A road trip around the Gorges du Verdon

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Blogger Martijn is a guest at our Villa du Verdon park and reports on his experiences.

A bright sunbeam that peeks between the window frame and the curtains. That is the first glimpse of Provence that catches my eyes after a wonderful night in our holiday villa near Castellane. We are still at the beginning of a holiday week and today is a tour with the car around the region's most famous landmark: the Gorges du Verdon.

Ideal to do at the beginning of your holiday in this region, such a tour around the Gorges. Because in this way you immediately get an idea of ​​the location and beauty of the rock gorge carved by the Verdon. Later in your holiday you will have enough time to dive deeper into the gorge, for example by taking a boat trip or a walk through the gorge.

Vacation near Grand Canyon of France

The Grand Canyon of France, is also called the Gorges du Verdon. And that name is totally worth it, because it is really a big gap: beautiful views, sharp rock points, frightening depths and beautiful nature. The Gorges du Verdon is a unique area in France, where you can enjoy the views but also the flora and fauna, such as the dozens of griffon vultures with a wingspan of two and a half meters, and in April the flowering rock mussel, to but what to call.
The gorge itself is about 25 kilometers in diameter, but the road around it measures about 120 kilometers. So you can count on a full day to tour around the gap at your leisure. Especially because you actually want to get off at every bend and every viewpoint to enjoy the view. If you also want to look around in every village, you actually do not have enough for the whole tour. You can drive the circle around the gorge clockwise or counterclockwise, we drove it clockwise because that way you save the most beautiful and impressive part for the last time and you can slowly get used to all the natural beauty.

From Castellane to Gorges du Verdon

Although the gap officially starts at Rougon, from a few kilometers after Castellane on the D952 you drive in the direction of Moustiers already a beautiful area where you get a taste. Here too, the Verdon has already carved beautiful curves and rock walls. After about 12 kilometers, take the exit on the left to the D955 towards Trigance. After some time you will see the castle and the village on your right and then quickly follow the exit on the right in the direction of Aiguines. Here you start slowly from the south into the gorge. After a gradually rising straight stretch, with beautiful views of the mountains on your right, and some bends, the south-eastern side of the gorge opens up to you at the Balcon de la Mescla. Stop here to catch a first glimpse of the deep blue water of the Verdon that lies hundreds of meters below you.

Challenging road trip

Then you come to one of the most challenging parts of the southern route, at least for car and motorcyclists. You have to go through some narrow, winding tunnels and in between you can regularly take a look into the depth, or to the other side, where the other part of the route is waiting for you. After not too long, you will pass the impressive Pont de l'Artuby, where you can bungee in the summer (the highest in Europe). Further on the route is also the Auberge des Cavaliers, with a large parking lot. Here you actually have a nice view of the gorge from the terrace of the restaurant. At this point is also the start of the beautiful Sentier de l'Imbut, a walking route through the gorge.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in Provence

When you have started the tour in the morning, you will arrive at 12 o'clock at the end of the southern route, Aiguines, a village from where you have a beautiful view of the Lac de Sainte-Croix. This is one of two options for enjoying a Provencal lunch. Popular, but also busier, is the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which is a bit further away and the starting point of the northern route along the Gorges du Verdon. When you go to Moustiers it is important to drive as far as possible for parking, because the lower you park the further you have to walk up. There are several parking places on various terraces, so try to get as high as possible with the car, preferably up to the parking lot that is located diagonally above the village. A restaurant tip in Moustiers: take the daily menu at La Treille Muscate, with the terrace along the river.

After Moustiers-Sainte-Marie you continue the tour around the gorge by taking the D952 in the direction of Castellane. Especially at the beginning of this road you have a beautiful view of the spur of the lake that goes into the gorge. About twenty kilometers away you arrive at La-Palud-sur-Verdon, where the highlight of the route around the gorge begins. Because shortly after this village you can take the exit to the Route des Crêtes, the D23. This is a road with mostly one-way traffic that leads you in an arc near the cliffs, back to La Palud. On just about every bend of this road you have a magnificent view of the most rough parts of the Gorges and the rest of the surroundings, up to the higher alpine summits in the north. With a bit of luck, the mighty griffon vultures will skim along and over you and you can also admire the climbing skills of the many climbers who attract this area.

Are you after this last round on the Route des Crêtes, which takes about an hour, not yet looked forward to the gap? Then stop at the Point Sublime on the way back to Castellane, below the village of Rougon. From this popular viewpoint you can take a last look into the gorge. Another option is to continue and turn right into the cul-de-sac to the parking area at Couloir Samson, the start or end point of the walk through the gorge along the Verdon over the Sentier Martel. From here you also enter the Gorges du Verdon.

Back at villa park in Castellane

Back in Castellane it is high time for an ice cream, a dinner with local dishes or just a beer on a terrace. With a bit of luck you can enjoy the last rays of the sun, or in our case of a beautiful rainbow, because in the spring there can often be a shower at the end of the day. Fortunately, such a shower usually does not last long. And while the sun slowly goes down and sets the air on fire, the thoughts go back to the beautiful route of today. Rough mountains, crossed by a special blue river, calmly flying vultures, a landscape blossoming under the spring sun, winding roads, infinite vistas, what a beautiful piece of France!

Source: Frankrijkpuur.nl