Driving Tour: Haut-Var Hilltop Villages

  • Start Entrecasteaux
  • End Callas
  • Length 91km; one day

Start with a wander around gorgeous hilltop Entrecasteaux, its giant 17th-century château the centrepiece of formal gardens perching dramatically along the river.

Bear right along the D31 and drive another wiggly 6km to Salernes, where handmade terracotta tiles called terres cuites (literally 'baked earth') have been manufactured since the 18th century. The tourist office has a list of workshops to visit.

From Salernes, pick up the westbound D2560 and subsequent D560 to Sillans-la-Cascade, a gem of a fortified village with a waterfall, on the banks of the River Bresque. Then it's 9km north along the D22 to Aups, an unhurried village that's ground zero for Haut-Var's famous truffles. From here, it's a genuinely stunning 10km drive southeast past olive groves and lavender gardens to the 'eagle nest' gold-stone village of Tourtour. Buy olive oil in the village and, in mid-December, watch olives being pressed in its 17th-century moulin à huile; the tourist office runs guided tours of the mill.

Six kilometres further east along the D51 you'll encounter Ampus; continue east 9km to Châteaudouble, an astonishing village clinging to a cliff of the Gorges de Châteaudouble.

Just 7km east of here is Bargemon, a village with a maze of medieval streets and ramparts to stroll and an excellent bistro, La Pescalune, in which to dine.

Seillans, a scenic 12km drive east, is an irresistibly pretty, typical Provençal village with cobbled lanes coiling to its crown, and a village inn, Hôtel des Deux Rocs, that only the stone-hearted will be able to resist.

If you have any gas left in your proverbial tank, you can circle back south to Claviers and Callas, yet more picturesque villages.