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Wide-angle view of the Verdon river and gorges

- © Allard One / Shutterstock
The Gorges du Verdon
The Gorges du Verdon

Discovering one of the most spectacular sites in France

The Gorges du Verdon in short

The Gorges du Verdon, a veritable jewel in the crown of southern France, is Europe's largest canyon. The turquoise waters of Lake Sainte-Croix, the rocky walls, lush green vegetation and picturesque villages all combine to make for a magical holiday! As well as its natural appeal, this canyon is a must-see destination for outdoor sports: canoeing or kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, for a total immersion in the canyon's most beautiful landscapes.

Canyon des Gorges du Verdon avec le lac de Saint Croix en arrière plan

- © milosk50 / Shutterstock

Considered to be the largest canyon in Europe, the Gorges du Verdon are the result of the erosion of the limestone plateaux of Haute Provence by the waters of the Verdon river. They stretch for more than 33 kilometres and can reach (in some places) more than 700 metres deep and from 6 to 100 metres wide. A natural border between the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Var, the Gorges du Verdon are divided into two main sections. The Hautes Gorges du Verdon, also known as the Grand Canyon, stretches deep down from Castellane to Lac de Sainte-Croix: this is the most spectacular part of the Gorges du Verdon. Then, downstream from Lac de Sainte-Croix, the Basses Gorges du Verdon begin, passing through Quinson and Lac d'Esparron as far as Gréoux-les-Bains: less touristy, but also well worth a visit.

Sunset over the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

- © Stephane Debove / Shutterstock

The Verdon Regional Nature Park is an all-round playground for sports enthusiasts of all abilities: hiking, canyoning, rafting and canoeing, there's something for everyone. Thrills guaranteed! The Verdon is also world-renowned for its climbing spots, with over 2,500 routes on limestone rock.

The surrounding villages, just as charming as the Gorges du Verdon setting, are quieter and bear witness to the identity of Provence. These include Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which has been awarded the "Most Beautiful Villages in France" label, as well as Rougon, Castellane, Aiguines, La Palud-sur-Verdon and Puimoisson.

Route des crêtes, Gorges du Verdon, France

- © Oleksii Gavryliuk / Shutterstock

To link these villages through spectacular scenery, the Route des Crêtes is an unmissable 24km itinerary. Starting out from the village of La Palud-sur-Verdon, you can take to the air above the Verdon by car, motorbike or even bike! You'll come across numerous lookouts, as you will just about anywhere on the edge of the canyon: perched at an altitude of more than 700 metres, the views of the Gorges du Verdon are breathtaking.

Aerial view of Lac de Sainte-Croix, France

- © Roberto Lo Savio / Shutterstock

You can also swim on the banks of the Verdon, such as on the beaches of Lac de Sainte-Croix, the largest and best-known lake in the Gorges: several banks have been developed and there are a few spots where you can cool off in the water. This artificial lake covers more than 2,000 hectares and is the focus of many tourist activities, especially in summer. The area around the lake is the perfect place to put down your suitcases: its turquoise water makes it particularly attractive.

Designated a "Grand Site de France", the Gorges du Verdon have often inspired great artists, such as film-maker François Bertrand. He made an immersive film there with "Verdon Secret", shot with a drone and in 3D. More recently, Chanel opted for a setting worthy of the Verdon for its Spring-Summer 2018 Haute Couture show at Paris Fashion Week. The French fashion house recreated the gorges of the Verdon in the nave of the Grand Palais.

© VERDON SECRET 3D / Youtube

This exceptional site boasts a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Close to the low scrubland, you'll come across wild boar, goats and chamois. In the sky, you can see blue dragonflies, over 80 species of butterfly, as well as birds of prey such as the griffon vulture, golden eagle and harrier. In terms of vegetation, the site abounds in beech trees and white and green oaks. The Gorges du Verdon is the ideal destination for nature lovers and thrill-seekers, as well as heritage and Provencal culture enthusiasts: the perfect place to spend a holiday in the great outdoors, while exploring one of the most beautiful natural sites in France.

How to get there?

The most interesting part of the Gorges du Verdon stretches from Castellane to Gréoux-les-Bains, and the river forms the border between the departments of Var and Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence. In other words: this is not a very well-served region!

  • By car (or motorbike): almost essential for exploring the Gorges du Verdon in complete freedom, with your own vehicle or a hire car.
  • By train: the nearest stations to the Gorges du Verdon are the Aix-en-Provence TGV station and the Les Arcs - Draguignan station.
  • By plane: to get closer, you can choose to fly into Marseille-Provence airport or Nice-Côte d'Azur airport.
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Where to stay?

The Gorges du Verdon has been a tourist destination for some time now, and you'll find a wide choice of accommodation here. Generally speaking, the area around Lake Sainte-Croix is very convenient for exploring the region, as well as offering a pleasant setting.

There are plenty of campsites (often with a choice of tent, bungalow or mobile home), but you'll also find a host of hotels, from small country inns to chic 4-star establishments, not forgetting holiday rentals, self-catering cottages and guest houses.

Practical information

When should you visit the Gorges du Verdon?

  • July and August are high season in the Gorges du Verdon, and there are lots and lots of people - so be warned! The mercury rises, making certain activities such as hiking more difficult, but swimming in the lakes will be all the more fun.

  • May-June and September are the ideal seasons to discover the Gorges du Verdon, with fewer people but still plenty of outdoor activities available.

  • From November to April, we're out of season in the Gorges du Verdon, and almost everything is closed! There's nothing to stop you exploring the region and its villages, but you don't venture into the gorges in the middle of winter...

How long can I stay in the Gorges du Verdon?

Given the difficulty of accessing the gorges, it's best to spend at least one long weekend in the area, lasting three days. Ideally, a week's stay gives you plenty of time to explore the Gorges du Verdon and the surrounding area, which is packed with sites not to be missed.

When should you book your holiday in the Gorges du Verdon?

As early as possible: the Gorges du Verdon is a very popular destination in France, with a huge number of visitors in high season (July-August), so be sure to book early!

How do you get around the Gorges du Verdon?

Having your own vehicle is essential for exploring the Gorges du Verdon region. Motorcyclists will love the beautiful winding roads. Sports enthusiasts can opt to cycle, hike the trails or kayak down the Gorges.

Culinary specialities in the Gorges du Verdon region

In the Gorges du Verdon region, you'll find the typical flavours of the Provençal hinterland: sun-drenched fruit and vegetables from the south, which can be transformed into tian, Sisteron lamb, Provençal daube, fougasse and tapenade are all local specialities. All generously seasoned with thyme, oregano, savory, rosemary and the whole range of Provençal herbs.

What can you bring back from the Gorges du Verdon?

Among the local produce, stock up on olive oil, lavender (soap, essential oil), Provencal herbs and honey to take home. If you're looking for a decorative souvenir, Moustiers earthenware is still renowned, while the village of Aiguines is home to a revival of turned-wood crafts.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

Although very popular with tourists, never underestimate the danger inherent in a natural site as spectacular as the Gorges du Verdon. Take care, for example, to swim only in supervised areas: the waters of the Verdon are dangerous in places, so don't take any unnecessary risks.

Useful links
Verdon Regional Nature Park

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