Last link in the Southern Alps before they plunge into the Mediterranean, the Mercantour National Park has some of the richest biodiversity of any natural area in France. The Mercantour contains almost 40,000 prehistoric rock engravings spread over 15 km² around Mont-Bego. This group of Bronze Age engravings is listed as a historic monument. Welcome to the Vallée des Merveilles 2,300 meters above sea level!
MERCANTOUR NATIONAL PARK
A national park in the heart of an exceptional natural environment… Follow the guide!
On the border with Italian Piedmont, the Mercantour National Park is the last promontory of the Southern Alps before they take a steep dive into the Mediterranean. At an altitude of 3,143 meters, Gélas is the highest peak in the Mercantour National Park, just 50 kilometres from the sea as the crow flies! You will discover Mercantour’s great variety of landscapes, plants and animals that are not found anywhere else! In addition to its exceptional natural heritage, the Mercantour National Park offers a very precious cultural heritage with the Vallée de Merveilles and its 40,000 rock engravings.
MERVEILLES AND FONTANALBE: TWO ENCHANTING VALLEYS IN THE MERCANTOUR
Biological diversity, exceptional landscapes, unspoilt protected nature, cultural richness: the Mercantour is unique!
To the west of Mont-Bego perched more than 2,000 meters above sea level, the Vallée des Merveilles in the Mercantour National Park offers the austere beauty of a rocky chaos terrain landscape at the foot of imposing mountain peaks that are reflected in the many lakes with evocative names. About 5000 years ago, on rocks polished by glaciers, people carved tens of thousands of engravings across the enchanting valleys of Merveilles and Fontanalbe. There are some particularly symbolic engravings, which cover themes combining everyday life and beliefs.
VALLÉE DES MERVEILLES, MERCANTOUR NATIONAL PARK
Archaeological treasure: more than 40,000 rock engravings to discover…
The very stylized rock engravings in the Vallée des Merveilles mainly represent bull’s heads, teams of horses, weapons and grid patterns that may symbolize fields. Archaeological research shows that this place was probably a sanctuary, where the agro-pastoral populations in the region worshipped the fertility of the land.
VALLÉE DE FONTANALBE, MERCANTOUR NATIONAL PARK
An exceptional archaeological site in the heart of the Mercantour National Park…
On the eastern slope of Mont-Bego, the Fontanalbe valley lays out its engraved rocks in an open and welcoming place where the flora reveals all its richness. The rock engravings illustrate the pastoral life of the first shepherds in the Neolithic era and the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the renowned “sacred way”. Listed as a historic monument since 1989, this archaeological area straddling the two valleys is ripe for exploration with an exceptional historical, landscape, natural and cultural heritage: welcome to the Mercantour, one of the largest rock engraving sites in Europe.
HOW TO SEE THE ROCK ENGRAVINGS IN THE VALLÉE DES MERVEILLES?
Special regulations for an exceptional heritage site… Everything you need to know!
The two rock engraving sites are supervised by the Mercantour National Park and subject to protection regulations. Free movement is only allowed on the GR 52 and on the trails that join it from the Pas de l’Arpette and the Refuge de Fontanalbe. It is forbidden to leave it. On these routes are two discovery circuits, one in Fontanalbe and the other in Les Merveilles. They allow you to see many of the engraved rocks some of which have information boards. Pictograms remind visitors about other rules that protect the engravings.
OPT FOR A GUIDED TOUR OF EUROPE’S LARGEST OPEN AIR MUSEUM
Go with a state licenced guide approved by the Mercantour National Park.
From mid-June to the end of September, enthusiastic guides will tell you about the beliefs and lifestyles of the Neolithic peoples and will also introduce you to the mountain riches of the natural Mont-Bégo site. You can book a guided tour of the archaeological site, starting either from the Refuge des Merveilles or from Lacs Jumeaux.