The Upper Roya Valley begins at the Col de Tende (1871 m) on the French-Italian border. It runs south about 35 km to Breil-sur-Roya and then another 8 km to where it crosses back into Italy. (The Lower Roya Valley flows into the Mediterranean at Ventimiglia.)
The Upper Roya Valley is a region of mountains and valleys, with swift rivers, thick forests, and villages with an Italian flavour.
- Office Tourisme Haute Roya — tel: (33) 493 04 73 71
- Informations Routes — el: (33) 493 04 74 64
- Météo Neige (weather) — tel: (33) 836 68 10 20
History of Roya Valley
The Upper Roya Valley (along with the Tinée and Vésubie valleys) became a part of France about 50 years ago, on 12 October 1947. The County of Nice and Savoy were attached to France in 1860, but Napoléon III allowed Italy to keep the Roya for their royal hunting grounds in the Mercantour, and the valley stayed Italian until the peace treaty of 1947.
• GPS: 44.019876, 7.494956
IGN (1/25,000) #3841 OT "Vallée de la Roya"
IGN (1/25,000) #AM 3 "Alpes-Maritimes Vallée de la Roya"
This is a region ideal for hiking. It has Grande Randonnée trails, local trails, gîtes and refuges for overnight hikes, and many possibilities for guides. There are scores (at least) of guide books showing hundreds of hikes. The eastern end of the Parc National du Mercantour in the Roya Valley includes the Valléee des Merveilles with its 100'000 Bronze Age and Gallo-Roman rock engravings.
Le Sentier des Villages Perchés is a 6-7 day hike (fairly easy) that will take you past many of the perched villages of the Upper Roya Valley. The trail is about 100 km long, from the Col de Tende to Menton.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Six canyons in the valley are available for canyoning, generally open from June to October.
The Upper Roya Valley is a beautiful place for riding, and there are several places for arranging outings of one to several days. Some of the villages with Centres Equestres are Breil-sur-Roya, La Brigue, Casterino, Sospel, and Tende.
You can rent mountain bikes (VTT) in Tende. The valley has many trails for mountain biking but, because of the terrain, most are for very experienced riders.
The Roya Parapente club is located in Tende, at the northern end of the Upper Roya Valley. Ask in the Bar des Sports at Tende.
There are many climbing sites in the Roya, with grades from 3 to 8, in a wide variety of settings.
Casterino has a cross-country ski and snowshoe station, with 29 km of trails.
Limon Col de Tende is a downhill ski station with 105 km of pistes between 1000 and 2300 m altitude. The station is about 20 minutes by car from Tende.
Another ski station is located in La Brigue.
Information on rentals and "stages" (Tende): tel 0493 047 840
The potholing pits in the Massif du Marguareis are famous, and for experts only.
Transportation Roya Valley
From Nice, you can take the D2204 north to l'Escarène (18 km), and then the same road (but narrower and twisty) over the Col de Braus (1002 m) to Sospel (22 km). From Sospel, the D2204 winds its way over the Col de Brouis to Breil-sur-Roya (25 km), for a total journey of 65 km. The roads are better for their outstanding scenic beauty than for travel time.
From Nice, you can also take the autoroute to Ventimiglia in Italy (30 km), and then follow the S20 north along the Roya river to the French border (15 km), and continue on the N204 to Breil-sur-Roya (8 km), for a total journey of 53 km.
The Nice-Cuneo train is a good way to get to the Upper Roya Valley from Nice, and an excellent way to visit the towns and villages along the valley.