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Verdon Gorge, be different !

Once again, a text which deals with the Gorges du Verdon. Yes, you can say it. But you can also tell you that if there is only one Verdon, each tourist, each naturalist, each hiker, each person has a different interpretation. The Verdon is not only a river, it is an invitation to travel, discover, and the imagination of everyone. Who are its inhabitants? Why did choose this region rather than another? How could the Verdon create gorges? When?
So many questions, varied, which, if all or almost have the same answer, none has the same interpretation.
In this article, the authors tell us the Verdon that they see in their words. When you discover the Gorges du Verdon on your turn, you will understand that thousand words are not enough to describe fully the Verdon and finally, find yours.

The Earth opened

The Provence is light or austere. Strong, warm, multiple and elusive when believed obvious.
In his collection of images, this land of complicity and challenges, that it would tend to reduce well hastily, to some sunny shots reserves well special to the land of the Verdon. As if in his theatre of lights and shadows, in his game exciting villages offering and those who refuse, she arranged a moment in its most rugged and troubled history than others. A piece of land more turbulent and fantastic than its usual decorations addressed hills or blinding beaches that seem to never having to leave the memory of those who visit.
The Provence is not stingy poetry, charming, unusual or fanciful. Conformism also. But with the Verdon, she dispenses any pre-show pure.
Elsewhere, the decoration can be tormented or peaceful. Here, it is intense, sometimes dramatic. Feelings that it awakens are rarely lukewarm.
The Verdon is the land open. The land that not cheating, delivered to the looks without any makeup.
This 'country' you're going to go and that is not just a hack or any ecological accident but also a place of life, is therefore not a land of composition.
Whatever the approach, regardless of the route of discovery that you have chosen. You may have the impression of change universe, to hire another adventure. And yet, the Verdon which sleeps or gets carried away, takes refuge in her own womb, slips or allows itself to be closer without other ways, it is, again, the Provence.
Essentially is without doubt that you know appreciate and love this natural spectacle mounted without concessions and yet eternally "general public". We all deserve this great truth which behind the scenes, even if there is still the time or the will to win, are rich of pleasures and intense emotions.


"The staging had cost the eyes of the head!
Jean Giono
Provence, it must be acknowledged, is not always as extravagant. Even in his most popular compositions (Luberon, L'Esterel, or the land of the Moors for example) it does not give the impression to have as much invested in scenery, lighting or accessories. Nothing fairer than this exclamation of Jean Giono, witness of so many other games of light, before this debauchery and this waste of vegetation, rocks, voids, of walls. "The staging had cost the eyes of the head!...
The gods are not efficient, it is well known and nobody will go check the accounts. Because there are limitations, of course, but also because it is not appropriate to look at the expenditure when the feast (permanent in the Verdon) is successful.
The raw material, it is limestone. Sometimes white and blinding. A stone to mirages. Sometimes ochre "à la Provençale". Or grey, to better impress.
This giant and multiple, sculpture looks which arose a night of time is, however, almost "contemporary". The first shots of burin have been violent, very eventful draft phase. The primary era, 500 million years ago, Provence emerges, made her place by bedform movements. 300 million years to slowly take shape, at the same time as the Italy. It relies on the hercynian chain and installs what one might call its geological base camps. Pelvoux, Mercantour, moors, Esterel. Water gives way to the Earth and rocks since the Mediterranean does not exist (it is still a continent, that of Tyrrhenide) and Southeast of what is now the France is a vast sea.

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Arms of iron and force quiet

This game of tug-of-war between the elements of gigantic eruptions and subsidence, continues during the second era (approximately 125 million years ago).The first period, known as the Triassic, sees the collapse of Provence with only rescued, beds that we have just set out. Immersion continues during the Jurassic period, and then the first coral limestones appear in the Verdon. They are already the first outcrop, the embryo of the gigantic rocks that we know today.
During the second era, in the Cretaceous period, the outline says under fantastic pressure of the Pyrenees. The sea is pumped to the North, Provence reappears, gradually filled layered limestone.
It will still take about 270 million years, during the eras tertiary and Quaternary, so the scenery is more firmly drawn with the birth of the Alps, resulting in their movement great links in the chain of Provence (emergence of the mountains of massive Digne and Grasse, countries in the North of Toulon and Marseille). The rush giant wash these new Alpine masses, erode, upset the barely established geology, introduce a surging opposition which opposes the quiet strength of the massifs. It is in this period of strife and destruction, which will mark the total collapse of the Tyrrhenian continent, so the birth of the gigantic Mediterranean basin, that the country of the Verdon finds its place and already his personality.
Born of a singular and tumultuous genetic elements, it appears at the end of the last upheavals of Provence. Torrents have carried monumental alluvium.Everything changed at first on a watershed approximately oriented North-South axis. Then the final erection of the large massifs of Provence and the battering of the Alps kicks have disturbed this too wise order of the marne and limestone layers that were formed in the course of millions of years.

An adventurer Verdon

Le Verdon, in the upheavals of the first age, turns already contradictory, complex, bubbling, not to say adventurer, marked by all ages of the Earth. It has slipped, him, in faults oriented East-West, ignoring this North-South game which does suit him. Ebauchées in school playgrounds, flaws that can discover today are of Triassic in their deepest part and the Cretaceous on the top edges.
Without get caught up in the trap of this labyrinth and this timeline, which, however, explains everything, just know that the Verdon, then, works in power, take fewer breaks to impose its course, first marked by several glaciations, then by huge floods, destructive desire. Verdon and its bodies of water blew up rocky locks of Castellane and Castillon, fashion Chasteuil clues or montains of Saint John, will then go to fill the depression of the rooms.
But beyond these major stages of training, important is also the appearance of its geological 'personality'. The one that concerns us directly: the Verdon Builder or destroyer, which is sinking and buries, becomes baroque, mysterious underground. An inner life still today controversial as to its exact sequence (phenomenon of collapse of vaults or simple demonstrations of enlargement) but whose laughing matter remember the chaotic beauty. A beauty in the amazing events: the collapse of the walls of the Verdon then varies between 200 and 800 meters. Incredible erosions, phenomenal excavations and cyclopean hide-and-seek. Regardless of the means employed to seduce, the Verdon deserves to be admired for this excess from the earliest moments of his life "contemporary."

The Verdon resistant men

Decoration of rage and torment, site access difficult, the Gorges du Verdon have long been a refuge and not a place of habitat. But the country of the Verdon, with plateaus, its rocky folds, its caves, is a busy place of living and passage for Warriors, hunters, farmers.
It was at Moustiers-Sainte-Marie that were discovered their first traces. Stone age man lived well on the edge of the Canyon. A rock engraving representing a bison and Magdalenian era (between 9,000 and 12,000 boasts J.C.) attests. As well as the deposit of Châteauneuf-les-Moustiers, the flints, arrowheads, rudimentary tools, the skeleton of booth-la-Faye, La Palud (dating from the Neolithic, 6,000 and 2,500 years b.c.) or even the bones found in the cave of Saint-Maurin.
Men of the Verdon lived on the plateau woodlands and abounding in game, lined Lakes.
Later will come the Ligurians and Celts. The villages folded on themselves are gradually connected to the rest of the region, that are drawn the first roads of salt, first commercial axes. Of the settlements of the age of bronze (2,500-900 BC) communities peasants surrounded by the Roman invasion, the inhabitants of the Verdon open gradually, and not without opposition, to external currents of civilization.

The Verdon squared

Rome confirms its conquest by implementing the settlement of Riez, which will encompass all of the Canyon. The Romans took advantage of Hellenic track and its great way to communication between Castellane and Moustiers, facilitating trade in honey and hides, to impose. They settled at Aix in 122 BC and "Roman peace" will extend until the end of the 4th century.
A checkered Verdon and a very prosperous sum Verdon is outlined. The Romans have traced tract one, Domitian, Julienne, from which a cross will allow penetration to the Canyon. One on the East by Castellane, embodying the Hellenic way in Rougon, the other to the West by the rooms. These roads reach sometimes six meters wide and still found the remnants of that linked by the plan of Châteauneuf, laugh at Castellane (former course of the GR 4 via the col de Croix of Châteauneuf, the Clue and Venascle). Tusset Bridge, at height of Rougon and banks which spans the Verdon to open the path Entreverges and St (left bank) Maymes, attests, also of these essential routes, allowing the development of crops and livestock on both.
But with Roman decadence, the country wither and impoverished, indirectly affected by the invasions of the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths from the 6th century. The Saracens (9th century) cross the Verdon, who came from South of the Spain to win the Savoy through their axis shipping and looting, Draguignan-Comps-Castellane in turn.

Plagues and famines

The introduction of Christianity and the successive reigns of the feudal princes of Provence gradually transform this region still wild region economic trust, hierarchical and religious. After the barbarian invasions, the Verdon falls under the Lords and the clergy. Other domination, less brutal but more sustainable, develops and transforms the men of the Verdon in farmers who. Robberies, crop failures, famine, "black plague" that ravaged Provence: towards the end of the 15th century, the population Gorges collapses (430 inhabitants in 1471), while Moustiers (the city), which houses the residences of the Lords, abbeys and mansions of the burghers and merchants, prosper, away from land surrounding the Canyon, underserved and poorly exploited.
The Middle Ages is painful for the Verdon. And taxes become every year less bearable. Queste in favour of the Comte de Provence, tithes levied by the clergy, fees payable to the Lords for the payment of farmers, rights of way leases on land... Other scourges, other famines revive the wounds of this weakened country where men live on herds, just picking, pick up the Deadwood to the bottom of the chasm or take advantage of the 'glandée right' (the inhabitants of Rougon are so called 'eaters of acorns' by those of la Palud).
The country follows (in fact) even at the gap, the great periods of peace or gust of the history of Provence. Its inhabitants harden over the centuries, there are resources to survive, there also suffer the consequences of deforestation or thoughtless pastures. It was only after the Revolution that Verdon begins to find a balance. Development of communications, crops, livestock for meat and for wool, development of the fruit trees, lavender, honey, appearance of a craft (turning of the boxwood) bring finally what looks like after so many upheavals, to prosperity.
The Canyon is still there, almost an accomplice witness of the doom of men. It is to him, then they will turn.

The nature of the Verdon, discreet charm and subterranean violence

It is not far from the Col d'Allos, in the massif of the three Bishoprics, which culminates at 2819 m, the Verdon takes all its forces. The most important tributary of the Durance is still a mountain torrent that takes its impetus for a natural running southward, helped, as early as its first courses, by the Bouchiers and the Chadolin, two mountain streams that tumble down the Cimet and mont Pelat, on its left bank and join him in the village of Allos.
But if River begins a life without stories along Colmars then Thorame-high Saint-André-les-Alpes, and her passion is soon tempered by the dams at Castillon and Chaudanne, the first two important elements of the hydraulic complex of Provence. These barriers crossed, the Verdon, who turned the Western level of Castellane, could no longer have wandering mood and return, until it meets the Durance to Cadarache, in the ranks of domestic water courses.
Only the Verdon has deceived his world and his personality is necessary on 40 km, between Castellane and the outlet on the Lake of Sainte-Croix. Or, if we want to be more precise, on barely more than 20 km, between the Sublime Point, downstream from the bridge of Carrajuan and the confluence of Jabron, and the output of the Galetas.

A baroque world

It is here, and here truly, that Verdon (which becomes, for the show and the legend the Grand Canyon) knows his "Great West", its grandest representations to a public come from all over the world, its most thundering success. Here it cleaning all thrillers. Luxury discreet, drowned in the Green between two accomplices cliffs and underground violence blocks and "pots", who say strength past.
Its trench, its domain, range from 400 to 700 m in depth. A few metres wide when his bed is caught in a pincer movement at the heart of the Canyon and up to one kilometre surface, on the edge of the eaves. Surroundings, ensure some peaks in roc. On the right bank, collar Baris (1462 m), Barbin (1560 m), or even the Catalan bar (1.333 m) overlooking its course between Pont de Soleils and Roman Tusset bridge. On the left bank, from upstream to downstream, the Signal Breis (1279 m) and large margins (1577 m).
Turbulent or peaceful and deep, as suffocate on their bed of rocks, the waters of the Verdon take the color of jade and Emerald up there, the sky is blinding blue. Here, in the heart of a baroque world, between the corridor Samson and the Imbut, while the waters of the Artuby come join in the fun at height of the Mescla, reigns a mineral jungle law. Water and the rock have strange reports. The Verdon slashed grey, ochre, pearly or sulphur masses. Hard limestone, Dolomites, marls, clays red or black, the nuances, all forms also are born of this passage from waters, bottlenecks and mazes on this body of stone.

A gigantic greenhouse

Discreet charm: the Sun is sometimes prompted only a few hours per day between wild groves of boxwood, Oaks, lime trees and Ivy. The forest dominates in part is the canyon, while in the western part, peddled by the river alluvium give a more varied vegetation. Elm in black oak, ash to Hazel, not to mention a variety of Juniper, cade, who plays tightrope walkers and acrobats on the walls. Verdon is a gigantic greenhouse, a world ' from down ' which has its own climate, less jagged surface. In this world of confinement protected from the wind, frost or the heat, there's little difference (just 5 or 6 ° C) in summer and winter. Verdon played with the seasons, wonderful in the fall, still numb in the spring. In this universe baroque where reigns the chiaroscuro and perfumes and colours change at every turn of the cliff, the canyon is shakes and basks in the setting of their choice.
Still impressive décor by its violence contained, underground. The first part of the Gorges between the breach at the level of the Sublime Point and the confluence of the Artuby evidenced: the water ruled in the bright, from North to South, dug the Samson corridor in a tangle of fractures. A powerful trace, marked by walls that often overlook the river. The Baume aux pigeons, the chaos of Trescaire, the parade of the Baume Feres are outstanding points of this part, dominated by six viewpoints, including those of l ' Escalès, la Dent d’Aire, not the Baou and Tilleul.

Return to chaos

The decor changes significantly at the Mescla, while Verdon turned squarely to the West. A quieter Verdon, that one can rub shoulders and which has spared visitors from wide pebble beaches bordering its green waters.
Of the Mescla the Estellié bridge, the Gorge again, tightens cramped riders, good named. We can pass from one side to another of the river by a bridge of iron (Estellié), junction of the main routes of hiking.
The Verdon, who was until then an easy first, becomes shady, chaotic. It closes its rock walls and then carves its wildest sites: the Ford of the river Styx, Maugué, the Imbut, where it disappears, the Ralingues, the vault of Emerald, the Chaos of the Cavalets. Can no longer follow at respectable distance from the top of the lookouts, time to see escape through one last notch, as steep as the Point Sublime, as willing fan at the exit of the Gorge where the Grand Canyon leads to the immense restraint of Sainte-Croix, cirque of the Galetas height. This time, the Verdon, exhausted by his gigantic work, find rest and becomes as wise as an image of Provence...

Circuit road, twists and turns

The Verdon is one of the strong points of tourism in Provence. Valley of the Rhone, in the region of Aix en Provence and Marseille, coming from Digne, Var Alpes route or the land of Nice, it comes to visit, always keeping in reserve one or more vacation days "to the Verdon.
There is not strictly speaking routes "à la carte" to discover the Verdon, but a single circuit, almost forced, that encircles the Canyon. The complete tour of the Gorges is a road journey of approximately one hundred thirty kilometres. A circuit that is started by one or another "door" Verdon: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and Castellane, on the right bank, to one of the villages of Var, on the left bank: Aiguines, Comps, Trigance.
For a good approach of the Verdon, it is essential to devote a day to perform the complete circuit of the 2 riverbanks, the grandiose of the sites cannot tolerate a sloppy visit. The Gorge is oriented East-West, it is best to not face the Sun to ride the morning, the afternoon in the direction of Castellane and Moustiers regardless of the chosen Bank.
By the right bank (from Castellane to Moustiers - 45 km)
•    From Castellane to Sublime Point
A motorist from Castellane, the first contact with the vertical walls is 5 km, to the bars of St John. Already narrow gorges and the road, which overlooks the River a few metres. Dominating this part of the Verdon, can be seen on the right side Cadieres of Brandis (1626 m), large dolomitic bars also called organ of Chasteuil. Part and the main line leave small roads allowing access to the villages of Villars-Brandis, Taloire and Chasteuil.
12 km from Castellane, one arrives at Pont de Soleils, at the junction of the two roads bordering the Canyon - right bank and left bank - who will join again at the exit of the Gorge. Continue right towards La Palud by D 952 who undertakes to flank of rock until the Clue de Carrejuan. It is common to attend this place to the impounding of the kayaks for a sportier discovery of the gorges. It then rises from a few kilometers toward the Sublime Point, real entrance to the Grand Canyon. At the exit of a tunnel, an access to the bottom of the Gorge road to get to the foot of the corridor formed by the giant grey cliffs, Samson point trailhead Martel along the River on 14 km. Going along the same road to regain the Point Sublime, dominates the old Roman Tusset bridge which connects the two banks upstream.
•    From Sublime Point to la Palud
After will be elevated gradually along the gray walls, the road leads to one of the most remarkable sites of the rightly named circuit Sublime Point. It will leave the car on the parking lot of the hostel to discover, after a few minutes of walking, the extraordinary view on the entrance of the Canyon, since the belvedere 790 metres. How to contact with amazing with a Verdon extravaganza at the green waters, prisoner of the towering walls.
The view is also striking if one takes, always from the Inn, the road leading to the village of Rougon (960 m), which offers a panorama of the whole on the gigantic corridor Samson hack.
It regained then road that departs from the Verdon to reach 10 km later at the village of La Palud.
•    The Route des Crêtes
La Palud is the starting point of the discovery circuit the most impressive Gorges. A 22 km mini-circuit that allows to discover, by the corniche des Crêtes, all the splendors of the Canyon. The road part on the left, in the centre of the village, then quickly joined the Verdon which it overlooks from the top of impressive viewpoints: Baucher, Armanet, the Imbut
8km from the start of this circuit, there is the Chalet of Maline, the Touring Club of France, from which it can engage in hiking trails leading to the bottom of the Gorge. Then the road rises by a succession of landscaped viewpoints, offering so many grandiose views and overlooking the cliffs on nearly 800 m to the vertical of the Verdon
•    Belvedere of Guègues: Views from le Fayet (corniche Sublime, left bank) tunnels.
•    Belvedere Eycharmes: View downstream towards the Maline and on the Estellié.
•    Belvedere des Glacières: Views of the Canyon and the Artuby.
•    Belvedere of the Guègues Grange: view the plan of Canjuers, Mescla (mixing) the Artuby and Verdon.
•    Belvedere du Tilleul : The most high (1,300 m of altitude) overlooking the canyon the Artuby and, on the left, the Sublime Point.
•    Belvedere du Pas du Baou : views of the parade of the Baume Feres (wild caves).
•    Belvedere de la Dent d’Aires: wonderful panoramic view allowing to follow the trail of the Canyon.
•    Belvedere of the Escalès: II dominates a steep wall of 500 m, become Mecca of climbing in the Verdon.
•    Belvedere de la Carelle (carello: kind of lifts once used by shepherds to raise food or materials from the bottom of the Gorge) views of the upper Canyon.
•    Belvedere Trescaire: Bird's eye view on the Samson corridor meets three valleys (very Cairo)
The peaks loop ends then and going back to la Palud by joining the D 952 at the crossroads of the Valdenay 1 km from the village.
•    From La Palud to Moustiers
At the exit of La Palud, the road borrows plateaus indented cliffs. It crosses then a few fields of lavender, clichés traditional a less tormented Provence. The Verdon is let however approach at the belvedere of the Col of Aven, which dominates the part the closer Canyon (and which allows views of the ravine of Mortmain which déboule in waterfalls in the Gorge), or the viewpoint of Mayreste, a7 km from La Palud.
Past Col de L'olivier (710 meters), we again dominates the Verdon River, greatly expanded by the upwelling of the Lake of St. Croix where it will not delay to throw themselves resembling. At the height of the forest House, road cut almost the cascade of St-Maurin, who continues his race by successive upheavals to the river.
•    The Lake of Sainte-Croix (de Moustiers in Aiguines)
To join Aiguines (gate of the left bank) at the start of Moustiers, the classic route is back on the road of the gorges in the opposite direction and turn 3 km on the right in the direction of the Lake of Ste-Croix. We thus reach du nouveau pont de Galetas which marks the clear delimitation of the gorges and the Lake.It is possible during the summer part of the Verdon through pedal boats rented on the edge of the bridge, and better so approach this wonderful output of the Grand Canyon. A few kilometres further on, easily found the road that rises on the left towards Aiguines.
Apart from this direct route, there is another, longer by 40 km, which is to bypass the Lake through the villages bordering it. This variant is not integrated with the traditional circuit of gorges, but allows an intermission soothing regain the vertiginous landscapes of the left bank.
Should then leave Moustiers by road of Riez, and take the direction of Ste-Croix 2 miles on the left. The road gradually rises to the Valensole plateau bordering the right bank of the Lake. It is the field of lavender, purple and fragrant in July, lining the fields by aligned clumps. Along the restraint on a few kilometers to reach the overhang of Ste-Croix du Verdon, common on which is built the dam that bears his name. The view takes over the rooftops of the village, on a rocky outcrop which dominates the immense body of water. The road then faithfully follows the contours of the Lake and penetrates Earth var by the bridge built upstream of the dam.
This accomplished soon at the height of Bauduen, beautiful provencal village which extends due South at the water's edge. Site preferred by the creation of the Lake, with its beaches, its port and its many boaters during the summer. The old picturesque streets perfectly complement this tourist portrait much more Mediterranean with highlights.
The proposed direct road between Bauduen and Les Salles not currently leading, must begin to Aups a 20 km loop to get to the new village of les Salles-sur-Verdon.
New to several titles. Firstly, because it replaced the old village located 400 metres below and which was drowned in 1973 by the impounding of the dam.Then because of its resolutely modern architecture who retains his provencal character. Village ventilated that continues to expand, it offers boating enthusiasts a wide range of possibilities.
From the rooms, you can see the village of Aiguines to which continues the circuit. The Provençal parenthesis closes for the grandiose and vertiginous Canyon.

Birth of a Lake

Ste-Croix dam is the fifth book of the hydroelectric complex of the Verdon. Its construction was decided to power the neighbouring departments and irrigate the regions it borders.
The Lake has flooded in 1973 all the wide Bowl downstream of the Grand Canyon, thus constituting a huge artificial restraint of 2500 hectares. It has engulfed the former village of rooms - rebuilt 400 metres higher natural resurgence of Fontaine L'EVEQUE and the Roman bridge of Aiguines.
The amount of the deduction is of 767 million m3. The installed capacity of the St. Croix plant is 136,000 Karan for an average production of KHW 162 million per year.
By the left bank (of Aiguines to Castellane 66 km)
•    From the Mescla to Aiguines
That you arrive from Moustiers or one of the villages bordering the Lake of Ste-Croix, the western entrance to the left bank will be done automatically by the village of Aiguines, which offers a point of views from the Lake to the Mont-Ventoux when the sky is swept by the Mistral. At the exit of Aiguines, road amounted to 965 meters the Col D'illoire, first step scenic gorges and the opposite bank.
Shortly after Maillet Roc and its plunging view on the release of the Grand Canyon, there's the view fairy Vaumale Cirque, at the place where the river emerges from the Rocky embrace.
The road continues to climb up to 1204 meters, climax of the circuit, dominated on its right side by the Signal of margins (1577 m). Then it runs a few kilometres the edges of the Canyon, marrying the walls of each cliff, offering views down vertically on a Verdon tumultuous is the Corniche Sublime and its multiple viewpoints is reached then the cliff jumpers not far from the Restaurant of jumpers, located on an impressive sheer above the Canyon. It is the starting point of the trail on the left bank who joined the other side by the Estellié gateway at the bottom of the Gorge. (805 m) cliff faces to the Maline Chalet and the route des crêtes, across the Verdon on the right bank.
A few kilometres further and this are the le Fayet tunnels in the cliffs and offering an extraordinary view plunge from the balconies.
Road descends then to dizzying bridge, the Artuby, magnificent work of a single span of 110 meters crossing the Artuby canyon, latest rock niche before the River joins the Verdon at the Mescla.
We arrive then at the balconies of the Mescla, located below the restaurant of the Relais des Balcons. These are the last lookouts of the left bank, overlooking more than 250 metres "Mescla", mixed with the waters of the Verdon and the Artuby. In this wild and grandiose framework stand out perfectly the green waters of the Verdon that bypass a Rocky Ridge before changing direction.
•    From the Mescla to Castellane
The Mescla, the road left the Verdon that she find some 25 miles more far to Pont de Soleils, after an incursion "in the land" by Comps or Trigance. It first crosses the more arid hills with extensive views over the Prealps of Castellane. You then reach a crossroads which allows either to continue towards Comps to 6 miles, veer to the left by Trigance and reach the Valley of Jabron (D 955) which leads to Castellane.
Once arrived at bridge of Suns, great crossroads of the 2 roads of the gorges, along the Verdon 12 km until Castellane (see right).

Hiking routes, the canyon at the bottom of the eyes...

The Verdon is a universe of rock, water and greenery. Decor fantasy that can 'fly' if we merely follow the traditional tourist circuits, but that we can discover, very closely, in hiking in even the Gorges. In short, the Canyon at the bottom of the eyes.
This universe amazing, quiet or chaotic, tortured or soothing, travels in a few hours or a few days. All is to know what one wants, but also to measure what can be. Between the grandiose and the dangerous, there is, often, no border.
But with enough wisdom in mind, the Verdon will be before any journeyperson wonderful hiking, who plays with its walls and its eddies, you leave time to rest and look and then takes you between balconies of greenery and giant blocks trapped by its waters. This is, at bottom, Verdon will leave you its most dizzying memories. Its cliffs, the sky is more than a drizzle of light, the Earth takes another dimension, each path to its mystery. The adventure is at the end of the path.
Hiking routes, at the bottom of the Gorges du Verdon, are multiple but have difficulties places, requiring great caution. Édouard-Alfred Martel, the pioneer, great Explorer of caves, cleared these paths of exploration and drawn from its first descent, on August 11, 1905, who would later bear his name, along the right bank of the River, the Samson to the Maline corridor.
This spectacular journey was made possible by early surveys conducted by the great work of Marseilles by 1900. A huge diversion of the Verdon, between Carrajuan bridge and the Galetas, was scheduled to supply with water the Department of Var. The drilling of tunnels began, with the help of the inhabitants of bordering villages. Titanic work abandoned to the First World War, but which were extended by the arrangement of the paths by the Touring Club de France, all of the route being officially opened on June 30, 1930.
There are mainly 2 trails traversing the bottom of gorges: the Martel Trail and the trail of the Imbut.

The Martel trail (or Touring-Club)

In its entirety, it asks to 6 to 8 hours of walking for the 14 km between La Maline du Point Sublime. It presents no particular difficulty but must be well equipped to market (descent of scree) and take if possible of flashlights for the crossing of a tunnel of 670 meters long dug into the rock.
For obvious reasons of altitude, it is recommended to address by the cottage of the Maline, the ascent to the Point Sublime being much less painful because more short. When you have 2 vehicles, the simplest is file a Sublime Point (in the cul-de-sac formed by the small road that goes down to the foot of the Samson corridor) and go with the second on the parking lot of La Maline. In this way, you can find your first vehicle leaving the trail at the Point Sublime. If this alternative is not possible, it remains easy to find an obliging motorist or a taxi to the hostel of the Sublime Point to return to the cottage of the Maline.
The trail does not faithfully follow the bed of the Verdon and often deviates from the canyon so Rocky. The highlights of this route are:
•    the Mescla, confluence of the Verdon and the Artuby. It is reached by a stalemate of 600 meters from the crossroads of Issane located on the Martel trail.
•    the stairs of the lmbert breccia; a descent of 240 markets along the vertical walls.
•    the Baume to the Pigeons. It is a huge excavation dug by the torrent at the foot of a cliff in the corridor Samson.
Note: When you have little time to visit the bottom, it is possible to borrow the Martel trail in the opposite direction, i.e. from the car park located at the foot of the Point Sublime (via the access at the bottom of the Gorge road). This can round-trip in 1 hour's walk to the Baume aux pigeons after the trail leading to the cliffs, and then the tunnel carved into the rock (provide if possible a torch) and finally down the scales of security that access to the beach.

The trail of the Imbut

Contrary to the above, this trail leads to an impasse, the Imbut, gigantic chaos where the Verdon disappears completely. Access is by the gateway of the Estellié which can be reached either by the right bank (in 5 hours A-R departing from the cottage of the Maline) or by the left bank (in 4 hours A - R at the start of the horsemen). It is a troubled path that requires attention. Certain passages, dug out the cliff face, are in fact reserved for sportier temperaments.
More vertiginous than the Martel trail, it offers impressive views, in particular on the Styx (River of hell!) and its erosion, parades and cornices (the Baouchet, the Estillie, the Mann...) or the Imbut well with its vertical cliffs 350 metres.
It is worth noting another trail-l' access Vidal - dating on the left bank 1 km upstream the Imbut, but its difficult passages requiring a safety rope make rather an exit.

The area of Fords

Five kilometres still separate L'imbut first waters of St. Croix Lake in which flows the Verdon. Five kilometres which are home to the most secret beauties but also the wildest in this incredible canyon; It is the area of the Fords.
Beyond the chaos of the Imbut, Verdon indeed slowly tightens in its cliffs and no longer allows the lower trail. The only possibility remains crossing swimming 19 Fords before again finding a path to regain Mayreste on the right bank. It should be noted however that this extraordinary course cannot really be undertaken by current low, and that the release of water from the dam E.D.F. de Castellane are never predictable.

Population of the villages in Sentinel

The villages of Verdon are not like the others. Perhaps because, with few exceptions, it is not them just visit in priority, but the Verdon, main character and Domi switch of a natural theatre that he himself inspired.
But these villages, which do not offer the Lord profile of Provençal recklessness and seem on the contrary have high rough, have the charm of their close complicity with the gorges du Verdon. La Palud, Rougon, Trigance, Castellane, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Aiguines, Comps-sur-Artuby or still Chasteuil, Taloire and Villars-Brandis... small town abuzz in the heart of the summer or hamlets held away from the tourist attraction, points go, base camps, places of "pilgrimage" and high curiosity, indented gorges or on the lookout on the edges of the Canyon, they are, each in their own waythe vigilant guardians of the Verdon. Mostly perched, standby state permanent, their lights switched on in all seasons to recall, if one had to forget, here's the men keep life and preserve a country, not a wild state. These Sentinel villages deserve respect.


It is one of the "doors" of the Verdon. The first when it comes to Nice, Cannes and Grasse by 85 dubbed N 'Route Napoléon'
Upstream of this wise sub-prefecture of Alpes de Haute-Provence, Verdon was already domesticated by the dams at Castillon and Chaudanne.
On the right bank of the River, 12 km from Pont de Soleils (road of the gorges switch position) Castellane sets the tone. Here, the houses are assembled around the place Marcel Sauvaire, Center of local, high-place of the «Petanque» animation The town is dominated by its 'Roc', massive limestone cliff of 184 meters in height which makes this site one of the most striking of Haute Provence. Access to the Summit by a trail which leads in 20 minutes walking to the chapel Notre-Dame du Roc, rebuilt in 1703 and surmounted by a large stone statue of the Virgin. There's then a magnificent panorama over the city and its access roads: Petra Castellana ruins, remains of the vast enclosure which surrounded Castellane in the 14th century, Tower Pentagonale, Pont Napoleon crossing the Verdon, descent of the Col des Leques and especially face 'air' on the meanders of the Verdon.

The feast of the French :"pétardier"

Castellane was several times besieged, notably by the protestants of Lesdiguiere in 1586 and not then had his salvation to the courage of a young woman, Judith Andrau, who poured boiling oil on the attackers, who were attacking the Annonciade door with explosives. A high color episode and, as always, nicely again in the Provencal, since way, each 31 January, a commemorative feast is celebrated in the memory of the heroine. One intones while 'the firecracker or the French song' during the religious ceremony at the door of the Annunciation ("a brave Judith, arming themselves of its courage, its value challenge full of rage, La Mothe enemy is crushed under the blazing of a heavy machine pitch... »).


No mystery this time in this small village, discreet Eagle's nest (950 m) who hides behind his ledge above the Point Sublime. Rougon is not 'in' the Gorge since it is 3 km from this tourist Mecca, but its last inhabitants, today shepherds, yesterday producers of fine Alpine lavender, have made the history of the country of the Verdon, thus, participating at the beginning of the century, waterpower development (prise de Carrejuan, Mayreste falling waters), but expressing loud and clear, in the 1920stheir opposition to the destruction of the Gorges.
Rougon, it cut lavender with the «poude"(small sickle) to carry up to Copper Alembic («peirau»), in the mountains, near a source. A life of burdens and sentence passed between the Mourre de Chanier, the transverse bar or the Sueches plateau. All this to sell the essence of lavender brokers to Grasse.Activity disappeared since the last war.
Rougon, today, keeps her distance from the "capital" of the Verdon, la Palud. 8 km, village, gradually deserted (some 30 permanent residents for 200 inhabitants in 1925), cultivates a certain nostalgia and deserves a respectful visit, time to forget the Gorges and the animation "from downstairs.

La Palud

Here it is the hub of the Verdon. It is here in the center of the Gorge, to the geographically strategic sense, La Palud (120 inhabitants) command the route des Crêtes, between Rougon and Moustiers. This former stronghold of the counts of Provence has certainly lost its demographic importance, the Romanesque Bell Tower of its Church of the 12th century (Notre Dame de Vauvert) or even his 18th century castle, which suffered much, are the only significant traces of its history.
But the important thing today is without doubt that the village became the first base of the Verdon for trails like the tourist circuits. The guides installed their headquarters and it is here, on the place - at Maurel - are the new conquerors of the Gorges: climbers, kayakers, cycling. Is here to discuss last open channels in climbing quotations, here on philosopher on the Verdon, now ten years a ' Sanctuary 'of the international escalation. "
Bureau des guides, shops, hotels, cafes, it is in la Palud is entered in the heart of the Verdon and can learn, the updated agenda, moods, essential activities of the village around its topicality, intense during the high-season.
It is at an altitude of 935 m, on a plateau located at the crossroads of the roads of discovery: Mayreste then Moustiers by D 952 or eastward to Castellane and the Sublime Point by the same route, not to mention the circuit of the ridges leading North of the canyon by the lookouts, or still hiking trails leading to the South towards the 'collar Barris' by the hamlet of Boulogne, and area lumber (1459 m culmination) or North to the col of the Crete de Châteauneuf (D 123).


This is already over the Gorges du Verdon and yet it is the most seductive (and most visited) village of the country of the Verdon. In the immediate vicinity of the Canyon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie lives its own life, backed by its massive wall of rock, leaving still guess the origin of its name ("monasterium, Monastery).
Because Moustiers was created by one of the colonies of the community of Lerina (the smallest of the Lérins Islands), became Saint-Honorat, off the coast of Cannes oragnisee by Honorat, Bishop of Arles. It was in 432 and Maxime de Riez drove this colony and settled then in Moustiers where he founded a monastery.
But Moustiers became truly prosperous until the 15th and 16th centuries, with the manufacture of pottery from clay of the country of Riez. Faenza, an Italian monk, would have brought all its trade secrets and would be at the origin of the word faience.
These famous earthenware will do all the glory of Moustiers from 1660 and until the 18th century. This is the climax, with the different epochs. That of the most famous Clerissy and Viry, first large families. And then Olerys and delicate decorations the Berain», finally periods say Ferrat and Fatemeh each corresponding to a specific job and a different master faïence style.

Earthenware: erasure in the renaissance's

This reign of faïence does not go without hot tub and the country of the Verdon is stirred by their conflict with the consuls and the administration, particularly under the reign of Louis XV. Then even accused faïence to be 'affameurs', to destroy the broom of the terroir, contribute to reduce the number of growers, to escape the tax. Everything will ease but at the end of the 18th century, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which has more than 3,500 inhabitants, will lose its importance. Moustiers has known a long erase until the arrival, in 1926, Marcel Provence named predestined, which has revived the traditional techniques of the earthenware factories, restarting furnaces until 1939. Simone Garnier will follow his example in the immediate post-war period, and then the earthenware of Moustiers will lose their authenticity. Today, many craftsmen carry out great efforts to restore nobility to this craft that was singularly missing artists.
But, beyond this vital activity, the small town of faience is remarkable for its configuration, its streets, its terraced houses, its monuments.
One way the Church (12th and 13th centuries), with its very beautiful lombard Romanesque Bell Tower measuring 22 m high and its typical nave of the Romanesque School of Provence.
La chapelle Notre Dame de Beauvoir, the tip of the chemin Marcel Provence, overlooking Moustiers, and built on the edge of the crevasse of the cliff. Built in 1052, repeatedly destroyed, it was made for worship in 1801.
The cave Chapel of Magdalen. Achieved by the Ridge trail.
All alleys, of course, with its plates of faience in the name of the streets. Old houses of Blacas and Sabran.
The historical Museum of earthenware. Created in 1929. It presents several old collections of Moustiers, as well as various moulds and tools once used in the manufacture in the earthenware factories. A visit is mandatory (closed from November to March).
Moustiers is finally a privileged venue for the fairies: there is a street Melusine and found even a "fairy hole" above the cave of Sainte-Madeleine. It is also said that a fairy appeared every 8 September, day of Notre-Dame, near the chapel Notre-Dame de Beauvoir. Evening, it crossed the ravine and brought back, mountain, the cradle (lou brès) of the Virgin. Finally, it was argued that the Bell Tower once danced to the sound of bells and its stones are argueing. A bell tower still much chastened since its restoration...
Nativity village nestled at the foot of its rocks, Moustiers gathers lovers of earthenware, history and traditions, pious visitors seeking pilgrimage and the Verdon trippers, making it a Mecca of international tourism.

The star above the village

Moustiers is also a place of history and legends. This five-pointed star, which dominates the Riou, is a special ex-voto of the baron de Blacas, saved by the Virgin. According to Frédéric Mistral, Blacas of Aups, prisoner of the Muslims in the Holy land in 1249, made this wish to suspend a string of money between two rocks if ever he was reviewing his land:
At your feet, Virgin Mary.
My channel I will suspend
If ever
I return
At Moustiers in my homeland.
(Excerpt from Calendal, 1885)
Returning to Moustiers, he kept his promises, but found nevertheless that an iron chain would also be well the case. Over the centuries, several stars have won by the weather or the revolutionaries. That we can see today is obviously not located in the history but was mounted in place of the previous August 18, 1957. It swings at 250 metres above the Valley of Notre-Dame, in the midst of a string of 227 meters stretched between two rocks, weighs 18 pounds and was completed by the blacksmith of the village.


Coming down from the col of D'illoire by the left bank of the Verdon, view one of the most beautiful panoramas of Provence at the exit of a turn. In the foreground, the roofs of the village of needles and slightly indented, the beautiful square Castle covered with tiles glazed and flanked by turrets, old hotel des consuls from the 18th century. The view stretches on the huge Lake of Sainte-Croix dominates the Valensole plateau, but also on the summits of the mountain of Lure or the giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux.
Aiguines long continued an artisanal manufacturing centre of railway in root of boxwood balls. The tourneries are now closed, leaving mainly tourist activities.Privilege of the site by the double proximity of the gorges and the Lake.


Southeast of the Grand Canyon is Comps, located in the more austere part, but perhaps the most beautiful of the Haut Var, which commands access to the Gorge, by the left bank of the Verdon and the corniche Sublime.
900 m altitude, being deviated from the ruins of the old village and the beautiful little Romanesque church from the 13th century which dominates on its rock, overlooking the Gorges of the Artuby, the current village is therefore a rendezvous point, but also a base for visitors to the Highland varois resembling wild and fierce: Bargème and his strange Château de Pontevès towards the Logis du Pin and the route Napoleon, Jabron then le Bourguet if one wants to take the skip road Castellane, or on Trigance and its castle, dominating the Valley of Jabron, solitary and seductive, away from the grand circuit of the Canyon.


Turning his back to the Gorge, the village overlooks the Jabron Valley. Truly leaned against the Hill, it tightens its part stone houses and other narrow and picturesque streets. Overlooking the roofs of the top of its rocky outcrop, a vast Castle of the 12th century watches over the serenity. Flanked in the corners by round towers, he patiently restored. It is now converted to hostellerie.
The region has long been rocked by the Templars who, hunted down in Provence, have found shelter there. Would have even been buried treasure under Valcroze Castle, near the hamlet of Suns. This is sufficient for Trigance is considered to be the most troubling of the country of the Verdon village.

Verdon-Vertigo: the new adventurers

The 'free', the 'climb', 'solos' hell, 'addicted' climbing, extreme dancing, life at your fingertips... A vocabulary, an intense and 'different' sport, an art of living in offset, on the sidelines.
The Verdon is that, also. Dizzying scenes prohibited in the vast majority of its visitors. Accessible only to "stone men" in the heart and muscles honed.
This red area of the Grand Canyon ions is maybe not directly. She's loyal, its priests, its laws, its rites. Its mirages and its dangers also.
But you should still know that Verdon-Vertigo exists and comes from all over the world train, open or iron paths on this fabulous 'playing field', as say followers of the climbs. In this other world, the Verdon is synonymous with derivative, delirium, asphyxiation or evasion, overflow or folly. Of happiness and freedom.
It all started in 1968 with ascent of the wall of the Duke then open channels in the cliff of the Escalès. Climbers Parisian and Provencal competed audacity and imagination. Today, it is sometimes bottling on certain routes of the large walls.
Some 15 years ago the Verdon was not yet preserve of lovers of cliff. Venus of the creeks of the region of Marseille or trained in the school of "Blo" (Fontainebleau); they attack the way of application, to squirrels or the cliff of Escalès. Following the natural fissures in the rock, pioneers take more and more risks, as one of the heroes of the time, Guy Héran, who manages the "first" of the spur Sublime.
Climbing takes a shot and climbs up more and more in 'free' (without using pitons in Fulcrum), leaving a little "aid" (climbing classic, 'artificial', requiring a complete material). Verdon rises through the ranks and became a Mecca for adventure, marked, in the years 75, by the exploits of Christian Guyomar or Bernard Gorgeon that open perilous routes. The 'free' triumph, climbers specialize, the media seize the Verdon and her intense spectacle in the cliffs of the Escalès. Artists engage in "solos" of hell (hand to hand with the rock, without any hardware, otherwise the magnesia bag hooked to the belt for drying hands and facilitate).

A taste of end of the world

Distance of mountaineering and his philosophy. Verdon climbers, descending rappelling into her womb to then attack pathways 2 or 300 m, sometimes disapproval in disputes of quotations (VI, VII sup, VIII, according to their difficulties classified channels) and design even climbing.
But the Verdon impose both its law and its atmosphere, fascinating, intense, almost agonizing. A taste of end of the world, sometimes when it goes long climbs, which may take the day. Most incurred since the bottom Verdon, by the Martel trail or the trail of the Imbut. A game hard and bright, which begins (and ends) up there, La Palud, coffee at Maurel» transformed into international Q.G of climbers.
The"new tourists" came more and more Great Britain, of Italy, Austria, Switzerland or the United States, invented a different Verdon. Verdon-Vertigo, become a Mecca for thousands of believers, followers of a climbing pure, harmonious, complicit in the rock, that is 'dance' as much as one climbing. Between rocks and clouds, pure pleasure (total asceticism or munchies of life) is there. A range of finger and look. The danger also. Each year, fatal accidents prove, the Verdon recalls to the memory of those who defy it, recklessly sometimes. That it travels from its heights, at the foot of its walls, hiking, kayaking, with studs and ropes... it was he and he alone who is master of the game.

The ways of the imagination

Climbing has its vocabulary and its specific words. We will not go into the detail of this sports universe, but it must nevertheless evoke the names that climbers give the way they ' open '. Names that are all the poetry and, often, the humor of this discipline.
In this game of words and imagination, the Verdon, one might expect, is no slouch. Here are some of these pathways, sometimes short (so-called "rinds"), sometimes long, vertiginous, but which all illustrate a delusional universe:
L'Estemporanée. Frimes et Châtiments. Mangoustine scatophage. Luna Bong. Péril rouge. Ula. Au-delà du Délire. Ange en décomposition. Necronomicon. Golem. Castapiagne. Mescalito. Paroi rouge. Pichenibule. Dingomaniaque. La Demande. Barjots. Le Triomphe d'Eros. Gueule d'Amour...

Kayaking: the great adventure

The kayak specialists come from throughout Europe discover Provence navigable sites, typically before the summer season, when streams are lowered into the water and discovered rivers. Verdon obviously belongs to these sports itineraries at the point of becoming the star of a few reserved for the only experienced players adventure films.
If the cliffs of the grand Canyon are not within the reach of all, the course even Verdon is less. Floods are usually moderate, but the anger of the river can be sudden and violent, despite the mitigation of the EDF dam, during large rains. Inside the Gorge, it does not always account of the reality of a capricious weather.
The launch is usually done after the bridge and the fall of Carejuan and the release of the boats to the bridge of Aiguines. Several portages, sometimes difficult and painful are necessary for Samson, Estellié, Trescaire, the Imbut and the Cavalets chaos.

The Verdon today: attention, fragile nature!

It may have all the appearance of eternity, but the grand Canyon du Verdon is not less fragile. This would be too say that it is at risk, but it is true that on several occasions during its contemporary existence, directly threatened.
After all, Martel, the pioneer of the Gorges, not to say its inventor, had explored its waters at the beginning of the century to search for hydroelectric development. But it will forgive this company because he asked himself, as early as 1920, the gorges are classified national reserve.

Balance and Respect

The country of the Verdon, who suffers, downstream, at Sainte-Croix du Verdon, strong pressure on the part of different developers, is not out of reach.Whatever the judgment that is worn on this or that project, he must agree that Provence here lends itself to many of the major achievements and that we pay also the ransom of tourist glory.
It remains that the Verdon is daily, coveted and, even at small doses, threatened. Each visitor must become aware. Each stone moved, each careless climbing each negligence at the time of a picnic, each rudeness towards those who still maintain life in the country, are violations of a balance. All those who climb the walls are not the artists above all suspicion. Everyone traveling the roads and trails of the Verdon do not necessarily respect and we too readily imagine that there is no pollution when the environment is grandiose.
Errors. You can discover and yet conquer the Verdon in all ways. But without unconsciousness or insolence. Attention, fragile nature...

Saint-Pancrace - Digne
Bléone Valley - Digne

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