Festivals

No matter what the time of year, the people of Provence and the Côte d'Azur need no excuse to get out and party.

Festival d'Avignon Join in the fun and festivities at France's largest arts festival.

Fête du Citron Menton's madcap lemon-themed festival sees floats and parades take over the town's streets.

Carnaval de Nice Lots of towns hold carnivals, but nowhere does it with quite as much style as Nice.

Cannes Film Festival Spot celebs and stars at Cannes' world-famous cinematic showcase.

Fête des Gardians Camargue cowboys process through Arles' streets on horseback.

Fête de la Transhumance Twice a year, the mountain valleys of Haute-Provence lead their livestock to and from the summer pastures.

Les Chorégies d'Orange Watch opera in the stunning setting of Orange's Roman theatre.

National Parks & Nature Reserves

It might be best-known for its sexy cities and picturesque hill villages, but wildness is always on your doorstep in Provence.

Parc National du Mercantour One of France's wildest mountain reserves, home to ibex, golden eagles and wild wolves.

Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles A range of rocky hills, studded with walking trails, abandoned quarries and Vincent van Gogh connections.

Gorges du Verdon France's answer to the Grand Canyon, where wild vultures wheel overhead.

Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue Spot flamingos in this fabulous coastal wetland.

Parc National des Calanques Secluded coves and turquoise waters stud the coastline in France's newest national park.

Parc National de Port-Cros France’s first marine national park is a snorkeller's playground.

History

Provence and the Côte d'Azur are like an open book, with history unfolding in every town and village.

Roman history Once a province of Roman Gaul, Provence is now littered with Roman remains like Orange's Théatre Antique and the Roman town of Glanum.

Medieval abbeys Find inner peace at Provençal abbeys like the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque.

Castles Evocative châteaux – many of them ruined, such as the one in Les Baux-de-Provence – litter the hilltops.

Papal Provence For a time Avignon, not Rome, was the centre of Christendom – a legacy that lives on at the magnificent Palais des Papes.

Belle Époque The Riviera's golden age is commemorated at Nice's Musée Masséna, and you'll see grand belle-époque buildings all along the Promenade des Anglais.

Ancient history Bronze Age artists left their mark carved into the rock walls of the Vallée des Merveilles.

Landscapes

From weird rock formations to river canyons, Provence is a photographer's dream come true.

Mont Ventoux The giant of Provence stays snowcapped for much of the year.

Colorado Provençal An otherworldly ochre landscape of rust-red valleys, pillars and hills.

Foret des Cèdres A peaceful hilltop forest just a short drive from the Luberon's hill villages.

Dentelles de Montmirail A spiky range of hills near Vaison-la-Romaine – hiker central.

Les Mées A spooky line-up of rock towers that swirl with myths and legends.

Gorges d'Oppedette This network of river canyons is well off the tourist radar.

Food & Drink

Eating well, and eating often, is a cornerstone of Provençal life. From sumptuous seafood to village markets, this is a place where food matters.

Seafood Feast on bouillabaisse and fruits de mer at Marseille's harbourfront restaurants.

Niçois cuisine Nice's old town is awash with places to try local delicacies like pissaladière (Niçoise pizza), socca (chickpea pancakes) and classic salade niçoise.

Markets No matter what day it is or what village you're in, there's likely to be a market nearby, such as the famous one on Friday in Carpentras.

Pastis Provence's aniseed-flavoured aperitif comes in 90 varieties at La Maison du Pastis in Marseille.

Wine Vineyards carpet the landscape of Provence, with tasting opportunities galore – including illustrious names like Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Muscat Unearth your favourite vintage in the cellars around Beaumes-de-Venise.

Beaches

It's not called the coast of azure for nothing: the Mediterranean sparkles with spectacular coves and beaches.

Calanque d'En-Vau The Calanques' most photogenic cove won't disappoint: yes, the water really is that colour.

Plage de Pampelonne St-Tropez's most famous beach, unfolding over 9km.

Promenade des Anglais All right, so the beach is all pebbles, no sand – but Nice's world-famous seafront is still the place to be seen.

Plage du Layet Bare all at Cavalière's nudist beach.

Plage de Notre Dame The beach where it's easiest to escape the outside world, on the idyllic Île de Porquerolles.

Z Plage Cannes' star-studded beach is just steps from the Croisette; designer swimwear, sunglasses and cocktails are de rigueur.

Plage de la Garoupe Follow the coastal path to this super-sandy cove on Cap d'Antibes.

Outdoor Activities

Hike, cycle, swim or sail: the region abounds with opportunities to get out and active.

Hiking Opportunities abound in Haute-Provence, especially around the Vallée de la Vésubie.

White-water rafting Brave the rapids in the majestic Gorges du Verdon.

Cycling Pedal along quiet country roads in the lovely Luberon.

Canoeing Paddle your way along the maze of channels in the Camargue.

Bungee jumping Conquer your fears with a leap from Europe's highest bungee site, the Pont de l'Artuby.

Paragliding Sail through the skies on a glorified parachute.

Mountain biking Tackle the trails around Provence's highest mountain, Mont Ventoux.

Dramatic Drives

Driving in Provence is a non-stop thrill: spin along the cliffs, cruise the beaches or traverse high mountain roads.

Grande Corniche Follow in the footsteps of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly on this famous cliff-top coastal road.

Gorges de Daluis Take your time as you crawl along the edge of the gorges: the drops are heart-stopping.

Route des Crêtes Sweeping panoramas of the Calanques' mineral beauty unfold between Cassis and La Ciotat.

Col de Restefond de la Bonette Crawl up and over the highest road pass in Europe at 2715m.

Routes de la Lavande Cruise among fields of fragrant purple lavender around the Plateau de Valensole.

Hilltop Villages

Provence's villages perchées are a testament to the skill of medieval builders – and a sight to behold.

Èze Spellbinding views of the Med and windy pebbled lanes attract throngs of visitors and yet Èze remains magical.

Roussillon This Luberon village is famed for its distinctive red-ochre colour.

Gordes Arguably the most dramatic of all the Luberon's hillside villages.

Ste-Agnès Europe's highest cliffhanger (780m) looms large over Menton and Italy.

Bonnieux Wander the cobbled streets up to the village church for majestic valley views.

Les Baux-de-Provence Sitting atop a limestone spur are the dramatic ruins of the old Château des Baux.

20th-Century Art

Many of the 20th century's great artists came here for inspiration, and with so much bewitching scenery on show, it's not hard to see why.

Fondation Maeght One of the world's finest collections of 20th-century art in St-Paul de Vence.

Atelier Cézanne Visit the master's studio and home in Aix-en-Provence.

Musée de l'Annonciade Punching well above its weight, St-Tropez's museum has masterpieces by Signac, Braque and Picasso.

Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain Nice's modern-art museum pays tribute to home-grown neorealists such as Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle and Arman.

Musée Granet Another must-see in Aix-en-Provence, with works that read like a who's who of modern art: Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne, Van Gogh and others.

Musée Jean Cocteau Collection Séverin Wunderman Discover the genius of Jean Cocteau, from illustrations to cinematography, at this Menton museum.

Wildlife-Watching

Alpha Spot wild wolves in this fascinating wildlife park, cradled among the mountains of the Mercantour.

Gorges du Verdon Look out for vultures wheeling above the canyons.

The Camargue Swaths of pink flamingos among sprawling wetlands; blink and you could be on safari.

Observatoire Ornithologique de Mérindol Spot more than 240 bird species at this reserve in the Durance valley.

Village des Tortues A last refuge for the highly endangered Hermann tortoise, once a regular sight along the Mediterranean coast.

Musée Océanographique Watch the denizens of the deep at Monaco's excellent aquarium.