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?
UPDATE: Through the end of April 2018, there are repairs being done between Breil-sur-Roya and Tende, so the train stops in Tende and you continue by a windy ride on a connecting bus, including a long wait for a one-way tunnel… not recommended.
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 7.60€, to Breil-sur-Roya costs 9.50€, and to Tende is 12.05€, but you’re free to stop off in Breil, then catch the later train between the two towns. At 19€ round trip to Breil, and 24€ round trip to Tende, you are better off taking the 16€ TER Summer Day Pass, available from June to end of September, or the 35€ Isabel Family Pass, available all year long. Click here for more details on train passes 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 Entrevaux, then the town of Annot, finishing much farther on in Digne-les-Bains.
Schedule: To get to Entrevaux takes an hour and a half and there are usually 2-4 trains a day… Here is the schedule.
Insider tip: there are often works happening on this train line, and if you are made to get off the train to take a bus part of the way, it’s just really not as fun. Go to the train station ahead of time to scope it out just to be sure.
Cost: A round-trip ticket to Entrevaux costs 24.40€, children under 12 are 12.20€ , children under 4 ride free.
Discounts: Since this is a different train station and an independent rail line, unfortunately the regular TER and Zou passes don’t apply. The only discount is 20% off if you have the French Riviera Pass, but that pass is quite expensive so not really worth it.
See Related Pages:
- Coastal Trains on the Riviera
- Cheap Train Tickets and Rail Pass Deals
- Taking the Train from Nice to Italy
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