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Declared a national park in 1979, Mercantour lies in the Alpes-Maritimes, along the border with Italy and covers an area of diverse habitats with a rich and varied flora and fauna. About 80km long and only 10km wide the park is long and narrow and includes elements of both the Mediterranean and alpine biomes.
The habitats include cliffs and scree slopes, coniferous and deciduous woodland, Mediterranean scrub and alpine grassland. The highest point of the park is the 3,143 metre Cime du Gélas and there are picturesque alpine lakes.
Birds you can see here include:
European Honey Buzzard, Bearded Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Rock Partridge, Grey Partridge, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Little Owl, Tengmalm's Owl, Green Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Water Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Common Dipper, Common Wren, Alpine Accentor, Black Redstart, Song Thrush, Common Firecrest, Willow Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Wallcreeper, Spotted Nutcracker, Alpine Chough, Red-billed Chough, Northern Raven, White-winged Snowfinch, Citril Finch
Large mammals found in the area include two reintroduced species, Alpine Ibex from Italy and European Mouflon from Corsica, as well as the alien Sika Deer, introduced from Asia, and the native Chamois. Carnivores include Wildcat, European Badger and [European [Pine Marten]]. The Alpine Marmot is common.
The varied habitats and combination of Central European and Mediterranean influences has led to a remarkably rich flora including stately Saxifraga florentula, endemic to the area and found only between 2,500 and 3, 000 metres.
Other notable plants include Saxifraga pedemontana, Alpine and Trumpet Gentians, and King-of-the-Alps (Eritrichium nanum).
History and Use
The rugged peaks are very popular with climbers and the area is heavily visited. The area is also of great archeological interest with possibly the best collection of Bronze Age rock engravings in the Val des Merveilles and Fontanable Cirque.
Areas of Interest
Access and Facilities
The peripheral zone of the park has plenty of accommodation in the form of hotels, guest-houses and campsites with refuges for climbers and hikers in the central zone. In addition there are marked hiking trails, guided walks and an information centre.
Mercantour can be reached by road from Nice or Barcelonette. The village of Boreon makes an excellent base.
Content and images originally posted by Steve