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Parc National du Mercantour

Created in 1979, this vast national park covers seven alpine valleys and a total area of 685 sq km. Pocked by deep valleys and spiked with jagged peaks, and dominated by the Cime du Gélas (3143m), the third-highest mountain in the Alps-Maritimes, it’s a haven for outdoor activities: skiing and snowboarding in winter, hiking and biking in summer, and pretty much everything else besides.

It’s also celebrated for its flora and fauna, including rare species such as the ibex, the mouflon, the golden eagle and wild grey wolves, which you can see at the excellent Alpha wolf park near the mountain village of St-Martin-Vésubie. The park is currently at the forefront over the debate of the return of the wild wolf to France: after more than a century of absence, wolf numbers are increasing – a cause of celebration for conservationists, and of deep anger for local farmers.