morning market is lively, and the tourist office has maps of walks to the village's chapels and fountains.
Forge your way through the urban sprawl of Brignoles to reach the recently restored 12th-century Romanesque Ancienne Abbaye de la Celle. For a special treat, dine or stay at fabled Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle. Superstar chef Alain Ducasse is the creative energy behind this refined four-star restaurant-hotel.
Tourtour (population 536) is a beautiful amber-stoned village with a churchyard stretching across a promontory offering panoramic views. It makes a handy place to break your journey, stroll the cobbled lanes filled with galleries and shops, or indulge your truffle fancy. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
From the central village square in Callas (population 1400) you get a stunning panorama of the red-rock Massif de l’Estérel. The village lanes wind up the hill in a warren of bends. At the southern foot of Callas is Moulin de Callas, where Nicole and Serge’s family have cultivated olives to make oil since 1928.
The medieval village of Bargemon (population 1100) juts onto a promontory, from which you have excellent views across the valley to Claviers. Market day is Thursday. Don't miss La Pescalune, an intimate bistro alongside the church where popular chef Virginie Martinetti creates seasonal, market-fresh cuisine with a twist.