This Nice-Breil-Tende-Cuneo railway line follows the Roya valley to cross the Alps into Italy. There are many viaducts and even more tunnels, with wild mountain-and-valley scenery. There are a lot of lovely mountain villages along the line, along with great places for hiking. During the winter, this train is a great solution to trips to the mountains, for skiing or just visiting, without the problems of driving on icy roads.
The rail line follows the Peillon river valley north out of Nice, goes up the Roya Valley, and passes under the mountains at the Col de Tende into Italy. Much of the line is separate from the surface of the earth, either passing over it on numerous viaducts or passing through it in many, many tunnels, one of them about 6 km long between l'Escarène and Sospel.
In the upper Roya Valley near Tende, the train actually makes a couple of full 360-degree loops while in tunnels. Even with the many tunnels, enough spectacular sights remain to make the trip a memorable event. The valleys, villages, mountains, streams and wild nature are far beyond what most city dwellers have even dreamed of.
The Nice-Cuneo train is now called the Train des Merveilles, with a more touristique image for attracting visitors to the Roya valley and the region of Tende, with hikes and guided trips into the Mercantour Park and the famous Vallée des Merveilles with the prehistoric rock engravings.
The town of Tende also has the Musée des Merveilles. The outsides of the railway carriages are decortively painted with bright colors and branded with images of the rock carvings and the village names.
The full trip between Nice and Cuneo takes about three hours; between Nice and Tende is less than two hours. You can take a morning trip up and a night trip back, but Cuneo has several hotels and is interesting enough to spend the night, visit, and rest up for the return trip. We also like Tende for an overnight stop, especially if you're doing some hiking. There are toilets on the train.
Nice Depart is from the main railway station (gare SNCF), or you can catch the train at the gare Nice St. Roche, on the eastern side of town.
Stops Along the Way, from Nice to Tende:
Nice main railway station
Nice St. Roche
Drap - Cantaron
Peillon Ste Thecle
Fontan - Saorge
(loops inside mountain, the track passes alongside itself)
You can get current schedules for specific times from the SNCF web (http://www.ter-sncf.com/paca/), or contact SNCF information, Tel: (33) 836 35 35 35, to verify the latest schedules and reservations.
Click on "Fiches horaires" (blue box, left side) to download PDF documents of the time-tables.
A connecting train between Cuneo and Torino (1h30) is available, but not listed here.
There is also a 25-minute train between Breil and Ventimiglia, on the Italian coast and part of the normal east-west train line between France and Italy. This makes it possible, for example, to go up from Nice-Breil- Cuneo, and return Cuneo-Breil-Ventimiglia, for continuing on east
Bicycles on the Train des Merveilles
You can take your bicycle with you on the train, at no extra cost. There are bicycle hooks in the luggage area of the railway cars. Information early 2012, from SNCF PACA information (0800 114 023)
Since the tracks pretty much follow the road, you can take this same trip by car.
The D2202 north from Nice is clearly marked for Sospel (40 km), passing l'Escarène, and the Col de Braus (1002 m). The D2202 joins the N204 near Breil-sur-Roya 21 km after Sospel, passing the Col de Brouis (879 m).
An alternate route with better roads is to take the autoroute from Nice to Ventimiglia in Italy (about 30 km east along the coast). From Ventimiglia, follow the S20 north until it crosses into France, becoming the N204, and arrives at Breil-sur-Roya.
From Breil, the N204/S20 follows Roya river, passing through Saorge, Tende, the Col de Tende, Limone-Piemonte (Italy) and finally arrives in Cuneo.