Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04370) Population: 367 Altitude: 1250 m
Located in the upper Verdon river valley 28 km north of Saint André-les-Alpes, Colmars is a magnificent fortified village, tightly circled by a complex of stone defensive walls, completely intact today. The walls are complete with roofed towers and walkways for the bowmen. If you walk along the grassy ridge just inside the wall along the rushing Verdon, the sound of the river comes through each arrow slit with the rhythm of your walking as you pass, and sounds like the waves at the seaside.
Inside the walled village you won't be disappointed. The narrow streets and old houses are completely in character with the Medieval atmosphere. Although some of the commerce has "gone outside the walls", as one disapproving resident expressed it, the center still contains the post office, Office du Tourisme, bakery, cafés, restaurants and a few other shops. There's also a lovely fountain from 1803 in one square.
Colmars is located where the rushing Lance river joins the Verdon. The surrounding mountains are thickly forested with pine and larch (mélèze), streams, lakes and waterfalls. The region, including the nearby Parc National du Mercantour, has a great variety of alpine flora and fauna, and exceptional butterflies.
Two Protecting Forts
The Fort de Savoie sits on a hill above the village, guarding the bridge and protecting from attack down the valley. From the village's Porte de Savoie, a walled stone walkway goes up the hill to the fort.
The Fort de France sits on a small hill just bellow the village, with a dominating view down the valley (and now over the top of the Gendarmerie) and guarding the lowerbridge. Square and plain, the Fort de France has more canon slits than arrow slits, and a walled roadway leading up the hillside from the town to the fort.
A lovely big grassy park is located outside the walls, with swings, teeter-totters, slides and merry-go-round for the kiddies, and space for relaxing and picnicking. One interesting ride is a giant "hamster wheel", where your kids (or you) can run in place like a two-legged gerbil.
History of Colmars
First record, 1040 de Collo Martio. The name came from the Romans, for a hill dedicated to the god Mars.
Celto-Ligurian: An original primitive village was located on a hill top before being moved to its current location beside the Verdon river, a swift mountain stream at this point.
Medieval: In 1388, Colmars became a border town when Allos and Barcelonnette were acquired by Savoy. It was protected then by a wall, but in 1390, Raymond de Turenne took the town and razed it. In 1583, Catier (an "adventurer") captured Colmars and held it for ransom.
During the Wars of Religion there was a certain amount of conflict with La Ligue: the town was sacked more than once, and burnt in 1672.
In 1693, Colmars was fortified by Vauban. It was maintained as a fortified town until 1921, and much of the fortifications are beautifully intact today.
June (24th) - Fête de la St. Jean
July (Last week) - International folklore festival
Sep (22nd) - Foire - Fair
• GPS: 44.180653, 6.627117
IGN (1/25,000) #3540 O "Allos"
IGN (1/25,000) #3540 ET "Haute Vallée du Var, Gorges de Daluis, Mercantour"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #1 "Alpes de Provence"
There are many hiking trails through the forested mountains all around the town, including one trail that goes east to Ratery (1714 m) and then northeast over the Col de l'Encombrette (2527 m) to the lovely Lac d'Allos (2230 m).
Stage 17 of the 2015 cycling Tour de France passed through Colmars.
If you're heading north from Colmars, over the mountains toward Barcelonnette, this is the last place to get gas/petrol.
Department 04, Alpes-de-Haute Provence Buses
- See Beyond's Alpes-de-Haute Provence (04) Bus Schedules for downloading Alpes-de-Haute Provence bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).