Many people see one photo of the turquoise waters of the Gorges du Verdon in France and know, without a doubt, that it needs to be added to their bucket list. That’s how I ended up there. A mere photo. A germ of an idea. And then, there it was, shimmering before my eyes, more exquisite than the photos.
Where Is The Gorges Du Verdon?
The Gorges du Verdon is in the South of France. More specifically, it crosses the departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Var in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
If you are planning a trip to Aix-en-Provence or the French Riviera, France’s stunning Gorges du Verdon makes an easy day trip. From the French Riviera, the Gorges du Verdon is about a 2-hour drive northwest. The Gorges du Verdon is also the perfect addition to a South of France itinerary featuring hilltop villages and lavender fields.
Pro Tip: Here are 11 reasons to fall in love with Provence.
What Is The Gorges Du Verdon?
The Gorges du Verdon is one of the largest canyons in Europe. It was carved by the Verdon River, which flows for 15.5 miles and empties into the man-made lake Lac de Sainte-Croix. The limestone cliffs range in height throughout the canyon but soar, at times, to 0.4 miles. The views are spectacular from the clifftops.
And the shimmering turquoise water? The natural and magical color of the Verdon River comes from a combination of a specific algae and fluoride.
Given this stunning natural setting, there are plenty of activities to do in the Gorges du Verdon, and the landmark draws millions of visitors every year. But it wasn’t always like that!
This part of France was underwater about 250 million years ago. As a result of geological miracles like plates moving to create the Alps and glaciers shifting and melting, the Gorges du Verdon was formed, with its soft and remarkable limestone cliffs that we enjoy today.
What To Do At The Gorges Du Verdon
The Gorges du Verdon is a paradise for every type of traveler. You can take it easy or go hard-core. Possibilities include road trips with spectacular viewpoints, visiting small towns, hiking, rock climbing, relaxing on the shore of Lac de Sainte-Croix, and a multitude of both water and extreme sports.
A thoroughly enjoyable and not-too-strenuous way to enjoy the Gorges du Verdon is to rent a paddleboard or kayak at Lac de Sainte-Croix. Paddling through the emerald-green water and letting it run over your fingers is quite the experience. Pull your kayak up to the shore and gawk at the brave cliff jumpers. Arrive early in the day, since this is a very popular activity. Bring a picnic and relax on the shores of Lac de Sainte-Croix.
Pro Tip: This company rents kayaks, canoes, and pedal boats
Up for a road trip? Follow La Route des Crêtes (“the Ridge Road”), a 15-mile circuit around the canyon. It is an incredibly panoramic route with multiple viewpoints and opportunities to watch soaring vultures and peregrine falcons. Go early in the day to beat the heat and avoid lineups at the viewpoints.
If you are short on time, the view from the Galetas Bridge is breathtaking. From one side of the bridge, there is a view of Lac de Sainte-Croix, and from the other, there is a postcard-perfect panorama of the Gorges du Verdon. Here you will see all the kayaks and pedal boats making their way up the river. The parking is such that you can stand on the bridge and enjoy the scenery.
Hikers will be in heaven with all the trails and challenges presented by this region. One famous and popular hike is the Blanc-Martel Trail, a 7-hour hike with outstanding views. You can hire a guide to accompany your group on this hike.
The Gorges du Verdon is also a rock climber’s paradise, with 1,500 courses to choose from.
More extreme sports such as bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, highlining, and paragliding are available as well.
Clearly, the Gorges du Verdon has widespread appeal.
Other Attractions In The Gorges Du Verdon Area
One of the key villages to visit near the Gorges du Verdon is Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Nestled in between soaring cliffs, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is known for its winding maze of streets, ceramic shops, and church perched above the village. Designated one of France’s most beautiful villages, it is delightful and definitely on the tourist trail!
Castellane is another nearby village with a lot of character. Its charming streets, five-sided tower, and chapel perched on a cliff make it a worthwhile stop to add to your adventures in the area.
Plan your visit for the shoulder season, since the summer months are very busy.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie makes a great base for exploring the Gorges du Verdon. La Bastide de Moustiers is both an inn and a restaurant with one Michelin star. The village is situated near the lavender fields of Valensole, a highlight for many travelers to Provence. You can read more about the lavender fields here.