The wild, scented greenery and fine sand beaches of the Îles d’Hyères are a reminder of what much of the mainland was like half a century ago. You can stay on all three main islands, though accommodation is scarce, coveted and expensive. Visitors should observe signs forbidding smoking (away from the ports), flower-picking and littering.
The fire risk in summer is extreme: at times large sections of the islands are closed off and visitors must stick to marked paths. A haven from tempests in ancient times, then the peaceful home of monks and farmers, the I^les d’Hye`res became, from the Middle Ages, the target of piracy and coastal attacks. The three main islands, Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Levant, are covered in half-destroyed, rebuilt or abandoned forts, dating from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, when the German gun positions on Port-Cros and Levant were put out of action by the Americans. Porquerolles and Levant still have a military presence, which has helped prevent development. The islands’ fragile environment is protected by the Parc National de Port-Cros and the Conservatoire Botanique de Porquerolles.