In Gorges du Verdon, France
The south of France is one of the most popular destinations for the Belgians every summer. Looking for sunshine and warmth, thousands of Belgians go there every year. So I was obviously very curious to go, even though I am no sun loving person, after living 5 years in Belgium I have learned to appreciate a sunny day and even enjoy (limited) exposure to the sun. Finding our summer french destination was no easy task, there were so many wonderful options but after a long deliberation, we chose to visit the beautiful Gorges du Verdon.
We chose the Gorges du Verdon because we wanted to enjoy nature, take long walks and enjoy good weather, and while there are several places in France that meet this criteria, I think we just fell in love with the pictures of the beautiful canyon and its contrasting color with the waters of the river and the lake. So we divided a trip in two parts, our first part being the Gorges du Verdon area, and the second part Marseille and the Calanques. In this post I will write about the Gorges du Verdon.
To reach the Gorges we drove for around 11 hours from Belgium. It was mostly highway but the last 3 hours we drove through charming towns and fields. We arrived at a camping site very close to the Lake of Saint-Croix. This was a fantastic location, because we were not only very close to the Gorges and the Lake, but also to the picturesque town of Moustiers Sainte-Marie, which we visited during our stay.
I have to say.. September is a fantastic time to travel to this area, as it is still warm.. and there were not a lot of tourists, which meant no waiting and cheaper prices :). The only downside of this period is that the lavender season is over, so you can't see the beautiful fields anymore. There are however, several shops offering lavender products. I didn't know how much I liked the smell of lavender until now. I am from now on a fan!
In order to enjoy the most of the canyon, we decided to both walk and drive through it. This way we experienced it in two very different scales and tempos.
The Gorges by Foot
For our first day.. We decided to go on a hiking route through the canyon. We chose the Sentier de L'Imbut route since it was recommended to us as one of the most beautiful ones and was also not too long. It was supposed to take only 4 hours return, but it took us around 6 hours. This was mostly because the route it was more challenging than we anticipated, but the views were really amazing, totally worth the effort.
The first part of the route is a descent from the top of the canyon to the water. Some parts were really steep, but there are usually a lot of bushes and rocks to be able to grab on for balance. On the way back up though, it was not so easy... Once at water level the route goes a little up and down, but nothing too difficult (except for a few parts, where the roads were very narrow, for example..)
There were also not a lot of people, we only saw a few groups now and then, which meant that most of the time we had the canyon just for ourselves.
TOP - Left: View of the Canyon from the walking path. Right: Michael and I happy at the end of the route. (Still had to go back though).
The Gorges by Car
After being really tired from our Gorges du Verdon hike, we decided to take a more light approach to continue exploring this beautiful gift of nature, going through the canyon by car this time. We started at the beautiful Lake of Sainte-Croix, in order to drive along the Gorges up to the town of Castellane.
The road ascending the Gorges starts very spectacularly with a gradiose view of the Lake and soon followed by impressive cliffs plunging really deeply. The road is very narrow and full of curves. One wrong turn and you end up... well.. nevermind. It's really beautiful! On our way to Castellane we drove through the Route de Cretes, which starts and ends in the town of La Palud sur Verdon. This is a circuit which offers some of the most impressive views of the canyon. The are several view points along the way where you can park your car/bike and enjoy the wonderful scenery. This circuit takes around 1.5 hours (if you stop several times, like we did).
Afterwards we continued driving to Castellane, where there are a couple of view points, including the impressive Point Sublime. The road continues descending and getting closer to the water, where the views are still very beautiful. Arriving in Castellane we found some touristic shops and cafes, but we didn't stay here very long. We took the road back to the Lake of Sainte Croix to our camping... and.. that was the end of a beautiful day!
So, that's it! I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Thanks for reading!