Iles de Lérins in Cannes
A Tranquil Escape on the Cote d'Azur
If you find yourself down by Cannes' picturesque coastline, your eye will inevitably be drawn to the turquoise-blue waters of the Cote d'Azur. Most of your view is of unobstructed ocean that melts into the clear-blue skies. However, you'll also notice a group of islands roughly half a mile from the coast. These are the Iles de Lérins, and they provide a peaceful day trip away from the hustle and bustle of busy Cannes.
There are four islands in the group, but only two are inhabited: Ile Sainte-Marguerite and Ile Saint-Honorat.
This is the larger of the two islands at 3km long and is most famous for its fortress prison, where the mysterious 'Man in the Iron Mask' was once held captive. The fort itself is now an interesting museum, where you can visit the actual cells where prisoners were housed. In addition to the small village on the island, there's also an abundance of natural beauty to see. You can take a leisurely stroll around the island in only an hour or two, and there are plenty of pleasant beaches where you can enjoy a relaxing picnic or a refreshing swim.
While Ile Saint-Honorat is the smaller of the two main islands, it arguably has an even more interesting history than its nearby neighbour. It was first populated in the 5th century by Saint Honoratus and his disciples, and it has had strong ties to religion and pilgrimage ever since. The 15th century monastery on the island is still home to dozens of Cistercian monks. The monks even make and sell artisan food and drink products, including some excellent wine.
Visiting the Islands for Yourself
Getting to the islands is surprisingly simple, with ferries departing from Cannes and further down the bay in Nice throughout the day. The trip from Cannes takes just 15 minutes and costs only a few Euros. While Cannes certainly has the glitz and the glamour, the Iles des Lérins are a haven for peace and tranquillity.