26 Jul · Gail · No Comments

Travel Diary: Verdon Gorge, France

My sister Emma and I decided we are ready for a shorter walking holiday, so we picked Verdon Gorge in southwestern France which is home to some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in all of Europe.

 

We previously walked Dolomites in Northern Italy and also the Transylvania Carpathians Traverse in Romania. Both had been such amazing experiences, so we were very excited about this trip!

The walk starts in Castellane and finished approximately 55KM away in Moustiers Sainte Marie. Verdon Gorge itself is the largest Canyon in Europe, and is known for its unique emerald green water. It’s surrounding are equally as beautiful, and is protected for it’s diverse flora, species and traditional architecture.

 

Day 1

We arrived at an enchanting hotel after our flight, which fit perfectly into the historic, storybook town of Castellane. After the brief walk around Castellane, we went to a local pizza restaurant which had fantastic food. We tried the local beer and the traditional local French dish, garlic snails, before a tasty pizza and finally topped off with ice cream cone.

 

Castellane - Starting point of Verdon Gorge

 

Day 2

We started out early to set off to Point Sublime. It was a gentle climb up the mountains, the hills are covered in greenery but fantastic limestone breaking out the top.  The greenery was full of wild flowers, hedging, and trees. as we followed the signage to Point Sublime, there was a gorgeous scent of the wildflowers perfume following us along the trail. We also saw many animals along the way. At one point, when we looked up there was Eagle flying very high in the skies. The locals explained that Eagles and Vultures are an important part of the food chain for the Verdon National Park, because they eat the dead animal which prevents viruses from spreading and destroying the ecosystem.

 

First Day walking - Verdon Gorge

As we started walking downhill on the rugged path along the edge of the hill, we notice the charismatic small village called Rougon. We stopped here for light refreshment.

 

Rougon - Verdon Gorge

We continued down the hill to reach our destination for today – the aptly named, Point Sublime. We checked in and relaxed a bit before going to a nearby viewpoint to see the beautiful sunset.

 

Sunset at Entrance of Verdon Gorge

 

 

Day 3

As we are aware that today will be a long day, we got breakfast at 7.30am and set off for to La Palud Sur Verdon via Verdon Gorge.  First, we saw the fog was lifting up over the Gorge, as we started to walk into the entrance of the Verdon Gorge.

 

Amazing scenery before entering into Verdon Gorge

But before that, we needed to walk for 40 minutes through a pitch black tunnell. It an experience like no other, but you will need a proper working torch (as mine died while walking through, and I had to use my phone). We had to watch out for some shallow puddles, but with our proper waterproof hiking shoes, it didn’t bother us much.

 

About to walk into the tunnel - Verdon Gorge

When we came out of the tunnel, we were met with breathtaking view of inside the Gorge blanketed with a clear blue sky. As we walked along the edge of the Gorge, we heard the water flowing and there was different type of flora scattered everywhere, such as poppies, It was so peaceful; we didn’t meet anyone until later in the day. There were lizards sunbathing beside the path, and scurried away into the dry leaves as we walked past them. I was lucky to catch one hiding that I took a close up picture.

 

Inside the Verdon Gorge

We reached the steps which I called “the devil stairs”! We started to meet people coming from the other end. It was quite steep but it was a quick way to get to the top. We met a few other walkers and we had chatter about what ahead and swapped tips where to stop for a picnic and a little rest. We made a final climb up to see the view, which was incredible.

 

As we started descending down closer to the river again, we decided to have a picnic on the rock with a view. I noticed a few fish in the river while the birds flew over and there were butterflies everywhere. I just really enjoyed capturing these creatures on camera when they land on flowers to remember the colourful texture wings. We knew we have a hard climb ahead of us so we rested there for a while.

 

beautiflies on verdon gorge    beautiflies on verdon gorge

As we went along, we still walking along the edge of the gorge and the river but further up the hill, then finally we met the hard climb up to the top, it was challenging but worth it when we got to the top.

 

View of Verdon Gorge

We stopped at the café for a light refreshments sitting at the decking to give us incredible view of the Gorge. It was so rewarding to think we have walked inside the Gorge. We were debating whether to continue walking to final stop or get a taxi as we still have two hours to walk. We decided to take our time and walk the rest of the way. We were so glad that we did, we walked along the road beside the Gorge soaking in the scenery.

 

Emma looking out into the Verdon Gorge

Once we arrived at our hotel, we freshened up and walked to the nearest bar for a well earn pint. We saw so many locals getting pizza from the small stall. We decided to give it a go and it was one of the best pizzas I ever had. Emma and I shared the large one at first, but it was so good we had to go back to for seconds. We were so full that we regretted it a bit, but it was so delicious we couldn’t help ourselves.

 

 

Day 4

Landscape view of Verdon Gorge

After breakfast, we started our last climb of the trip to our final stop, Moustiers Sainte Marie. The weather was perfect for walking, warm air with a light cool breeze. When we reach the top, we were met with even more picturesque scenery. We walked through the dense forest then along the edge of the top of the mountains and we got to an incredible viewing point. We looked down at the end of the Verdon Gorge, which the Verdon River leads to the irregular shape Le Verdon Lake. The water is back to a unique emerald green colour. We decided to have an early lunch and appreciate the view.

 

Looking out the best Viewing point in Verdon Gorge

After an hour of relaxing at this viewing point, we make our final stretch down the mountain/hills through dense forest. It was challenging going down as it was a bit steep and rocky. When we reached our final destination, we decided to go to the hotel first to had a dip in the pool, freshen up and relax before making our way to the yet another compelling town centre, Moustiers Sainte Marie. When we look over at the mountains, there was a gold stars hangs between the cliffs. Directly underneath the star is the “Notre Dame de Beauvoir”.

 

Gold Star between the cliff

 

TOP TIPS

 

Signage

The trail is very well marked and we never got lost – which we have been known to do in the past! The signage was excellent and if we were in doubt, we had the maps and the gps which was supplied by One Foot Abroad.

Signage   Signage

Travel

We flew into Nice. If you can I would recommend in flying into Nice early to catch the last bus to Castellane leaving at 2.30pm. Otherwise, you can rent a car and drive to Castellane.

 

Training

I would highly recommend walking sticks and some training before starting this walking holiday. Emma and I are fit, but we found it challenging as we did little training in hill walking beforehand. Put in the work, but it is one of the most rewarding trips and really enjoyed the off beaten track of France.

 

Gail

Travel marketing executive, originally from Tipperary (as the song goes, it's a long way to Tipperary). Enjoys photography and hiking around the world, visited 5 of the 7 continents. Plans to visit Antarctica very soon.

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