The Verdon: Gorgeous and Green

The Verdon is regarded as one of the most dramatic rivers in France. Its landscape is also a camper’s paradise

An hour or so from the Côte d’Azur and the Mediterranean, the Verdon is one of Provence’s best-loved rivers. Its emerald-green colour (hence its name) is a thing of beauty.

Rising in the southwestern Alps, south of Barcelonnette and flowing into the River Durance 103 miles west, it is the section of the Verdon between the villages of Castellane and Riez that is regarded as the most impressive, when the river gouges a path through the Jurassic limestone to form a vast canyon that, in places, is almost 1,000ft deep. It’s known as the Gorges du Verdon.

The Verdon is one of Provence’s best-loved rivers © Caroline Mills

Visitors are drawn by the remarkable natural landscape – there are signposted walks that allow the gorge to be viewed from up high and at the river’s edge. Thrill seekers can enjoy a cycle ride on the 14-mile, one-way Route des Crêtes – a road that hugs the dizzying canyon sides on the north bank and offers some of the finest views of the gorge at its most dramatic.

Those preferring to take to the water have many opportunities for wild swimming, canoeing and kayaking alongside organized white-water rafting trips, or the hire of rowing boats and pedalos on the ultra-blue and vast Lac de Sainte Croix. Hire kayaks in the village of Quinson to explore the Basses Gorges du Verdon further downstream, or find a popular bathing spot in the shallow river water in Castellane (though care should always be taken as the river can rise suddenly due to a dam upstream).

As for remarkable sights to see, Castellane and Moustiers-Ste-Marie are two of the prettiest Provençal villages you’ll find, as is the village of Aups, renowned for its olive groves and a regional centre for olive production. Explore the Valensole Plateau, north of the Gorges; it’s the largest lavender growing area in Provence. And for more drama, follow the river’s south bank to the Balcons de la Mescla to view the River Verdon and River Artuby mix together in a giant, sweeping bend.

Moustiers-Ste-Marie ©Shutterstock

The roads along both the north and south bank are, in places, narrow and high above the gorge; they are not for the faint-hearted and while this route is very popular with motorhomes, it is not a route for those unfamiliar with the bulk of a large coachbuilt motorhome or towing a caravan; here, I’d recommend you stay at a campsite in or around Castellane or, to the west of the gorge, Gréouz-les-Bains and use a car, bicycle or public transport to explore the route. The route is remarkably dramatic – and one to explore slowly. 

Discover Where to Stay

There are many campsites along the Gorges du Verdon, including several around Castellane, many in the area near Rougon, and also around the Lac de Sainte-Croix. The websites for Castellane and Moustiers-Ste-Marie provide a list of campsites for touring caravans and tents. There are overnight parking areas for motorhomes (aires) in Castellane and Moustiers-Ste-Marie, Quinson, and at the Lac de Sainte-Croix.

Discover More

Maison du Parc naturel régional du Verdon

www.parcduverdon.fr

Castellane

www.castellane.org

Moustiers-Ste-Marie

www.moustiers.fr

Alpes de Haute-Provence

www.alpes-haute-provence.com