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 Îles d’Hyères 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. There’s also still a military presence on Porquerolles and indeed ninety percent of Île du Levant is a missile testing range; the tiny bit of this island spared by the military is the nudist colony of Heliopolis, set up in the 1930s.