When you’ve had enough of the beaches and palm trees, head to the hills to experience an alpine ambiance and a different kind of French charm… and all easily accessible by train.
You can make for the mountains via two different trains, the Train des Merveilles or the Train des Pignes, with each leaving from a different train station, going a different direction, and through different valleys with completely different landscapes. Which one to choose?
The Train des Merveilles
Leaving from the regular Nice-Ville Gare Thiers train station (tram stop Gare Thiers), the Train des Merveilles climbs the mountainous terrain through a series of viaducts and tunnels. Stop in Sospel, or continue for one of the most picturesque villages, lakeside Breil-sur-Roya, and further up the perched village of Tende, with its rustic charm and mysterious museum full of fascinating petroglyphs and ancient artifacts found in the surrounding Valley of Marvels. The train line continues into Italy, through Limone and finally Cuneo. (There is also an alternate route to get to the same villages via Italy, but this is not recommended as it takes longer and you have to change trains in Ventimiglia.)
A one-way ticket to Sospel runs 7.40€, to Breil-sur-Roya costs 9.10€, and to Tende is 13.60€, but you’re free to stop off in Breil, then catch the more frequent local trains between the two towns. At 18€ round trip to Breil, and over 27€ round trip to Tende, you are better off taking the 15€ Zou Unlimited Day Pass, available from June to end of September, or the 35€ Isabel Family Pass, available all year long. Click here for more pass and discount options.
The Train des Pignes
To go up into the mountains in the other direction, you go to another Nice train station, called the Chemins de Fer de Provence (tram stop Liberation) that is dedicated to this one mountain run. This train is named after the pine forest that lines the route, and it follows along the Var river to the fabulously preserved walled-and-moated village of Entreveux, then the town of Annot, finishing much farther on in Digne-les-Bains.
Schedule: To get to Entreveux takes an hour and a half and there are usually 2-4 trains a day… I would go to the train station to scope it out before buying your ticket, however, as there are often works happening on this route, and if you are made to get off the train to take a bus part of the way, it’s not as fun.
Cost: A one-way ticket to Entreveux costs 11.80€, so if it’s the summer, you’re better off taking the 15€ Zou Unlimited Day Pass, available from June to end of September, Click here for more pass and discount options. but know that unfortunately, this train is not in the network to be covered by the Carte Isabelle Family Pass.
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