Route du Mimosa a Yellow Drive on the French Riviera
Riviera Road Trip
Aix-en-Provence can be cold in the winter. To stay warm, we wore our puffy jackets, shopped for sweaters, and walked on the sunny side of the street. When canary-yellow bunches of mimosas appeared in the market, it was a sign that spring was close at hand. Flowering from January through March on the Côte d’Azur, mimosas are a harbinger of warmer days ahead.
What better excuse for a drive along the sunny French Riviera than to see the Route du Mimosa (Mimosa Trail)?
Mimosas and the French Riviera
Today, the high season on the French Riviera is during the summer months. However, in the 19th century, it was in the cold winter months when wealthy foreigners escaped to the French coast. This stylish group left a permeant impression on the Riviera with landmarks such as the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, art-deco homes and gardens filled with mimosas. The mimosa, part of the acacia family, is native to Australia, not the South of France. Originally planted in the 1850s in gardens of the “Riviera Set,” mimosas are celebrated along the coastline in winter.
Riviera Reading list
The Riviera Set by Mary Lovell
Riviera Dreaming, Love and War on the Côte d’Azur by Maureen Emerson
A Season of Surprises at the Villa des Violettes by Patricia Sands
Route du Mimosa
The official Route du Mimosa runs 130 kilometres from Bormes les Mimosas, to the perfume capital of Grasse. From January to March, this flower-centric festival includes parades, workshops and other activities attracting crowds to the coastline during a quieter period of the year. However, catching the blossoms at their peak takes a bit of luck as Mother Nature determines exactly when the plants will flower.
It is possible to drive the entire route in a day, but not recommended as you will have no time for photos. For maximum enjoyment, plan a road trip with plenty of stops. Visit the local tourist offices for updates on events. Here are a few highlights for your itinerary.
The medieval town of Bormes les Mimosas is one of the celebrated “villages fleuri” (flowering villages) of France. The city is considered the mimosa capital of the Var with some 90+ species visible. A mid-sized town, Bormes les Mimosa is postcard-worthy with its castle ruins, ramparts and floral displays.
Charming Le Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer, a combination of two towns, has been an independent commune since 1949. The appeal of this location, besides the mimosas, is the natural surroundings. The city sits between the Corniche des Maures backdrop and the Mediterranean with views towards the Îles d’Or. Spend time at one of the two nearby beaches and visit the 20-hectare botanical garden at Domaine du Rayol.
Sainte-Maxime stretches along 11 kilometres of gentle coastline with several beaches, including Plage de la Nartelle and Plage Les Eléphants. Compared to its high-profile neighbour, Saint Tropez, this city has a low-key reputation. Ferries to Saint Tropez run regularly and take 15-minutes. However, there are plenty of attractions in Sainte-Maxime, including the markets on Thursdays and summer evenings in Place du Marché.
A little further east is the town of Saint-Raphaël, where residents and visitors enjoy a 36-km stretch of gentle coastline with the Massif de l’Estérel in the background. Saint-Raphaël is a beautiful coastal town that lies between Cannes and Saint-Tropez. Take a walk along the seashore. Visit the old town to discover the archaeological museum, its tower with a view over the city.
After the seaside town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule, the Route du Mimosa heads inland towards Tanneron Mountain part of the Alpes Maritimes. This village has the largest mimosa forest in Europe. For great Mediterranean views, hike le Sentier des Douaniers the coastline trail once patrolled by customs officials. Mandelieu-la-Napoule has nine (9) beaches, and in February, the Massif du Tanneron turns yellow with mimosa blooms.
Between Grasse and Cannes is the hilltop village of Tanneron. At the height of the mimosa season, a golden-yellow hue bathes the town. Tanneron is a centre for both cultivated and wild species of mimosa. Just a short walk from the village is a pretty waterfall, the Cascade de la Siagne. Worth seeing is the sweeping view from the Church of Notre Dame de Peygros (built in the 1840s).
Located in the heartland of the Alpes Maritimes, the village of Pégomas is the second to last stop along the Route du Mimosa. Make time to stroll through le Jardin des Mimosas, which includes 11 different varietals.
From Pégomas drive the “route d’or” to the city of Grasse, France’s perfume capital famous for the production of unique fragrances. Grasse is the official end of the mimosa trail, but the beginning of a scent-filled discovery at the International Museum of Perfume. Participate in an oenology workshop, wander the charming streets, and visit a perfume house.
Route de Mimosa website
Check the website for the full list of activities from January – March 31st.
Stop by the tourist offices for the local events calendar.
Image credits: All photos were provided by and published with the permission of the Côte d’Azur Tourism. (Photographers Camille MOIRENC and Pierre BEHAR)