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Off the southeastern point of France's star and spanning some 32 km (20 miles), this archipelago could be a set for a pirate movie; in fact, it has been featured in several, thanks to a soothing microclimate and a wild and rocky coastline dotted with palms. And not only film pirates have made their appearances: in the 16th century the islands were seeded with convicts to work the land. They soon ran amok and used their adopted base to ambush ships heading into Toulon. A more honest population claims the islands today, which are made up of three main areas. Port-Cros is a national park, with both its surface and underwater environs protected. Levant has been taken over, for the most part, by nudists.
Porquerolles is the largest and best of the lot—and a popular escape from the modern world. Off-season, it's a castaway delight of pine forests, sandy beaches, and vertiginous cliffs above rocky coastline. Inland, its preserved pine forests and orchards of olives and figs are crisscrossed with dirt roads to be explored on foot or on bikes; except for the occasional jeep or work truck, the island is car-free. In high season (April to October), day-trippers pour off the ferries and surge to the beaches. For information on the islands, contact the tourism office of Hyères.
Elsewhere in Provence
- Abbaye de Montmajour
- The Camargue
- Crillon le Brave
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