The Haut Var with its ancient villages perched high up from Montauroux in the east to the Gorges du Verdon, is a tranquil area beloved by hikers and ramblers. Vast forests proffer truffles, mushrooms, and occasionally even a sighting of a wild boar. The lakes and rivers are popular for both canoeing and swimming. In the arrière pays varois, surrounded by the hills and valleys, are pine forests and agricultural land with vineyards. Brignoles is the capital of the Central Var and in the 12th Century, the Counts of Provence built their palace here.
The vineyards produce some of the best known wines of the Côtes de Provence and the pink sandstone of the Maures and the ubiquitous ‘Pins Parasol’ are typical of this unspoilt region. At Le Thoronet is a fine Cistercian Abbey. A mere 20 kilometres from Toulon and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves is the pretty 11th Century fortified village of Le Castellet, site of the film of Marcel Pagnol’s ‘La Femme Du Boulanger’.
With 300 kilometres of coastline from St Tropez to St Cyr, the Var is a wonderful place for beach holidays and is less populated than its neighbour, the Alpes Maritimes. The Côte d’Azur begins in Hyères and off the coast are the famous Isles d’Hyeres. Porquerolles the largest, with its productive vineyards, has an enviable climate of approximately 300 days of sunshine a year. Of similar size, the Isle du Levant is popular with naturists and Port Cros has no less than five forts as testament to its role in the past. Now a national park, the island is semi wild with a tropical atmosphere.
On the Cote d’Azur, St Tropez, famous for the ‘Bardot’ era in the sixties is still a busy port harbouring exotic yachts. St Maxime along the coast is more sedate and reminiscent of seaside holidays in the 50’s. Coincidentally, it was where Jean de Brunhof lived and first wrote about Barbar the Elephant. The ‘Plage des Eléphants’ commemorates the event to this day. Grimaud and Cogolin offer modern marinas whilst Fréjus is surrounded by Roman ruins. St Raphael boasts five harbours and is the starting point for the Corniche d’Or, an attractive stretch of coastline which wends its way to the Alpes Maritimes.