Home France Gorges du Verdon – France – Complete Travel Guide

Gorges du Verdon – France – Complete Travel Guide

written by ipanematravels 5th August 2017
Gorges du Verdon, the Verdon River, France, canyon, sentier martel trail

The Gorges du Verdon or the Grand Canyon du Verdon is one of the biggest canyons in Europe and for sure one of the most beautiful places in France. It is located in south-eastern France on the border between the departments Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (in the north) and Var (in the south).

We chose Gorges du Verdon as a setting for our summer holidays – 2 weeks of exploring this region of Provence with mesmerizing views and picturesque villages. I wish we had more time as this place has so much to offer: from sunbathing at the shores of the Lake of Sainte Croix to rafting in the wild waters of the river Verdon, or hiking, bird-watching, paragliding, quirky villages and a lot more…

If you want to detox from the city life and find some peace, and recover from your stressful corporate 9 to 5 job, the Gorges du Verdon is what you need.

Find out all the information you need about the things to do and the things to see in my complete travel guide of Gorges du Verdon.

Information about the region

Gorges du Verdon

The Gorges du Verdons were formed during the Quaternary period through erosion and fracturing of the limestone deposits in an area which some 200 M years ago was covered by a sea.

Fast facts about the canyon:

  • 25 km long
  • 700 m deep
  • from 6 to 100 m wide at the bottom and from 200 to 1500 m at the rim

 

The Verdon

The river starts its journey in the south-western Alps and flows for 166 km before it joins the Durance near Vinon-sur-Verdon. You will be hypnotized by the emerald green waters of Verdon! This unique colour is not due to any magic or to your imagination, the waters are emerald green because of the fluoride and a certain type of micro algae present in the river.

Not all beauty in the region of Verdon is natural, the man has also contributed to enhancing the landscape. There are five artificial lakes built on the river, the most famous of which is the Lake of Sainte-Croix.

The Lake of Sainte-Croix

The lake has appeared after the valley was flooded as a result of building the Dam of Sainte-Croix. The construction started in 1971 and finished in 1975. Together with being one of the biggest man-made lakes in France (about 10 km long and 3 km wide), it’s also one of the newest. It’s been standing there for a little bit more than 40 years now. Besides, serving pure economic purposes – being a fresh water reservoir for the whole Provence and securing electricity for the region, the lake has become also a popular touristic attraction. There are numerous sand beaches on the turquoise waters of the lake and the lake is also quite popular among the water-sport fans. The beautiful turquoise colour of the lake is due to the clay deposits.

What to do?

Road trip

The canyon is easily accessible by car. You can make a complete loop around it, which will take a whole day, as you will need to cover some 100 km. There are two options: you can either take first the south rim (rive gauche – Route de Corniche Sublime) travelling anticlockwise, or clockwise starting with the north rim (rive droite ). You can start this trip wherever it suites you depending on your accommodation. However, there’s a section of the north rim at Palud-sur-Verdon, which can be taken only clockwise.

South rim – rive gauche – Route de Corniche Sublime

We started our trip at Aiguines as we were staying there for the holidays. If you start somewhere else, you should stop at this small village to enjoy a breathtaking 360° almost bird-view panorama of the Lake of Sainte-Croix. Don’t miss it! Head from Aiguines anticlockwise following road D71 to Pont de l’Artuby. Along the way stop at Col d’Illoire for a beautiful view down on the river Verdon from some 967 m altitude, then continue via the Fayet tunnel (this is the highest point of the south rim) to the bridge on the Artuby River. The bridge is 182 m high and is the highest place in Europe from where you can jump with a bungee. You will have some stunning views from the bridge. (How many times did I say “stunning”? Well, you will hear it a few more times together with “breathtaking”, but the Gorge du Verdon is the very embodiment of these adjectives.) Follow the road for some even more great views at Balcons de la Mescla – the place where the river Artuby flows into the Verdon.

 

After Balcons de la Mescla you can either continue on D71 to Comps-sur-Artuby, then take D21 and D102 to Castellane, or turn right on D71 to D90 towards Trigance, then on D955 and D952 to Castellane. If you choose the second option you will travel twice a part of the D952 on your way back to Moustiers.

At the time of writing this post there are road works on Corniche Sublime and different sections of D71 will be closed in 2017. Check before you leave.

North rim – rive droite

From the beautiful village of Castellane continue on D952 all the way to Point Sublime. From here you can opt to the village of Rougon or continue to La Palud-sur-Verdon. The section to Point Sublime follows the rim of the canyon with some amazing views. At Point Sublime you can drive further to Couloir Samson and Chalet de la Maline, where the hiking route Martel (Sentier Martel) begins. Before Palud-sur-Verdon you can opt for the loop road, or otherwise continue all the way along this scenic route on the north rim to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

After a stop at Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, take D957 all the way to the lake. Pont du Galetas offers one of the most beautiful views towards the lake and the entrance of the Gorges du Verdon. Continue further on D957 and at Chabassole turn left on D19 which will bring you all the way up to Aiguines, where we started our journey.

Loop road – D23 – Route de Crêtes

Before you arrive in La Palud-sur-Verdon you can take D23 – one of the most famous balcony roads in the world. It is as narrow as beautiful, offering some epic views on the Gorges du Verdon. It is not for the beginning driver, as it meanders and twists and hides surprises after each hairpin turn. Just drive carefully and you will witness one of the most beautiful sceneries with vertiginous drops, gaping crevices and mesmerizing views. There are 14 belvederes on this 23 km long road. In the summer it can be quite busy with long queues of cars and caravans.

You can take the loop road also as a day trip. Then, I will advise you to do this early in the morning. Thus, you can avoid the queues and it won’t be that hot, if you are there in the summer. Just keep in mind to travel in a clockwise direction.

Day trips

My favourite part about staying at one place during the summer holidays is that you can enjoy day trips and get to know the area. That’s why it is better if you choose a place that is central to a region and that offers a variety of activities. If you are staying in Aiguines, the way we did, you can take day trips to a bunch of places:

Bauduen-sur-Verdon

If you choose for the more scenic road – follow D19 and then D71 all the way down to Les Salles-sur-Verdon, and then take D957, continue on D49 to Bauduen. This route takes about 30 min and is 26 km. If you choose for the faster route, take D71 at Aiguines, then merge on D19 and continue on D619. At the intersection with D957 turn right onto D957. At the intersection with D49, turn right and continue to Bauduen. This route is about 5 minutes faster and is 22 km. I know it looks a bit complicated to go to Bauduen but we were travelling this distance almost each day for a lunch at this particular café with a lovely view on the lake and the second best guallette with ham and eggs that I have ever eaten (first best, of course, are home made by a lovely French family I stayed with many years ago).

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Take D19 to Chabassole and then turn right to D957. D957 will continue to Moustiers as D952. The journey takes less than 25 min without traffic and you will cover some 16 km

Castellane

It takes a bit longer to go to Castellane, about 1 hr 15 min. From Aiguines take D71, then turn left onto D90 and after Trigance turn left onto D955, then merge onto D952 and continue all the way to Castellane. This route is about 55 km long.

You can read more about those places in my other post on the most beautiful places in Provence.

French Riviera

If you are prepared to travel a bit more, like hour and a half – two hours, you can consider some of the most popular places on the French Riviera like Saint Tropez (92 km / 1 hr 50 min), Cassis (135 km / 2 hrs), Marseille (140 km / 2 hrs), Nice (135 km / 2 hrs), Cannes (110 km / 1 hr 45 min), Antibes (120 km / 1 hr 50 min).

The rest of Provence

Aiguines can be considered also as a base to travel around in the whole Provence. Any place is to be reached in less than 3 hours: Camargue (200 km / 2 hrs 30 min), Aix-en-Provence (110 km / 1 hr 40 min), Avignon (175 km / 2 hrs 30 min), Arles (185 km / 2 hrs 15 min), Orange (185 km / 2 hrs 30 min), Grasse (100 km / 2 hrs).

 

 

Have you ever dreamed of the lavender fields of Provence? You can drive to Valensole (45 km / 1 hr), where you can find those purple waves of purplish-blue lavender following each curve of the plateau. And if you are in search of those little charming villages, consider visiting the places included in the official list of the Most Beautiful Villages of France.

With the 2 weeks that we had in the Gorges du Verdon region and all the places we wanted to visit and the things we wanted to do we made it only to Saint Tropez.

Hiking

If you are a nature lover or you enjoy dramatic views, the Gorges du Verdon are the perfect place for your holidays. The region is very popular for its hiking trails, the two most famous ones being the Sentier Martel and the Sentier Imbut.

Sentier Martel

During our holidays we did the Martel trail. It’s a part of the bigger GR4 route (Grande Randonnée 4) and is one of the most famous hiking trails in Europe. It is named after Édouard-Alfred Martel, the father of the French speleology.

Do not venture on this trail if you don’t have good hiking shoes! You don’t need to be a very experienced mountaineer to do it, at least I wasn’t when I hiked the trail, however I must admit there were a few sections that pushed me to the limit. You have to be in a good condition and if you have difficulties climbing or descending stairs or if you are afraid of heights, it’s better if you skip it. All in all, it was a great experience and I was rewarded with some literally breathtaking views. Bring with you enough water and food and do not forget a flashlight as you will be walking through two tunnels which are not illuminated.

The best way to walk the route is to start at Chalet Maline and to finish at Point Sublime. However, you can walk it the other way round, as well. If you chose Chalet Maline as a starting point, it will be easier to walk and the sun will be in a favourable position to take pictures. The trail takes about 7-8 hours, depending on whether you will include 1 hour detour to the Mescla, and of course on how many times you are going to stop for taking pictures, picnicking, or simply enjoying the scenery. You can choose to leave your car either at the parking at Auberge Point Sublime or at the Chalet Maline and then take the bus either at the beginning or at the end of the adventure. My advice is to leave early in the morning and drive to Point Sublime. Leave your car there and take the bus to Chalet Malin. Thus, at the end of the day, when you are tired, you just need to hop on the car and drive back to your accommodation. No need to wait for the bus. Or you can fancy a dinner at the Auberge.

Water sports

White-water sports on the Verdon River

The Gorges du Verdon are the perfect place for those who love water sports. The choice is great: you can do kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hydrospeed or take an air boat. If you love water adventure you can go for water rambling – super fun as you will float down the river.

Lake of Sainte-Croix

Water sports on the lake are less dynamic. You can hire a canoe, kayak or a pedal boat. You can also wind-surf in the lake or sail. Motor boats are not allowed on the lake.

We hired a canoe near Pont du Galetas and went all the way from the lake into the Gorges du Verdon. We enjoyed immensely the ride, but it can be overwhelming if there are too many people and you have to watch out for the “traffic”.

Where to stay?

Being quite touristy and popular there are numerous accommodation opportunities in the Gorges du Verdon region: campings, gîtes, hotels and auberges.

You can check for the best deals here:

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I have paid myself for the whole trip and all activities we did. However this post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link below and book afterwards an accommodation I may earn a small amount at no extra costs for you. This helps me run the blog.



Booking.com

We stayed in a camping above the small village of Aiguines, from where we had those amazing views on the Lake of Saint-Croix.

Where to eat?

Well, I’m not going to give you any recommendations. Try to discover your version of Provence. Eat each time at a different place, try different things! Be bold! Experiment!

Two weeks of summer holidays are over before you know. They will be never enough to immerse in this beautiful region, but you can explore quite a lot of it. We couldn’t do everything we wanted, but now when I close my eyes I still can hear the crickets and can scent the anise aroma coming from my glass with pastis and I know that down there are the turquoise waters of the lake, I just need to open my eyes. But I don’t do it. I keep enjoying the song of the crickets.

By now you should have already noticed that France is one of my favourite destinations. Have you already been to Provence and do you want to discover another region of France, you might like visiting some of the most charming places along the Dordogne River. If you are looking for a short trip destination, you might try my suggestion on Fougéres and Giverny, featuring a stop at Le Mont Saint-Michel.

Do you like this travel guide? Pin it!

 

 

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36 comments

bruceschinkel19 4th September 2017 at 12:32 am

I love exploring places like this, so now I have a new one to add to my list! Such incredible views, and i have to agree that bridge is stunning 🙂

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Wanderlust Vegans 3rd September 2017 at 7:54 pm

Such a beautiful place. I had no idea that a magical place like this was in France!! I have added it to my bucket list. We love hiking, this would be a perfect holiday.

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Neha Verma 2nd September 2017 at 11:32 am

I love these kind of water bodies. Give me a place up there in the mountains and I could look at the lake forever. Although the dam formation took 4 years, but it must have brought so much changes. The lake looks wonderful.

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Traveling Well For Less 2nd September 2017 at 1:05 am

Wow, I had no idea that the Gorges du Verdon was so stunning!What a beautiful area to explore. Love all the handy maps that you’ve included in this post.

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gokulr27 31st August 2017 at 7:03 am

Wow…this place looks like paradise. I would love to go kayaking in those blue waters. It would be great to paddle across surrounded by those huge cliffs. The pictures look stunning.

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jordansinclairblog 31st August 2017 at 2:16 am

Take me there now! How could somewhere be so beautiful! This is definitely on my dream destination list now! I’m incredibly impressed and inspired. Thank you!

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roamonurownn 30th August 2017 at 7:58 pm

Never heard of this place, but after reading your post i am completely in love with it. and those stunning pictures, it seems the place would be more amazing.Love such a detailed guide

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Marvi 30th August 2017 at 8:24 am

Ooohhh… Gorgeous place! This is a new place to add on my bucketlist. It looks amazing! 🙂 I’m sure paragliding here is incredible with these views!

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Taiss TogetherToWherever 30th August 2017 at 2:59 am

What an absolutely gorgeous place! I love the greenery! That man-made lake sure has a lot of purpose there. I think I could spend an entire summer there. It would be so fun!

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WorldGlimpses 29th August 2017 at 1:47 pm

You got me with that first photo, it looks amazing! Didn’t know that there is such a gorge in France, and even more so that it’s among the biggest canyons in Europe. I really enjoy landscapes like this one, so would have to keep this in mind next time I come to France. 😉

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ipanematravels 29th August 2017 at 7:22 pm

Thanks! And you won’t be disappointed!

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One Girl: One World 27th August 2017 at 8:22 am

Ohh I’m totally pinning this! I love road trips and haven’t done one in France yet. That bridge is iconic! Reminds me of Big Sur in California

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ipanematravels 27th August 2017 at 12:43 pm

You should do it one day, especially the loop road! It is breathtaking. I myself haven’t been to Big Sur, will check it out.

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Familyearthtrek 17th August 2017 at 1:55 pm

Ohh wow what a complete guide! Bravo! We almost got there this summer but instead we stop half way because we decided that it was to far for our two years old to sit in the car. It doesnt matter because we will be there one day and ahe will be older so she could enjoy it more. What I like about the Verdon de gorges area is that it is close to everything around. Just a few hours drive to the sea and the famous lavander field. I will pin it!❤️

http://www.familyearthtrek.com

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:31 am

I’m happy you liked my guide! I’m so in love with this region 🙂 Well, you should certainly return to this area one day.

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Familyearthtrek 20th August 2017 at 11:35 am

Yes I surely will!❤️

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Sarah 17th August 2017 at 4:38 am

Before reading this post I had never even heard of the Gorges du Verdon so thanks for opening my eyes to this beautiful place!! I would love to spend some time here and would especially like to try some water sports on the lake. That blue water is out of this world! I loved this guide so much I wanted to pin it but I didn’t see a little button on the photo to do so, just thought you should know! 🙂
detourswithdaisey.com

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:34 am

The funny part about the water is that the lake is blue and the river is green. Absolute magic when you move from the lake to the river. Thanks for mentioning about the pinning button. I’ll check why it doesn’t show on the picture.

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Lyne 16th August 2017 at 11:30 pm

I think I never read such a detailed and so nicely put guide before ! That’s some really good job. Gorges du Verdon have been on my bucket list since last year to go hiking, but I still didn’t manage to visit your guide makes me even more eager to visit now ! But
Also your photos are beautiful !

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:37 am

Thanks Lyne! I hope one day you will be able to visit the place. The thing with bucket lists is that instead with going smaller with the time, they grow bigger.. At least with me 🙂

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Megan Elliott (@LushtoBlush) 16th August 2017 at 10:32 pm

Oh my gosh!! I didn’t even know this canyon existed! This is seriously so beautiful. Your pictures are incredible!

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:44 am

Thanks, Megan!

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Céline CLudik 16th August 2017 at 10:28 pm

I always love reading post about my own country 😉 Your photos have perfectly captured the beauty of this region ! This gorge is very popular with tourists, who can drive around its rim, rent kayaks to travel on the river, or hike… The natural canyon that was notably carved by the now turquoise-green Verdon River is a splendid area that attracts visitors from all walks of life. It is an outstanding destination which is worth visiting 🙂

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:40 am

Thanks! I appreciate your words. France is a top destination, at least for Dutch tourists 🙂

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lifeoutside2by2 16th August 2017 at 10:11 pm

Wow! Thats super comprehensive! Saving it 🙂

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:40 am

Thanks!

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Miranda Knudtson 16th August 2017 at 9:47 pm

Everyone always talks about the city life in France, so I LOVED that you highlighted the beautiful nature this country has to offer! The Lake of Sainte-Croix is probably one of the BLUEST lakes I’ve ever seen!

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:42 am

Thanks Miranda! I like to go off-the-beaten track. And France is so much more than cities…, which I also love 🙂

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renadad 16th August 2017 at 9:09 pm

This guide is amazing! I have not been to France and was fascinated to see such a rugged landscape.

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ipanematravels 20th August 2017 at 11:43 am

Thanks! The landscape in France is so diverse and I was just showing a tiny bit of it. I hope one day you will be able to visit the country.

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Ruth 7th August 2017 at 12:53 am

You photos are gorgeous! I love places like this, so, one day I need to go there. There is so much to do in Provence. I feel like I need to months to see all the towns, villages and natural places I want to visit (and I keep discovering more). #blogpostsaturday

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delacroixllc 6th August 2017 at 5:25 pm

Your photos have captured the beauty of this region perfect! I cannot get over how blue Lake Sainte-Croix is. Just unbelievable! The architecture is so unique and charming too. I adore France, but clearly missed out on a lot. I will absolutely need to return to check out these spots.

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Lenise Calleja 6th August 2017 at 1:12 pm

Love this post. I visited Provence including Gorges du Verdon 2 years ago and absolutely loved it! Did not have time to do any water sports however. I also visited the villages surrounding the lake and my favourites were Aiguines and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

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The Wanderlust Dietitian 6th August 2017 at 12:51 am

omgosh! How beautiful is this area! This is hiker/kayaker heaven and I need to book another visit to France!

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snowtoseas 5th August 2017 at 11:55 pm

Such a thorough and helpful guide about Gorges du Verdon and the surrounding area! I had never heard of the canyon before, but after reading your post, I would definitely love to visit it.

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ipanematravels 5th August 2017 at 11:58 pm

Thanks! It’s an amazing place to visit. I am only the messenger :).

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