The first recorded visitor to stumble on the Vallée des Merveilles, a fifteenth-century traveller who had lost his way, described it as “an infernal place with figures of the devil and thousands of demons scratched on the rocks”. That’s a pretty accurate description, except that some of the carvings are of animals, tools, people working and mysterious symbols, dated to some time in the second millennium BC.

The valley is best approached from ST-DALMAS-DE-TENDE, 4km south of Tende. The easiest route is the 10km hike (6–8hr there and back) that starts at Les Mesches Refuge, 8km west on the D91. The engravings are beyond the Refuge des Merveilles. Note that certain areas are out of bounds unless accompanied by an official guide – and remember that blue skies and sun can quickly turn into violent hailstorms and lightning, so go prepared, properly shod and clothed, and take your own food and water.

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