For those wanting to spend more time with nature on their visit to the area around Nice rather than spend time on the beach, there are several national parks within a couple of hours drive from Nice Airport which are some of the most iconic landscapes in France.
The Camargue – is a 200,000 acre national park on the coast comprising of marshes, salt-flats and lagoons. Famous for its white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos the Camargue is a nature lover’s paradise with some of the best bird-watching in Europe. Visitors to the area can stay in Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer the main town in the Camargue park, and there are holiday homes and campsites. Tourists tend to buy sea salt and the locally grown black Camargue rice to take away as gifts. The park itself can be discovered on foot, by kayak and canoe, or on horseback.
Calanques – is a coastal region of inlets surrounded by white cliffs which can be discovered on foot or by sea via kayak/canoe or boat. From the road there are many hiking paths to climb the white stone hills to discover the bays behind them. Bt the easiest way to discover the Calanques is to join a boat tour from nearby Cassis.
Luberon – the Luberon Valley is the heart of Provence and contains some of the most picturesque villages in France and ultimately the world. Villages such as Fontaine-de-Vaucluse which is set at the source of Europe’s most powerful natural spring which feeds the Vaucluse River; Rouissillon, Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Cucuron, Gordes and Menerbes all deserve a visit. Many have a weekly market day which is the best times to visit these beautiful villages. Between these villages are rolling hills perfect for hiking and cycling, and rivers fit for kayaking and canoeing. One of the most beautiful sights in the world is also here, the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Senanque set in its own lavender fields, is a must-see during the lavender season June and July. Another highlight is the local vineyards where you can arrange a tour and wine tasting, but do make sure you buy a bottle to take away and enjoy with some local goats cheese and fresh bread.
Mercantour – Parc National du Mercantour is the lowest southern extent of the Alps and is one of Europe’s largest national parks covering over 270 square miles and mainly mountainous. Some of its peaks at 3000m are isolated which makes it the perfect home for some of Europe’s rarest mammals and birds of prey including Golden Eagles and Lanmergeier Vultures. Another feature of its landscapes is glacial lakes and beautiful hidden green valleys. This is a hiker’s paradise but also has climbs to challenge mountaineers, mountain bikers and hikers of all levels.
Further information about Mercantour can be found here on their official site in English http://en.marittimemercantour.eu/environment/mercantour-park