Verdon Gorge. Provence. France. Description, photos, coordinates.
The Verdon Gorge (Gorges du Verdon) is the most beautiful gorge in France and one of the most spectacular places in the country. At times its depth reaches more than 700 meters! The most spectacular part of the gorge – the so-called Grand Canyon of Provence – is located between the villages of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
- Photo report from the trip – Verdon Gorge
The spring of the Verdon is at an altitude of 2150 m in the southwestern Alps, near the Col d’Allos. The river flows southwestwards towards Allos, Colmars, St. André les Alpes, then crosses the Castellane and reaches the canyon, the most beautiful and spectacular part of the Verdon Gorge.
After about 175 km it merges with the river Durance at Vinon sur Verdon. The name of the river comes from the green hue of the water in the river.
Between 1929 and 1975 the damming of the Verdon created several lakes: the lac de Castillon, Chaudanne, St Croix, Quinson and Esparron.
Grand Canyon du Verdon
The Verdon River is best known for its most spectacular section of gorge along the river bed, the Grand Canyon du Verdon. This limestone canyon, 21 kilometers long and up to 700 meters deep, is unique in Europe and one of the most popular and impressive sights in Provence. No doubt it is a breathtaking place!
This huge and splendid canyon runs through the Var and Alpes departments of Haute-Provence. The giant cliffs were the result of the erosion of limestone by the Verdon River. The area around Verdon Gorge is now transformed into the Verdon Nature Reserve (Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon) with its rich flora and fauna and stunning views.
The canyon was formed during the Quaternary Era, as a result of crustal movement during the growth of the Alps, and from the erosion of Jurassic limestone deposits by the Verdon River. In the 19th century, the deepest gorges were thought to be inaccessible. Only a few local lumberjacks dared to climb down the ropes looking for suitable trees.
See Verdon Canyon:
There are three trails along the canyon that allow you to admire the beauty of the Verdon Gorge (Gorges du Verdon).
Route des Gorges
The northern route : rive droite (“First Bank”) or route des Gorges . The route follows the north side of the gorge, from Castellane to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie along the D952 and the route des Crêtes (D23). This is a dramatic road with little greenery around it. Instead, there will be cliffs along the road and sometimes above it. The most beautiful views are at the beginning and end of the road, although in the middle it branches off from the deepest part of the gorge to the side. It is marked in brown on the map (below).
Route de la Corniche Sublime
The southern route is the rive gauche (left bank) or route de la Corniche Sublime. The route goes from Aiguines to Castellane, along the D71, D90 and D995 to the Pont de Soleils where it merges with the D952. The road is two lanes with what appear to be fairly reliable wooden fences, although this is where you’re most likely to encounter tourist buses. The scenery here is quite green (as a result, trees sometimes obscure views of the Verdon Gorge).
Route des Crêtes
The best way to see the Gorges du Verdon from the north is to take the route des Crêtes , (red on the map) . This circular route is even steeper and narrower, with dizzying precipices (often without guard rails). Part of the route is a single-lane road.
The picturesque little villages at the foot of the cliffs retain their old Provençal appearance . In addition to architectural sights, tourists can enjoy a wide range of sporting activities. The most popular are the mountain hikes – hiking – along one of the following trails:
Hiking trails along the Verdon Gorge:
- Martel trail (trail map, photos)
- Imbut trail (Sentier de l’Imbut)
- Rancoumas Belvedere
- Bastidon Trail
- fishermen’s trail
To get to the Verdon Gorge
There is a shuttle bus from the town of Castellane to the Gorges du Verdon. Schedule:
- Every day during the Easter vacations (zone B only from April 21 to May 6).
- Every day from July 1 to September 18.
- Every weekend, holidays and ” ponts ” from April 21 to June 30 and September 1 to 18.
- Travel between Saint-André-les-Alpes and Saint-Julien-du-Verdon on Thursdays only from August 13 to 21.
Price: from 2 to 6 € depending on the route (information from the company or tourist office)
Towns along the Verdon Gorge:
Meaning the towns along the Verdon River and the entire gorge. The most spectacular part of the gorge has no settlements – only a one-way (in its main part) road with places to stop by car. But if you’re planning a trip to the Verdon Gorge, you can plan an overnight stay in one of these towns:
- Moustiers Ste Marie.
- Gréoux les Bains
- Esparron de Verdon
- La Palud s/Verdon
- St Jurs
- St Martin de Brômes
- Ste Croix du Verdon
- St Julien du Verdon
- La Rochette
Can you tell me if it is possible to buy tickets for the shuttle bus online in advance, or are they only sold on the spot?
Unfortunately, you can’t buy tickets online.
Can you advise me where is the best place to start your journey through the gorge? By car? And on foot?
I liked it best on the right side of the gorge arc (on the map above – the red marked route along the river). But pushetye assumes mostly by car, if you plan to ride along the entire ushelia, it’s quite a long road there. Although you can look for maps with walking routes along the ishel, but they will be local. If you want to see the whole isle, you need the car. There are many places to stop along the road to admire it on your own.
Gorges du Verdon is one of the main sights in France. It is located in the Haute-Provence, between the villages of Castellane and Moustier-Sainte-Marie. The unique natural wonder combines spectacular natural attractions, opportunities for a variety of outdoor activities and a great place to swim.
The area, now called Provence, was under water several hundred million years ago. The sea dried up and its invertebrate inhabitants gradually formed huge layers of limestone. A fast-flowing river later joined the process, which washed out the limestone and gradually began to turn the place into what today we call the Verdon Gorge.
Panorama over the Gorges du Verdon Gorge – Google Maps
Archaeological research suggests that the gorge is about 200-250 million years old. However, the first written mention of it on maps appeared only at the end of the VIII century, before it was described only as an unpleasant obstacle on the way. The gorge became popular as a tourist attraction only on the wave of Romanticism in the 19th century.
Tourism in Provence developed with difficulty – the terrain was difficult to travel by transport, and the complete absence of infrastructure made it impossible to stay here for long periods. Hiking here made only small groups of scientists and loners, who could not fully disclose all the local secrets. In 1905, thanks to a group of scientist Edward Alfred Martel, the gorge was given a detailed map.
In 1929-1975 they began to build dams for power plants, the gorge acquired five artificial lakes, one of which – St. Croix, becomes one of the main attractions of the place.
What to see
The gorge is 19 km long and more than 700 meters deep, making it the deepest in all of Europe. The width along the entire length varies, ranging from 200 meters to 1.5 km. The valley is located in the Upper Provence, near the French Riviera. Here the whiteness of the cliffs, the greenery of plants and the azure of the river create an incredibly beautiful landscape that attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Some of the cliffs in the gorge have an unusual flat cut. Limestone rocks often fall off and expose the remains of ancient mollusks, which attracts researchers and archaeologists. So, even the average traveler can explore the blocks of rock and touch history.
Lake St. Croix
Lake St. Croix appeared in the gorge in 1974. Artificially created, it acts as a reservoir. The maximum depth of the reservoir is 93 meters. It is known that during the creation of the lake was flooded St. Croix de Verdon village of the same name. Now the village of Le Sal-sur-Verdon is located near the gorge.
The lake is often bathed in. Near Sainte-Croix, there are several campsites and watercraft rentals. Very close to the gorge, the Artubi bridge is built, from where extreme lovers often make jumps.
The river originates in the Alps and flows from a height of 2150 m towards Saint-André les Alpes, a French municipality. The waters of the Verdon flow through the Castellane district and then reach the gorge. Navigating between the steep limestone cliffs of the Verdon Valley, covered with lush trees and shrubs, the stream flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The length of the river is 176 kilometers.
The most popular version of the origin of the name of the river says that “Verdon” came from the French “vert”, which means “green”. Although the true origin is unknown, this does not stop you from enjoying the beauty of the deep-water Verdon. The river’s current allows for active boating and catamaran sailing. Hikers of the gorge will also appreciate the view of the azure Verdon from a height of 700 meters.
The Great Verdon Canyon
The main component of Verdon Gorge is a deep limestone canyon. It was formed due to the erosion of deposits from the Jurassic period, its high cliffs hide many caves. Previously, this place was hard to reach, only loggers came here. Now the canyon is visited by climbers and tourists from all over the world.
The Verdon Cliffs vary in height, but several roadways have been paved on them. Although the highways are fenced, they are winding serpentines, so caution will not hurt while driving. There are also hiking trails. The most famous of these is the Martel Trail. It is named after the explorer who created the map of the gorge.
Active recreation in Verdon Gorge
Verdon Gorge is a stunning creation of nature and keeps many secrets. You can experience its atmosphere thanks to the organized active recreation.
There are organized flights over the gorge in balloons, helicopters or paragliders. Usually the flights last for 1-1.5 hours. During this time, participants enjoy the view of the Alps, lavender fields and steep cliffs of the canyon.
In France, flights over the Verdon Gorge are arranged by the company AeroProvence. Before the flight, the group listens to the rules of conduct on board and watches the balloon fill up. The excursion usually begins early in the morning, subject to optimum meteorological conditions. Upon completion, each participant receives a certificate.
Verdon Gorge itineraries
There are several trails along the gorge. There are trails for pedestrians as well as roads that can be used for hiking. Routes vary in difficulty, so each hiker will find a path to his liking. The walk lasts 7-10 hours, and it is recommended to bring sunglasses, a flashlight, and warm clothes.
One of the popular routes is Route des Gorges, it runs along the northern side of the gorge and captures the roads D952 and D23. It begins in the town of Castellane and ends in the village of Moustier-Saint-Marie. The nature of the trail is steep and rocky.
Route de la Corniche Sublime is longer and takes roads D71, D90 and D995. It also starts from Castellane, runs along the gorge, and ends near the municipality of Eguin. Along the way there is a lot of different greenery and a picturesque view of the Verdon cliffs and the river. The Martel, Imbut and Bastidon trails are also available.
Among the travelers in the gorge are often found climbers. They are attracted by the high steep cliffs. Limestone rocks crumble, so climb carefully to avoid falling rocks. Climbing 600-700 meters high is a great way to get that adrenaline rush and enjoy the view of the azure blue river.
Canoeing and Kayaking
Canoeing or kayaking the Verdon gives you a chance to get into the heart of the gorge and explore the caves hidden in the rocks. You must have the strength and patience to paddle the river, as paddling can be difficult.
Organizers of water trips often offer accompaniment and tell interesting facts about the history of the natural landmark. You can swim both during the day and in the evening. The latter option is attractive because the rocks, plants and the river appear in the rays of the setting sun.
How to get to the Verdon Gorge in France
The Verdon Gorge is located in the south of France and is surrounded by small villages. There are several ways to get here. One of them is as part of a tour group. Details can be found on the official website. There is also a bus number 19 from the town of Castellane.
You can start to the famous canyon from the village of Moustier-Saint-Marie. Follow the D952 to Lake St. Croix. You can pass it and continue on foot to the gorge on the road. If you wish, stop at the lake and rent a boat, so you will take a water trip around Verdon.
Not far from the village is the municipality of Egin. From there you can take the D71 road to the valley, which runs along the river. The road is winding and steep, so use caution when walking.
Route to the Verdon Gorge from the village of Moustier-Saint-Marie – Google Maps
On the other side is the town of Castellane, from there go towards the gorge on the D952. At first, the road follows closely to Verdon, but then it moves away heavily from the river to the side. To avoid losing sight of the gorge, take the D23 traffic circle.
It will also not be difficult to reach the Verdon Gorge from Nice by own or rented car. Follow the D2 or D4 to Castellane, and from there take the D952. The D23 and D71 are more winding, though they have great views. It’s best to choose an off-road vehicle for the trip, as the roads change elevation sharply.
From Nice to Castellane you can take a cab. Kiwitaxi shuttle services are convenient. There are also local companies operating in Nice. To get to the Verdon Gorge from Castellane, use the Vincent, Verdon, and Castellane services.