Dating back to the Paleolithic period, with the earliest traces dating back to 400,000 years ago right through to the Bronze age (750 BC), the Gorges stretch from the town of Castellane to Moustiers Set Marie covering some 25km of truly awe inspiring scenery.
The journey will take you from the heights of 650m to 1760m above sea level with breathtaking views, it is often considered to be one of the most beautiful Canyons in Europe.
For the most spectacular scenery we recommend taking the Route Napoleon D6085, accessible from Fayence via Mons, or from the Grasse area directly along the D6085. If travelling from the Draguignan area you take the D21 to join the Route Napoleon and then on towards Castellane.
Castellane dates back to the sixteenth century and is located at the cross-roads of the Route Napoleon and the Upper Verdon road. Castellane is the opposite of a perched village as the town is invisible from a distance as you approach, except for a tall rock jutting straight up out of the valley with a stone chapel (from 1703) perched on top.
The Chapel Nôtre-Dame-du-Roc is perched high above Castellane, built on the site of a Roman fort and the ancient Roman town of Petra Castellana. The Romanesque Eglise St-Victor dating back to the 11th century, was built by the monks of the Abbey of St Victor of Marseilles. It wasn’t until the 14th century that the inhabitants of Castellane moved completely down off the rock and into the lower town. This is a good place to take a rest stop but not for too long, there is still quite a way to go yet.
If adventure sports are your pleasure then this may be a good place to stop and enjoy kayaking or white water rafting through the Gorges.There are several local companies who offer these activities in the village, certainly an adventure worth considering.
From Castellane follow the direction for La Palud sur Verdon, Lac St Croix (see below) then Moustiers St Marie.
From here you have a choice of two routes, or both, depending on how you have planned your day.
You can follow the road to Moustiers-Ste-Marie, one of the most beautiful villages in France. There is a waterfall running through the middle of the village. Above the village, the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel sits high on a rocky peak. For the fit (and brave) you can take the pathway up to the tiny chapel which is certainly well worth visiting but take care with your footwear as the pathway is a well-trodden and very smooth surface. Whilst the journey up might be strenuous, the journey back down can be equally as testing.
Should you choose not to drive into Moustieres Ste Marie, we can recommend the drive on the northern side of this impressive lake in the direction of the village of St Croix.
Lac de St Croix
The stunningly beautiful Lac de St Croix is a man made lake held in place by a formidable dam “Barrage St Croix” and it holds around 760 million cubic metres of water. You can swim or take pedalos and small electric boats across the lake and into the gorges. There are plenty of snack bars around the lake, although we recommend taking your own picnic as it can be exceptionally busy in high season.
We suggest taking the northern route of the lake towards St Croix. You will not fail to miss the incredible expansive of Lavender fields along this route, if you are fortunate enough to be visiting between June and July then make sure you take your camera.
When you see the photos of Lavender fields in Provence, it is from here that most photos are taken. The scenes are truly beautiful and you will be surrounded by the heady scent which fills the air. Cutting of the Lavender takes place from mid July to mid August, but it is still an impressive place to drive through with spectacular views and the scent remains in the air.
As you take the road along the lake, you might consider driving down to the village of St Croix where you will find one or two restaurants which can make for a good rest-stop.
The Gorges du Verdon is within easy driving distance of many of the Villas of Affinity Holidays France. We highly recommend this day out as there is something to interest and captivate all ages.