Provence undoubtedly is one of the hottest tourist spots on the map of France, and coastal department of Var is the place, where provençal aura meets glitz of the French Riviera.
However, this time, our gaze turn away from the Mediterranean coast, to the rivers, the mountains, charmant vineyards, and the sacred forests of Provence. This green landscape once was a haven of peace for the counts of Provence who sheltered from the hot weather and enemies in their castles during the summer.
Some of the castles and monuments are quite well preserved or restored, while others did not withstand centuries of challenges and now you can see only the ruins.
So let’s start journey. There are ten spots in the map of Provence, inland part of Var department at the South of France.
The castle of Entrecasteaux is a former fortress, built in the 11th century. Entirely rehabilitated and redecorated, now it is with genuine antique furniture, tapestries, and paintings. Its elegant French gardens inspired by designs of Le Notre. The castle is private property and the owner lives there. Open to the public all year round for guided visits.
Château d’Entrecasteaux, 83570 Entrecasteaux ; tel. 04 94 04 43 95 ; chateau-entrecasteaux.com
Château de Vins-sur-Caramy
The castle dates back the Renaissance. Entirely restored with its courtyard, double loggias and hunting lodge. It is now private property but open to the public for guided visits.
Château de Vins, 83170 Vins-sur-Caramy ; tel. 04 94 72 50 40 ; chateaudevins.pagesperso-orange.fr
Château de Pontevès
Pontevès is one of the numerous perched villages of the Var department with the ruins of its medieval castle built on the rock. The castle consists of three main buildings flanked by four towers, 50 rooms including 14 bedrooms, 4 cellars, a chapel and a gallery. During the eighteenth century, the castle gradually fell into ruin.
Château de Pontevès, 83670 Pontevès
Château de Valbelle
You will only find remnants of this 18th century castle of Tourves – remains of the neoclassical stables and stairways… Still very spectacular views.
Château de Valbelle, 83170 Tourves
Château and Park of Saint-Martin-de-Pallières
The castle was built on a square layout with a tower at each corner of it. Château has preserved its original, beautiful vaulted halls and a monumental kitchen. The apartments on the first floor were restored during the 18th century. Park and the village of Saint-Martin-de-Pallières is also very worthy to visit.
Château Saint-Martin-de-Pallières, 83560 Saint-Martin-de-Pallières
Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume
This Basilica of Mary Magdalene is the largest Gothic building in the south-eastern France. Also known as Christianity’s third most important tomb, as its crypt houses the relics of Mary Magdalene. The adjoining building of the “Couvent Royal” is now a prestigious and charming hotel and restaurant.
Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, Place de l’Hôtel de ville, 83470 Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume ; saintebaume.org
Grotto of St. Mary Magdalene
This cave, which can hold up to 1,000 people, has become an important pilgrimage site over centuries. At walking distance (about 40 minutes) from the Trois Chênes (where the parking is), up through the magnificent Saint Baume forest, along the King’s Way (Chemin des Roys) and then up the long staircase of 150 steps.
The famous Whit Monday pilgrimage and the feast of Mary Magdalene on 22 July attract a numbers of pilgrims and visitors each year to the spot.
Grotte de la Sainte-Baume, 83640 Plan-d’Aups-Sainte-Baume
Abbaye de la Celle
This Roman Abbey of La Celle was founded in the 11th century. It was a convent for Benedictine nuns, reformed by Cardinal Mazarin during the 12th century.
Abbaye de la Celle, Place des Ormeaux, 83170 La Celle
Castle & old town of Carcès
This 16th century castle was honoured by the visit of Louis XIV and his court in 1660. It was destroyed after the Second World War. All that remains today is the framework of two main, three-floor buildings that were structured around an angled, octogonal staircase.
Château de Carcès, Impasse des Grottes, 83570 Carcès ; tel. 04 94 04 50 14
Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Grâces
This sanctuary was built in 1519, under the name of Notre Dame de Grâces in memory of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In 1660, King Louis XIV and his mother, Anne of Austria, came to give thanks, to the Virgin Mary for the miraculous birth of her son, the King of France.
Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Grâces, 83570 Cotignac ; tel. 04 94 69 64 92
Trip through all ten spots will lead you 137 kilometres by picturesque roads, surrounded with the hills of Provence, fragrant pinewoods, and vines.