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    The best things to do in summer in Var are as varied and dynamic as the landscapes of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in France’s southeastern corner. While most of these destinations within Var are great in any season, the warmth of the Mediterranean sun brings out some of its most scenic views and adventures.

    There’s everything from hiking through mountain villages along brilliant red-ochre trails to spending a day on a small protected island with ancient forts that hark back to its high-sea buccaneering past. Most of the region is made up of national parkland, so it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of thrills and vistas to discover. Read on to find out where you can make the most of your summer in Var and enjoy the Mediterranean sun in this part of southeast France.

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    Saint-Tropez

    Among the French Riviera’s most glamourous coastal towns

    Saint-Tropez is a small resort town that draws summer crowds to its gorgeous Mediterranean beaches and glamourous nightlife. The town offers jetsetters a relaxed vibe, with exclusive clubs overlooking its sandy shores and azure waves. There are colourful historic landmarks to behold as well, such as the 17th-century hillside citadel overlooking the town.

    Superyachts, chic cafés, and boutiques line the Port de Saint-Tropez marina. And there’s everything to spoil the rich and famous around the peninsula, with luxury cars parked before notable beaches like Pampelonne. There’s plenty for budget travellers to enjoy in Saint-Tropez as well, with other low-key beaches and charming historic villages such as La Ponche to stroll through and explore.

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    Verdon Gorge

    The stunning natural landmark of Provence

    Verdon Gorge, or Gorges du Verdon in the local tongue, is what many refer to as the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’. The namesake stunning turquoise-green river snakes through the deep canyon, which is a popular summer haunt for kayakers. It offers the thrill of entering an otherworldly scene, cruising down the stream below soaring limestone cliffs.

    Hikers, on the other hand, enjoy the tranquil and varied landscape of Verdon Gorge. Various trails can lead you through ancient oak forests and past abandoned churches and villages. These trails also feature various stops along the way, rewarding you with breathtaking views of the canyon.

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    Calanques National Park

    Coastal walks, limestone cliffs and underwater caves

    The Calanques National Park, known locally as Parc national des Calanques, is a go-to hike in Var for breathtaking panoramas. The rugged limestone cliffs of the Massif des Calanques, with sparse patches of greenery, stretch for about 16 km between Marseille and Cassis. It’s about a half-hour drive south of Marseille.

    Kayaking and cycling tours are available, but serious explorers may want to go deeper. The magnificent cliffs loom over the azure waters of the coast. Down on the southeasternmost point, at the Pointe de la Voile peninsula, lies an underwater cave known as La Grotte Cosquer or Cosquer Cave. The Stone Age cave’s entrance is submerged 37 metres below the waves, with walls adorned in prehistoric rock art. Note that the park may be closed during the peak of summer to avoid fires.

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    Senanque Abbey

    Visit in summer for a full sensory experience

    Senanque Abbey, or Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque in French, is a beautifully preserved 12th-century monastery in Gordes. In the summer months, you can go on guided tours of the historic landmark and its cloisters. A visit to the abbey pleases the senses – its lavender fields come into full bloom around the sunny time of the year.

    If you’re lucky, you may hear the monks singing solemn Gregorian chants, celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours. The abbey also has a monastic shop from which you can buy honey, together with fragrances and books. Unguided tours of the abbey are available daily, while guided tours are offered at specific times of the day.

    أوقات العمل: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 11.30 am and from 1 pm to 5 pm, Sunday from 1.45 pm to 5 pm

    رقم الهاتف: +33 (0)4 90 72 05 86

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    Palais des Papes

    Where the popes once moved from Rome

    Palais des Papes, literally the ‘Palace of the Popes’, is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Avignon. It’s where 7 successive popes resided over 67 years in the 14th century instead of in Rome. It’s also known as the largest Gothic fortress of its kind in the world, thanks to its 15,000 square metres of floor space.

    The grand Gothic landmark overlooks the Rhône and is a central landmark of the Avignon Papacy. Palace tours are good for both couples and families, where you can go back in time together and roam through rose gardens that bloom in the summer sun, as well as discover the different chambers where the popes once lived. Some rooms even feature fascinating frescoes painted many centuries ago.

    الموقع: Place du Palais, 84000 Avignon, France

    أوقات العمل: Monday–Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm

    رقم الهاتف: +33 (0)4 32 74 32 74

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    Amphitheatre of Nîmes

    One of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in France

    The Amphitheatre of Nîmes, otherwise known as Nîmes Arena or Theater de Nîmes, is one of the most well-preserved Roman amphitheatres in France. The major landmark is akin to Rome’s Colosseum but is composed only of 2 arcade levels. It still holds concerts and shows today.

    If you visit in summer, you’ll be able to catch the Festival de Nîmes music festival, which features a series of concerts held over a month. On any other day, you can take a self-guided audio tour and explore the arena’s multiple levels and admire the glorious Roman ruins where gladiators once fought deadly battles.

    الموقع: Boulevard des Arènes, 30000 Nîmes, France

    رقم الهاتف: +33 (0)4 66 21 82 56

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    Luberon Regional Natural Park

    A French biosphere reserve and premier hiking destination

    The Luberon Regional Natural Park, or Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in Southern France. It’s an all-season hiking destination with ochre trails that lead you through cedar-forested slopes and with various outlooks from where you can to take in breathtaking mountain views. On certain trails and clear days, you can often see as far as the French Alps and the Mediterranean Sea.

    Pretty hilltop villages dot the Luberon – one is Roussillon, which is linked by the short and easy hike known as the Ochre Trail. All the village’s houses are also in a dominant red ochre. If you hike the Luberon in summer, set out early in the morning or late in the afternoon as it can get hot and dry. Park authorities might also close off some areas of the park in summer to reduce fire hazards.

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    Mercantour National Park

    Day hikes through a stunning alpine wonderland in southeast France

    Mercantour National Park is home to among the most well-preserved natural landscapes in southeast France. It’s a summer mecca for outdoorsy types, offering great hiking, mountain biking, mountain climbing, and even whitewater rafting. Ultimately though, with over 1,000 km of hiking trails, the park is a hikers’ playground in the upper valley of the Var river.

    Many of the trails in Mercantour are quite challenging but extremely rewarding. For example, there’s the Vallee des Merveilles or Valley of Wonders day hike, which opens to scenic lakes and features carvings from the Bronze Age for you to discover. Among the most accessible hikes lead to the secluded alpine lake of Lac d'Allos. Another popular one is the Lauzanier hike, which can take half a day to complete.

    الموقع: Roubion, Alpes-Maritimes, France

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    Port-Cros

    A Mediterranean jewel among the Hyères Islands

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    • المغامرة

    Port-Cros is a national park that’s part of the Hyères Islands in Southern France. The island offers a great summer Mediterranean escape with plenty to do. It's crisscrossed by scenic hiking trails, which lead you to various ancient forts and landmarks around the island. Most of these spots hark back to frequent historical encounters with Ottoman corsairs.

    Among the notable landmarks are Fort du Moulin and Fort de l'Estissac, which also offers breathtaking seascapes from atop its outlooks. To get to Port-Cros, you can take a ferry from the port at Le Lavandou commune. The island has a pretty harbour as well as short and beautiful coastal stretches, from where you can enjoy a beach stroll or snorkel out in the calm and clear waters.

    الموقع: Hyères, France

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    French Riviera beaches

    Exceptional stretches of sand in the South of France

    The beaches of the French Riviera are go-to spots for summer fun in the Mediterranean sun in southern France. Most of these gorgeous stretches of sand lapped by azure waters are the haunts of the royal, rich, and famous. But thanks to the vast variety, there’s plenty to go around for any beachgoer visiting the Côte d'Azur.

    To name a few, the stunning, limestone cliff-bordered Little Africa Beach at the eastern end of Beaulieu-sur-Mer is great for families. Les Marinières Beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer is also set against a backdrop of cliffs and wooded hills and is great for a picnic on the coast. Paloma Beach in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, once a haunt of the Picasso family, is a glamorous and secluded beach for ultimate relaxation, but with thrilling water sports such as jet-skiing available.

    Ari Gunadi | مسافر مثابر

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