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Steep cliffs that top 700 meters. Azure waters. Narrow passages and hidden beaches. We’re talking about Les Gorges du Verdon, also known as Grand Canyon du Verdon. One of Europe’s longest gorges with no less than 25 kilometers of bluer-than-blue water flowing through it. We find Les Gorges du Verdon a mere 100 km inland from the Côte d’Azur (Frejus) in the vast limestone plateau of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. It has taken millions of years for the Verdon to take its present form, resulting in narrow passages, rapids and many spectacular vistas.
What is the best way to discover Les Gorges du Verdon?
The entire area through which the Verdon flows lends itself extremely well to a wide variety of activities. Along both the north and south sides of the Verdon you will find several starting points for hikes. Prepare yourself well and read up because every year many people get lost in this area. Ask at the local tourist office for maps showing the hiking routes and for more information.
By car along all the viewpoints
All along the Verdon you will encounter magnificent viewpoints. The route along the north side of the Verdon stays close to the gorge the longest and here you have magnificent views of the gorge. Tip: In the morning, the sunlight falls on the water and you have the best view from above. The water is super beautiful blue! After 2 p.m. there is only shadow, which does not mean that it is not spectacular because the high cliffs remain, but the water colors then much less blue.
Route des Crêtes in the Verdon
Don’t forget to take the Route des Crêtes when driving the Route des Gorges. A “loop” of beautiful vantage points can be found here; especially at the point Belvedère de Trescaire where you look left to Point Sublime and right following the Verdon. Here, as you look down, you see nothing but sheer cliffs below you, ending in an enormous depth.
When your little ones are still really small, it is ideal to drive (part of) these route(s), for example exactly when your child is sleeping. At most viewpoints you don’t have to walk far from your car to enjoy the view. More information about exploring the Gorges by car can be found on the website Beyond.fr.
Cruising through the Les Gorges du Verdon
Boating through the Verdon sounds a lot of fun but where do you start? Where do you rent that boat or canoe? The best place in our opinion is at Pont du Galetas. Here the Verdon flows into the reservoir Lac Sainte Croix (14 km long, 2 km wide) and on this last stretch you will find the impressive high cliffs. You can park for free on either side of the bridge and there is plenty of space. In high season, be sure to arrive early; both to get ahead of the crowds and to enjoy the sunlight on the water in the gorge. From Frejus it is a short 80 km drive to this parking facility.
Canoe, kayak or pedal boat rentals
As we wrote above, you can rent various vessels on both sides of Lac Sainte Croix. Motorized transport is prohibited; so you do not need to bring your own (inflatable) boat with a separate motor. When the weather is calm and you just want to get an impression, it is in principle sufficient to rent something for 1 hour. The beginning of the gorge, where the high, steep cliffs are, is immediately the most impressive part. If you want to take it a little more leisurely and also moor for a while, then you could consider 2 hours.
Water locks in the Verdon
Keep in mind that the steep beaches are quite muddy and consist mainly of pebbles and stones. Because 2x a week the locks open, the water rises and the beaches are constantly flooded. This happens on Monday and Thursday nights, so the next morning the water is higher and there is slightly more current present. Rest assured; it is not suddenly “wild” water but you have to pedal a little harder in your paddleboat or paddle more firmly in your canoe :-) An additional advantage of high tide is that the water is clear and very blue. On the day before the lock opens it can turn a bit brownish, so if you like photography that is something to take into account.
What does it cost to rent a canoe or paddleboat in the Verdon?
You can rent a kayak from €8.00 per hour; you will have a 1 person kayak. A 2/3 person kayak costs €16.00 (canoe equal price), a 2/3 person pedal boat €16.00 and a 4/5 person pedal boat €18.00. Children can also easily sit on the pedal boats without riding along (in front of the deck). If you want to rent a canoe or pedalo for 2 hours, you pay double the prices mentioned above. Electric boats are also available for rent; if you don’t want to miss out make sure you arrive early. Life jackets are available for rent for children.
Other activities in the Gorges du Verdon
Are you exploring the Gorges with older children, or just adults? Then there are countless other opportunities to explore this area. Think paragliding, hiking, rafting, bungee jumping, horseback riding, climbing and much more. You can book these various activities through Get Your Guide.
Beautiful vantage points and spots along the Verdon River
Along the Verdon you will find many beautiful spots, as we wrote about earlier. Besides the beautiful point on the Route des Crêtes overlooking Point Sublime, we would like to highlight a few more spots.
If you drive by car on the D952 (brown route) near Rougon you will have a turnoff to Couloir Samson. This is the official start of the Gorges and you immediately find a very narrow passage. You have good parking here and via several steps you descend quite a bit. At the bottom of the steep cliffs is a “beach” with pebbles; an idyllic spot! You come across many climbers here; they use this place as a base for climbing activities.
Pont de Carajuan
A beautiful and perfect place to spend a few hours with children is Pont de Carajuan, with plenty of roadside parking. You will find here only pebbles with nice little “streams” flowing through them. Super fun for your kids to build dams and play nice. Watch out at the river itself though; it’s not suddenly very deep here but the water does flow very fast. Keep in mind that on days when the locks are open the height of the water can fluctuate.
Balcons de la Mezcla
A spot on the Route de la Comiche Sublime (green route) along the south side of the Verdon where you have beautiful panoramic views of a sharp bend (a kink) in the Verdon. The spot got its name from the viewing platform built as a balcony.
Accommodation near Les Gorges du Verdon
Near the Gorges you will find numerous places to stay and lots of campsites. We stayed at Sûnelia camping Holiday Green in Frejus and took a day trip to the Gorges du Verdon, which is very doable. Over an hour and a half drive and on the way you pass through quaint old towns.
Les Gorges du Verdon as a day trip at vacation address on the coast
Is your vacation address on the south coast and have you seen enough of the beautiful beaches? Is it time to take a day trip to Les Gorges du Verdon? Plan your Gorges du Verdon trip on a Saturday and head out nice and early. First, visit the quaint town of Aups where there is a market on Saturdays and be sure to arrive at Pont de Galetas well before noon for the best light in the gorge; it’s also not so crowded at the canoe rentals then. On Saturdays you have beautiful clear, blue water because Thursday to Friday nights the locks are open. In the afternoon you can have a nice lunch in Moustiers Sainte Marie, wander around and visit the little church on top of the mountain and then take one of the routes along the Verdon back to your vacation address on the coast.