Explore the 9 Hilltop Villages in the Pays de Fayence
Discover the Pays de Fayence
The Pays de Fayence is only a 30-minute drive from Saint-Raphaël. The area is a quiet contrast to the busy Mediterranean coast. With its perched villages and unspoilt natural setting, this region of Provence remains anchored to the past. There are nine (9) hilltop villages in the foothills of the Southern Alps.
The towns are listed in alphabetical order below:
Bagnols-en-Forêt, as the name suggests, this village is surrounded by oak and pine forest. Near to Fréjus, there is much to see, including an oppidum dating before Caesar arrived in 45 BC. Discover the Chemin de notre Mémoire with photos dating from the end of the 19th century. Hike to Pierre du Coucou, where the ruts created by passing carts and carriages are visible in the stone.
Don’t miss the chapels:
Chapel of Saint-Denis (11th century)
Notre Dame de la Pitié chapel
Sainte Anne’s Chapel (1654)
Saint Antoine chapel (1660)
On a hillside at 325 metres, Callian has sweeping views of the sea in the distance. The streets wind around a feudal castle where some of the buildings are 1000+ years old. Worth visiting are the traces of a Roman-era aqueduct and several chapels.
The Roman cippus (pedestal) in the town hall
At the top of the village, the feudal-era castle is now privately owned. During the Journées européennes du patrimoine (Heritage Days) weekend in September, visiting the Guards’ Room is possible.
The village of Fayence meanders up the slope of a hill towards a castle. Enter through the Saracen Gate in the old ramparts and explore the charming streets. Surrounded by forest and olive groves, the village is home to roughly 6000 inhabitants. Like its neighbours, Fayence’s history dates back to the Neolithic period. Don’t miss the Notre-Dame-des-Cyprès chapel, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church, and the Saint-Roch chapel. Walk up the clock tower for a panoramic view stretching to the sea. Market days in Fayence are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Panorama from the top of the clock tower
A local association has preserved four du Mitan, an old communal oven, dating from 1522. Open daily from 10h30 to 19h.
The Fayence agricultural eco-museum (1807)
Church St. Jean Baptiste (18th century)
Chapel St. Roch (16th century)
Mons en Provence
Sometimes referred to as the “roof of the Var,” Mons en Provence is at 814 metres on a rocky outcrop of Mont Lachens. Mons en Provence is at the highest altitude of all these villages. Home to about 800 people, the town’s narrow alleys date from the 10th and 13th centuries. Catch a glimpse of the sea from the Saint-Sébastien square. Hike from Mons to the gorges of the Siagnole and the Roman aqueduct.
17th-century Notre Dame chapel
The 13th-century Mons parish church and its rare collection of 17th-century baroque altarpieces.
Consider the jewel of the eastern Var, the village of Montauroux dates from the 11th century. A stone clock tower rises above the town’s streets, squares and fountains. Do not miss the Saint Barthélemy chapel with its barrel vault roof and painted panel walls. The church was donated to the town by Christian Dior in 1953 and designated as a historical monument in 1958. A waterfall, lush valleys, and the ancient Pont des Tuves await hikers in the Gorges de la Haute Siagne.
Montauroux is near to the perfume capital of Grasse. Designer and perfume creator Christian Dior connected firmly to the area purchasing Château de la Colle Noire in 1951. LVMH now owns the mansion and gardens, which are not open to the public.
The Montauroux market is on Tuesday mornings. Shop for some picnic fare and head to nearby Le Lac de Saint Cassien for an afternoon of swimming, fishing or water sports (rowing, kayaking etc.). This freshwater lake is a good size at 420-hectare (1000+ acres). There is a biological reserve on the eastern edge of the lake.
Saint Barthélemy chapel
Pont des Tuves
Encircled by the mountainous peaks of Mont Lachens and the Massif de l’Estérel, the 1700+ inhabitants of Saint-Paul-en-Forêt enjoy a pastoral setting. The village sits in a natural amphitheatre surrounded by forest and near lac du Rioutard. There are plenty of options for hikers in the area.
Saint-Joseph chapel overlooking the village
Saint-Paul church (18th century) with a square bell tower
Take a walk in the Royal Forest along the banks of the Endre river.
Seillans earns its badge as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. Surrounded by ramparts, this perched village radiates charm. An old medieval centre with 2,600+ residents today. The streets and tiny alleys ascend steeply to a castle and church at the top. Walking in this town requires a bit of stamina and suitable footwear. Stop for a drink or bite to eat in la place du Thouron. Discover the bouries near the village. These dry-stone structures provided shelter for shepherds centuries ago remain intact. Catherine shared that her favourite village is Seillans, as it feels a bit like Tuscany surrounded by expansive green meadows and stately cypress trees.
Remains of the feudal castle
The Saracen gate entry point in the old ramparts
11th-century church and 12th-century chapel
Check with the tourism office for guided tours and maps
Walk to the bouries (dry stone structures) a 7km circuit
Reach the summit of La Pigne, a long (17km+) hike with amazing views
Tanneron sits at the eastern edge of the Pays de Fayence on the border of the Alpes Maritimes. Part of the 130-kilometre Route du Mimosa leading to Grasse, the perfume capital, many visitors come to see the mimosas in bloom in the winter months. This agricultural-focused village is a series of hamlets joined together by a roadway.
Mimosas blooming from December through March
Some of Tanneron’s horticulturists open their farms for visits during the Route du Mimosa festivities.
Explore a one-hour walking loop around the village
Close to Cannes and Saint-Raphaël, Tourrettes is roughly 20 kilometres from the sea. This village, like its neighbours, has a long history, beautiful vistas, and plenty of charm. Discover the street art created by 70 artists on facades, doorways, and shutters in the old village. Don’t miss the Château du Puy constructed in 1830 under Jacques Alexandre Fabre’s direction. The castle is a replica of the Naval Cadet Corps in St-Petersburg, Russia. Fabre had worked for Tsar Alexander I as a civil engineer, tracing roads in the Russian Empire. Home to the International Gliding Centre in Fayence – Tourrettes and the Terre Blanche golf courses, there is plenty to do near this town.
Château du Puy
International Gliding Centre in Fayence – Tourrettes
The open-air museum through the tiny streets of the village
Please consult the tourism website for additional information on things to do and see in the Estérel Côte d’Azur area.
Books on the Region
Un Automne en Pays de Fayence, written in English and French, bonds the two cultures in words. This book is as much for the people who live in the region as visitors from near and far. The rolling hills forested with pine and oak trees are a natural backdrop for a succession of perched villages. In the text, Gilles Portaz shares some childhood memories of this part of Provence. Catherine Karnow’s photos reveal a place where little has changed with time. Officially there are nine (9) villages in the Pays de Fayence, plus Brovès, an abandoned town that is only accessible with military approval.