The Gorges du Verdon . This immense canyon, located in the departments of Var and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, results from the erosion of the Verdon river and presents gigantic cliffs of limestone rocks. In the middle of protected natural spaces rich in flora and fauna, the panoramas offered are breathtaking. Provencal villages nestled on the edge of faults are real perched sentinels. Zoom on one of the most beautiful sites in France.
The Verdon, a sublime natural park
The Verdon Regional Natural Park, established in 1997, encompasses 46 municipalities over nearly 188,000 hectares. With its some 1000 km of hiking trails, it offers rich and varied landscapes in a mixture of agriculture and pastoralism. In the south of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in a tormented relief, a landscape opens up like a picture book and tells 250 million years of geological history … The Verdon Regional Natural Park extends from high country of the Var on the plateau of Valensole and the country of Artuby with the pre-Alpine massifs of Montdenier and Canjuers. The Verdon river, the backbone of the territory, has shaped its identity. The deep bowels of the Grand Canyon rub shoulders with the fullness of lakes and vast plateaus of lavender. Five artificial reservoirs, the lakes of Castillon, Chaudane, Sainte-Croix, Quinson and Esparron de Verdon, contribute to the beauty of this land in contrast. Because the Verdon offers several faces, alternately invigorating with strong sensations when it weaves its way along impressive gorges with bubbling whitewater, or calm and serene when its course meets one of its lakes, whose still waters and then settled down, are ideal for water sports and swimming.
In Provence, charming little villages
The other great asset of this spot is being able to enjoy the sublime little Provencal villages clinging to the hillsides. At the gates of the Gorges du Verdon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is one of the most beautiful villages in France. Confined between two rocky escarpments, a star overlooks this village. According to Frédéric Mistral, it would have been hung by a Crusader knight carried away by the Saracens who had promised to hang a star in homage to Mary if he managed to return to the village. After many falls and adventures, the star is now 1.25 m tall and is suspended from a 135 m chain weighing 150 kg. Impressive! Do not miss the parish church and its bell tower Lombard XII th century or the Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoirand the ramparts. This city of earthenware has nearly 20 workshops and a museum dedicated to this art. Unmissable!
Castellane is known for its rock. Indeed, during the Saracen invasions that shook the Provence to the IX th and X th centuries, the inhabitants of the city located in the valley then took refuge on the rock that overlooks the 903 meters. When the stronghold was completed, it was given the name of Petra Castellana (from the Latin “castellana”: castrum, castle and “petra”: built on stone). This is how this charming village was born.
Le village de Valensole est lui un gros bourg bâti en amphithéâtre au VIIIe siècle avant Jésus-Christ. Son territoire s’étend sur 12 700 ha, faisant de lui l’une des communes les plus vastes de France. Fontaines et lavoirs reflètent dans leurs eaux l’édifice imposant de Saint-Blaise, l’église du village attestant de la puissance passée de Cluny.
Dominated by Mont Saint-Maxime , from where the view is superb, Riez has held a very important place in the region for centuries. It is one of the oldest Provençal cities to have preserved so many vestiges from the beginning of our era. The old town opens onto picturesque old streets lined with splendid residences. The Grand-Rue is also imbued with an authentic medieval atmosphere with a commercial vocation, today perpetuated by many craftsmen, faience makers, potters. The XIV th century has left the remains of a beautiful military architecture, which there are still parts of the walls, the Clock Tower, the Sanson and Ayguière doors. An essential step in your discovery of the charming villages that surround the gorges.
In the Var , you should also not forget to go for a walk on the very high perched Aiguines . Small village perched at an altitude of more than 800 meters, it overlooks the lake of Sainte-Croix. At the top of the village, next to the Saint-Pierre chapel, an orientation table allows you to admire the superb panorama over the lake of Sainte-Croix, on the plateau of Valensole, up to Mont Ventoux and the mountain of Lure. The parish church of Saint-Jean, with its beautiful bay bell tower, dates from the 13th centurycentury. The castle and its four tall turrets with pepper-shaded roofs, covered with polychrome glazed tiles, was restored in 1606 by Balthazar de Gauthier, before being transformed and its gardens landscaped, around 1720, then 1750. Acquired and renovated in 1989, it has become a private residence. The outskirts of the village have many climbing routes for all levels, teem with sites suitable for paragliding and hang-gliding and offer all the pleasures of water sports on Lake Sainte-Croix and part of the Gorges du Verdon.
Finally, the village of Bauduen is another charming stopover. Built in an arc, leaning against the cliff, placed on the Roman road from Fréjus to Riez, the village has crossed the centuries leaving many traces of its past: ruins of the fortified castle which did not withstand the Wars of Religion , narrow streets, Renaissance gates and remains of ramparts, mullioned windows, old 16th century defense towercentury. After the creation of the Sainte-Croix lake in 1973, this agricultural village was able, while keeping its activities (goat and sheep breeding …), to turn to tourism. The port and the nautical center have become essential meeting points for lovers of aquatic activities. Walkers appreciate the many hikes possible from the village and mountain bikers can take advantage of several circuits, suitable for all levels. What to enjoy the surrounding nature!