The Scenic “Route du Mimosa”
Le soleil en hiver…
Get ready for a real treat! This scenic route offers a sublime landscape with quaint villages, golden blooms, climbing mountaintops, green valleys, and a beautiful coastline. All set to bright skies (hopefully), the deep blue sea, and a backdrop of snow topped mountains. Don’t forget that with the Massif du Tanneron in full bloom from January through March, the best way to enjoy this magnificent scenery is by foot. Get out of the car and get exploring! 130km (80 miles) of wonderfulness…
Still need convincing? Check out “Winter Blues? Bring a little sunshine into your life!”
Avoid village speed dating!
Avoid rushing from village to village and missing out on what makes this route so special. This is completely authentic and off the beaten track, with nary a tourist in sight! But you really need to take the time to slow down or you’ll miss the whole point… Personally, I’ve got my eye on the « Bal du Mimosa » in Pégomas for an evening of dancing with the locals.
I’ve broken the route out to 3 separate colored sections, each one best done in a full day of exploring. Green and Orange are along the coast, Purple is inland up into the mountains. If your really want to do the whole route, allow three days so that you have plenty of time to stop and look around.
Tips and Tricks
- The best time to visit and see the most blooms is mid-February.
- The best time to hike the Mimosa forests is early-March.
- Check the weather before leaving, it is winter after all!
- Not just for the Mimosa, it’s a perfect route anytime of the year to visit the area.
- If you only have one day, start early and do the purple section.
- If you have time for only one village, visit Tanneron.
- To save time, bring a picnic basket rather than eating at a restaurant.
- Pick up some of the local Mimosa flavored specialties and add it to your picnic basket along with some local wine (Rosé of course!).
- Avoid weekends during the school holiday period in February if at all possible.
- Download the guide: Magazine Route du Mimosa
- If you forget to download the guide, stop by any of the local tourist offices for a copy.
- Download and print out GGG’s Route du Mimosa PDF Itinerary guide.
- Upload GGG’s Route du Mimosa to Google maps on your phone.
Don’t be disappointed if some villages have just a sprinkling a Mimosa trees here and there, especially if you arrive early in the Mimosa season. The goal of GGG’s Mimosa Itinerary route is to explore the villages, the Mimosa is just a wonderful bonus. Take your time to enjoy this beautiful region!
Route du Mimosa Itinerary
Green Section (A) – Mile 1 – Bormes-les-Mimosas (Var)
An excellent and appropriately named beginning to the scenic “Route du Mimosa”. Bormes-les-Mimosa is separated into the lower port town, and the upper medieval village. Make sure to visit the port (Pradet harbor) first for views of the Iles d’Or, the Cap Bénat and the Cap Nègre before you continue the route upwards. If looking for a hike or a dip in the water, a venture to the Plage du Port du Pradet is well warranted.
Counted as the most beautiful floral village in France (Le plus beau village fleuri de France) and the headquarters for the Mimosa plant, the residents added “les Mimosas” to their town name in 1968 in honor of the golden tree. Wander the narrow streets and enjoy the atmosphere. Reportedly, there are no less than 90 Mimosa plant species in the village.
Make sure to walk along the ancient ramparts and the old village center with its Chateau des Seigneurs de Fos. Pay a visit to the “Pépinieres Cavatore” as you leave town and pick up your own Mimosa plant from among the over 150 varieties available (closed lunch time and Sundays).
- The medieval village dating back to the 12th century
- Fort Bregançon the private retreat of President Charles de Gaulle from 1968 to 2013. Visits are booked through the local tourist office and offer superb views of the surrounding area.
- Gonzalez Botanic Park with 700 rare species (free entry)
- Chapelle Notre-Dame de Constance – a 40 minute hike (GR90) starting from the Le château des Seigneurs de Fos at the top of the village. Awesome views up to the chapel.
- Pépinieres Cavatore nursery specializing in Mimosa
- Château de Léoube Winery where you can pick up a bottle of fabulous “Sécrets de Léoube” organic rosé.
- Nearby are the white sand beaches of Cabasson, Brégançon, l’Estagnol and Pellegrin.
- End of January – Mimosalia – always the last weekend in January, showcases rare and unique plant varieties. Entry 4€.
- End of January – Corso Fleuri – Flower parade in the old town center.
Green Section (B) – Mile 15km – Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer (Var)
Imagine the Massif des Maures plunging into the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean… The beautiful commune of Rayol-Canadel is actually composed of the joining of two villages (Le Rayol and Canadel) in 1945 and is situated along the coastal D559. The highlights are not only the plentiful Mimosa blooming in and around the large villas, the gardens of the private estate Domaine du Rayol (considered one of about 30 official “Grand Sites of France”), but also its seaside location and beautiful beachfront with views of L’Ile du Levant and L’Ile de Port-Cros. A popular seaside destination for families since the 1970’s.
- Family oriented Canabel Beach with its long, wide sandy beach.
- Rustic wild and intimate Rayol Beach at the foot of a protected preservation area.
- “Jardin des Méditerranées” of the Domaine du Rayol 7 hectares (17 acres) of magnificent gardens that were a once part of a private estate. Redesigned by the landscape artist Gilles Clément (France’s newer version of “LeNôtre”), with free-flowing forms.
- The Pateck round pergola with its amazing panorama.
- The Coastal path of the Domaine Rayol for an easy scenic promenade.
- The “Escaliers Monumentaux” stone steps uniting the village to the otherwise inaccessible beach. Continue on to hike the “Col du Canadel” that begins at the Escaliers Monumentaux and offers superb views of the ocean and the Îles d’Hyères.
- And why not stop by Saint-Tropez to see the jet setters and huge yachts on your way to the next stop, just because you can! Just a 3.5km detour, but parking can sometimes be challenging depending on when you are going.
- Late January – L’odyssée des Mimosas – Located at the Jardin des Méditerranées for a world tour of Mediterranean plants.
- Weekends in January and February – Guided walk “Le Rayol through Mimosa” at 3pm or Sunday at 10am. Sign-up and departure at the Tourist Office – 5€/person
- Late March – Spring Garden Festival at the Domaine du Rayol
- August 15th – For those visiting in the summer, there’s a fireworks display to celebrate the Allied troops landing on these beaches during World War II to liberate France.
Orange Section (C) – Mile 42km – Sainte Maxime (Var)
Named after a saint (Sainte Maxime of course!) by the local monks of the 7th century, the small village with its many beaches is popular with tourist and families in the summer months. Located on the gulf of Saint-Tropez, it boasts 11km of beautiful beachfront with restaurants, brasseries, and plenty of boutiques to tempt you. Wander around town and you will notice remnants of Art Deco architecture, decadent villas, and lovely shaded squares. For the Barbar lovers out there, author Jean de Bruhoff spent much time here and found inspiration to write his childrens books. You can spot the local beaches in at least two of them – his first book “Barbar” and “Le Voyage de Barbar”, and in fact one beach has been renamed “Plage des Elephants”. In February Sainte Maxime has its own “Corso du Mimosa” parade with Mimosa floral floats. The local flower garden, Jardin des Myrtes, is a pleasant quiet stop and let the youngins run wild and free.
- « Musée de la Tour Carré » specializing in local history
- “Pointe des Sardinaux” – THE perfect place for a picnic on the coast with amazing views. Please just be careful of the site as it is a fragile environment to be respected.
- “Jardin des Myrtes” is a peaceful and beautiful garden with plantings typical of the area. During Jan-March emphasis is made on the Mimosa. Parc St Donat
- Grimaud Flea Market / Brocante du Jas des Roberts – about 12km from Saint Maxime off RD14 but well worth the detour for the scope of its offerings. I still regret not buying a shadow box made by sailors long ago to will away the eternal hours at sea. Every Sunday between 7am and 1pm, Parking is available and entry is free of charge.
- Saint Tropez is just around the corner. Why not stop by and walk in Brigitte Bardots footsteps while admiring the humongous luxury yatchs in the harbor. If the weather permits (doubtful during Mimosa season), the famous “Plage de Pampelone” is THE beach for sunbathing.
- Early February – Fête du Mimosa / Corso du Mimosa floral parade
- Early March – Provençal Carnival
- Early March – Flea Market in the center of town
Orange Section (D) – Mile 59km – Saint-Raphaël 59km (Var)
Near the Roman town of Fréjus with its vestiges and ancient church, the port town of Saint Raphaël is located right on the border of between the Var Department and the Alpes-Maritimes. The immense seaside church “Basilique de Notre Dame de Victoire” built in 1882 is a must see item in Saint Raphaêl, as is the Musée d’Archeologie with its displays of rare objects discovered during underwater excursions. The “Promenade de l’Espace Bonaparte” (he came through here after his tour in Egypt) makes for a pleasing ocean side stroll. Blooming Mimosa can be found growing on the beautiful beaches nearby. There is a full 36 km with 29 separate beaches (of interest for diving and snorkeling), so if you struggle with decision-making this might get quickly complicated. Choose wisely as some of these beaches are of difficult access…
- Musée d’Archéologie
- Basilique Notre Dame de la Victoire
- The “Corniche d’Or” (also known as the Corniche d’Esterel) is a driving route on roads N98 or the D559 that borders the coastline from Saint-Raphaël all the way to Cannes (perfect for motorcycles). The road was established long ago by the Romans, and then modernized by an initiative of the Touring Club de France. Known as one of the most beautiful roads in France.
- Beaches – Calanque Anthéor and Calanque du Trayas
- Treat your sweet tooth at the « Le Palet d’Or » for chocolate and Mimosa flavored treats.
- If you have the time, the ancient roman vestiges of Fréjus are worth the 10 minute detour.
Purple Section (E) – Mile 108km – Mandelieu-la-Napoule (Alpes-Maritimes)
The section from here to Tanneron is probably the most scenic part of the “Route du Mimosa”. Considered the Mimosa Capital (in competition with Bormes-les-Mimosa) and entrance to the Massif Tannneron, its hills are covered with the largest Mimosa forest in all of Europe. In February there is a Fête du Mimosa, Corsos Fleuris (battle of the flowers), and a nighttime illuminated parade.
The town is best known for the Château de la Napoule, a picturesque fortified castle that sits right on the water. Much of the castle was destroyed during the French Revolution (hélas, just like so many other historical monuments). All that remain of the original structure is the 4th century Roman Tower and the 11th century Saracen Tower. Don’t miss the amazing sculpture hanging off the tower, and the carvings along the beach. Now a non-profit for the arts, much of what you see today is the renovation work of a rich American couple who purchased the property in the early 1900’s. You can walk along the castle walls and onto the neighboring city beach.
- Château de la Napoule and its promenade
- The « Tarte Mimosée » from la Boutique de l’Oasis. They also have a reputable gourmet restaurant.
- The Massif Tanneron Mimosa Forest. There are tons of hiking opportunities, just stop by the local tourist office for ideas or try across town towards the Boulevard des Termes. After a few curves, several paths through the forest will appear on your left. Pick one! Particularly beautiful as you gain in elevation towards Tanneron (Crêtes du Tanneron).
- Chemin des Douaniers and the Châteaux de la Napoule with its public beach.
- Mont San Peyre panoramic view
- Theoule Beach and cliff diving (10 min hike from town) – only for the young and brave.
- Fête du Mimosa en février
- Late February – Grand Corso Fleuri held on the beach boardwalk
- Mid to late February- Saturday evening light parade
- Mid February – Pyro Symphonic Show (Fireworks set to music) at 19h
- Mid to late February – Daily guided walks “Au Pays du Mimosa” (see Tourist Office for more details).
- July and August – Nuits du Château
Purple Section (F) – Mile 112km – Tanneron (Alpes-Maritimes)
Located right smack in the middle of the Mimosa Forest at the tiptop of the Massif du Tanneron. Expect amazing views dotted with burst of yellow everywhere. This is the ideal starting points for biking and hiking through the mimosa forests. There are shops to peruse and several nurseries open for you to find out how the budding branches are forced into bloom. If you cannot visit the entire route, this is great choice is you can only stop in one village.
- Permanent exhibit of the tourist office – Tanneron, yesterday and today
- Visit the greenhouses of local Mimosa producers such as Vial and Augier.
- Medieval Chapel of Notre Dame de Peygros in Tanneron with many ex-voto plaques. Unfortunately it is rarely open to visit the interior, but the surrounding has impressive views over the valleys.
- The Col de Peygros takes you to the Chapel at Saint-Cassien-des-bois (5km detour from Tanneron). Dating back to the 12th century, the chapel’s square tower with no roof was used by monks during sieges. There is also an abandoned ancient flour mill next to the chapel worth exploring, wild fig trees waiting to be picked, and the river Siagne awaiting you for a peek at its cascade or a very refreshing swim in its waters. Great hiking and VTT area.
- Lac de Saint Sassien – Offering many water activities (weather permitting) and an Aqua Park to keep folks young and old content. The lake is a picturesque large man-made reservoir.
- Early February –Artisanal Market (Sunday only)
Purple Section (G) – Mile 115km – Pégomas (Alpes-Maritimes)
A small town nestled in a valley surrounded by hills full of those lovely trees with yellow fluffy scented poufs that are the celebrity of the day. This is the home of the “Confrérie du Mimosa” created in 1998 to celebrate and educate others about the virtues of Mimosa. There aren’t enough reasons to make this town a mandatory stop on the route, but you can wander about town to admire the plentiful blooms and valley views while sampling a brioche with Mimosa cream…that’s my plan anyways! Or, skip it altogether and visit instead the tiny medieval town of Auribeau-sur-Siagne…
Don’t Miss…Mimosa Itinerary Linked and Updated
- The « Jardin des Mimosas » botanic gardens
- “Eglise Saint Pierre” dating from 1765 with typical Provençal wire cage bell tower
- Leisure walk along the river Siagne and the Béal canal (built in the 15th century to bring irrigation water to the fields and feed the starving people).
- Visit the Mimosa greenhouses (“forceries”) to learn about the forcing techniques and to pick up a bouquet (or two) for yourself.
- Treat yourself to the “Mimosette”, a brioche filled with a mimosa flavored cream and only sold in Pégomas.
- Skip Pégomas and instead spend a little time in the medieval village of Auribeau-sur-Siagne, lovely even without Mimosa.
- Mid to late February – “Fête du mimosa” (Date to be confirmed but usually the last weekend in January) animated by the “Confrérie du Mimosa” as is the Mimosa Ball.
- Late February – « Bal du Mimosa » dancing evening with local band, this is as authentic as it gets…
Purple Section (H) – Mile 130km – Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes)
Your last and most “fragrant” stop of the route. The old town center in Grasse is a collection of large and small squares, narrow alleys, steep staircases, and 17th and 18th century architecture.
Grasse is known as the fragrance capital of the world for good reason. The flowers necessary for perfume making are all grown in the surrounding mountains, including of course Mimosa. In fact, fragrant Mimosa oils are found in the perfumes “Paris” by Yves Saint-Laurent and “Champs Élysées” by Guerlain. There are three world-famous perfume factories worth visiting: Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard. You can even follow a mini course at one of the factories if you like and mix up your own perfume fragrance! In addition, Grasse is the home of the “Musée International de la Parfumerie” and its “Jardin du Musée” gardens which explore the history of perfume making that dates back to the end of the 18th
- The middle age architecture (cathedral, hotel de ville, old perfume factories)
- Musée international de la parfumerie – 3,000 years of perfume history, and a rooftop garden (Fragonnard’s museum offer a brief version of the same but has the added plus of being free).
- Jardin du Musée International de la Parfumerie – heavenly when everything is in bloom, located outside of town.
- Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard Perfume Factories – Free tours (Fragonard is the most popular). You can sign up for a perfume class to make your own at any of the three factories (prices start at around 50€ per person with your perfume creation included). For a beaten off the track class option, try Guy Bouchara Artisinal.
- Notre Dame du Puy’s Cathedral – dating back to the 13th century, houses 3 paintings by Rubens.
- Musée Fragonard – Paintings by Rubens and Fragonard in a very romantic style
- Musée Provençal du Costume et du Bijou – Provencal clothing and jewelry museum (temporarily closed)
- Museum of Art and History of Provence
- Fête du Jasmin – held every August in case you happen to be visiting outside of Mimosa season.
And that’s it! All 140km… Did I forget anything??? Let me know if I did!
Heads up, I have one more treat in store for you my cyber friends! A Mimosa picture tour for you to feast your eyes, in case you are stuck elsewhere and can’t make it out here. Sharing is caring after all!
-Girl Gone Gallic
For all my Pinterest friends…