Les Gorges du Verdon April 05 2019, 0 Comments

Last month, Calisson by Gilles brought you to the discovery of the world of Faience in Provence and more particularly the village of Moustiers. This April we will discover together the surrounding area of Moustiers called “les Gorges du Verdon”. 

How to get there: 

You can reach the site from two directions: from the West, take the Manosque exit (n°18) of the A51 highway while driving from Aix en Provence to Gap, and cross Valensole and Riez signals to finally reach Moustiers Sainte Marie. The gorges will be 5 minutes away. 

Or you can reach the Gorge du Verdon from the East if you are coming from Saint Maximin. Follow the directions toward Draguignan, Aups to the Lac Sainte Croix and Gorge of Verdon will be mentioned. 

 

One of the most beautiful natural sites:

Provence is filled with surprises and hidden treasures that locals enjoy and try to keep for themselves. The images of Provence that are popular are landscapes of olive tree and vineyards, Mediterranean pine forests and blooming lavender fields. PACA is an abbreviation for Provence which means Provence - Alpes - Côte d'Azur, (Provence Alps and the Riviera). We mostly have in mind Provence and Riviera but often forget that Provence is also a part of the Alps mountains!                                                               The Gorges of Verdon belong to this category. While approaching the limestone massifs of the Alpine foothills, land becomes arid and climate here is generally dry. But there is a unique area crossed by rivers flowing down from the snowy peaks of the Alps. These rivers have carved deep valleys, and the longest and deepest one  is the Verdon river. The Gorges of Verdon are the deepest gorges of France. This is a natural must-see attraction of central Provence. 


From its source near the Italian Border, the Verdon runs south as far as the village of Castellane, and then joins the Durance River near Manosque.  The most impressive scenery of the canyon is located at the East of the Lake Sainte Croix. This is a 25 kilometers long and 700 meters deep river canyon. There is no road to the gorge, but a breath-taking circular "corniche" route that require careful driving!

It has been called Verdon because of its brilliant turquoise-green water. Vert in French means green, hence the name Verdon river.

The Gorges of Verdon attract visitors for many reasons.  You can go there to experience a spectacular road trip around the edge of the gorge, by car or by bike. You can even come to hike the numerous trails in and around the gorge. Then there are some who come to admire the bird life. You can try kayak or pedal boat in the gorge. For the bravest ones you can either jump off from the cliffs! Calisson by Gilles will detail for you everything in the coming lines! 

 

Where to stay: 

For a total harmony with nature, bring your tent and do a camping trip, dedicated camping areas are legion around the lake of Sainte Croix. This is the most popular way to spend few days in the area. For people who are wishing something else you can book a bedroom into a luxurious hotel. There are few and expensive. 

 

What to do:

Hiking

There are plenty of opportunities for hiking in and around the gorges du Verdon. Trails starts from the very gentle and easy level up to the technical and hard one.  You will find what you are looking for. Footpaths are marked and start from the many parking spots of the area. One of the most popular but tough one is the Sentier de l'Imbut. The path starts near the Hotel du Grand Canyon, on the road 71. 

The basic hike follows the GR99 (Grande Randonnée – Great Hike) hiking trail from the lip of the gorge then down to the bottom, and back up again. It takes roughly 4 hours. It's quite a hike, but accessible to most fit hikers. Proper shoes or boots are essential, refers to our tips to always have in mind during your stay. 

From this path you will cross a footbridge over the Verdon river, and it is possible to continue on up the north side of the gorge. Down at river level, you will have to choose what kind of path to take. 

Experienced hikers may like to continue along the path of Vidalwhich which includes sections cut into the rock, and a very hard one hour of climb, to go back up to the road RD71.

For a longer but less exhausting hike, you can continue on the GR99 or follow the GR49. From the GR49, you will reach a spot that provides perhaps the most breath-taking views down into the canyon. 

 

Kayaking and rafting

Kayaking or boating into the lower part of the gorge is a popular activity, and kayaks and other types of craft can be hired at the top end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. Plan for a couple of hours to make your way around the beautiful Lac de Sainte-Croix. The lake is a man made lake, it was created in the 70’s when the Electricity of France company built the Verdon dam to create electrical power. The dam generates 142 million kWh of electricity per year and is 94 meters high. However the original village of Sainte Croix is now completely underwater at the middle of the Lake! Divers can experience the exploration but at your own risks!

If possible, rent your boat for longer than one hour ; an hour isn’t really enough time to see the gorge. A whole morning or afternoon will be the best to enjoy the magic sceneries of the gorge. Bring a picnic and drinks to chill and have good times during you boat session. For sure, do not forget to take our sweet collection of Mediterranean Calisson by Gilles box for a great and memorable moment. 


Rafting is not practiced in the Gorges part of the Verdon river. For rafting in the Verdon, it is better to go higher in the valley, and reach the small town of Castellane. From there a couple of companies provide rafting trips on the river in July and August.

 

Climbing

There are endless opportunities for adventures here. If you are ready for it, bring your climbing gear. The Gorge of Verdon is a paradise for climbers, it has over 1500 routes for technical climbing. The toughest one are more than 600 meters high. Absolutely incredible!                                                                                                          For amateurs and neophytes, book a canyoning session with an official guide. It takes a whole day long, you will discover and try everything. A hike to meet a point of rappelling descent, often coupled with some portions of climbing. To finally doing some rafting down the Verdon river! 

 

Bird watching in the Verdon

Vultures were reintroduced into the Verdon gorge in 1999. Today Griffon vultures and black vultures are among the largest birds that can be seen in the Gorges of Verdon. But there are also eagles and other large birds of prey. The vertiginous crags of the gorge provide perfect nesting areas for these large raptors.

 

Calisson by Gilles tips:

Best time for exploring Gorges du Verdon: We recommend starting your day early in Gorges du Verdon, especially during the summer. It is a popular spot from June to the end of September so get up early to beat the crowd.

Bring hiking shoes to explore. Keep in mind that there are not many casual paths, so your hiking shoes will be more comfortable and will prevent potential injuries of your ankles. Calisson by Gilles recommends that you use a GPS on your trip if you are driving in Provence.                                                                           To rent a boat easily, get to the bridge called Pont du Galetas, park your car and go to the local renter hereunder. You can find the exact location of the Pont du Galetas bridge to get an idea of where you will want to go. 

Risky tradition: the local youth keeps the tradition of jumping from this bridge even if it is prohibited nowadays. Stand on the bridge in front of the Verdon river to imagine how high and dangerous it is from there. You may encounter some young people challenging themselves to jump! 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.