If you couldn’t make it to the Grand Canyon in the US, don’t fret because you can experience the same thrill at the Gorges du Verdon – ‘The Grand Canyon of Europe.’ Located at the foothills of the Alps and on a limestone plateau, the Gorge affords a breathtaking view of the emerald-green River Verdon from its highest point. It’s not only the rare bird species inhabiting this place but also the scope for trying extreme sports that builds excitement in a traveler’s mind.
Thousands of years ago, a tributary of River Durance – the River Verdon – cut into the limestone plateau it flowed through and formed the Gorge. The reason how and when the Gorge became so deep (as much as 700 meters), remains shrouded in mystery.
Things to Do
Water Sports – A river flowing between high cliffs can offer the best option for river rafting. This Gorge does the same. Try white water rafting and embark on a canyoning trip to feel the force of River Verdon. Head a few kilometers towards the east to Castellane and set out for the kayaking and hydrospeed expeditions. And while you are at it, take out time to look around.
Extreme Sports – If you like to do something memorable, then take up the ‘Latitude Challenge’ and try bungee jumping and skydiving from the 182-m-high Pont de l’Artuby (Artuby Bridge), Europe’s highest site for bungee jumping.
The hilly terrains of the Gorges du Verdon are always a treat for hikers and trekkers. Consult local guides to help you find the best deal. Also try rock climbing and floating if you do not have a rafting boat.
Apart from the Gorges du Verdon, there are number of spectacular tourist attractions in Provence that you must visit. Chapelle Notre Dame de Beauvoir is one of the most famous and frequently visited places in all of France, so you have a great opportunity to make the most of your visit to the Gorge by being at this 14th century chapel. If you want to have a close look at the glorious French history and culture, you can visit the museums and art galleries around the Gorge including Museum of Earthenware, Museum of Earthenware Sirens and Fossils, Museum of the Resistance, and Museum of Prehistory of the Gorges du Verdon. Visit Château d’Allemagne to get a glimpse of the architectural marvels of France.
Where is Gorges du Verdon?
The Gorge is located at the foothills of the Alps mountain range in Provence, France.
How to Reach?
By Air – Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is the nearest one to the Gorges du Verdon. It would need less than a two-hour drive to cover around 88.5 km between them.
By Rail – There is no railway station near the Gorge.
By Road – You can hire motorbikes from Castellane, which is the nearest town from the Gorge. It is only 4 km from the site and requires less than a 10-minute ride. A few bus routes are operational from Digne via Castellane to the Gorges. The bus station in Digne is 56.5 km from the Gorges and would take an hour to be there.
The foothills of the Alps near the Gorges du Verdon are home to a number of hotels. Although, there are no 5-star accommodations, the high-end travelers derive much satisfaction from staying in Château et Golf De Taulane, Hotel Les Restanques De Moustiers, and Nouvel Hôtel du Commerce. Most of the hotels near the Gorges such as Clos des Iris, Hôtel Sainte Anne, and La Bastide du Paradou are meant for budget travelers.
There is no dearth of restaurants near the Gorge offering a fine dining experience and delicious cuisines. La Grignotière, Domaine d’Aiguines, Auberge du Teillon, and La Ferme Ste-Cécile are the restaurants offering the best continental cuisine in the region.
Best Time to Visit
Summer is the best time to visit the Gorges du Verdon as weather from May to September remains relatively pleasant and mostly sunny.
Things to Remember
Keep track of the public holidays in France and avoid visiting the Gorge during those times, as the roads remain blocked. Moreover, you will find it hard to get rooms in any hotels. The terrains are rough and full of twists and turns, so do not drive beyond the manageable speed of your car. Take enough stock of fluids with you to prevent dehydration during the scorching summer heat.
Facts About Gorges du Verdon
- Gorges du Verdon is often referred to as ‘The Grand Canyon of Europe’ or ‘Europe’s answer to the Grand Canyon’.
- The width of the bottom of the Gorge ranges from 8 meters to 90 meters.
- The highest point of the walls of the Gorge (700 meters) is more than twice as high as the Eiffel Tower (321 meters).
- The Regional Natural Park of Verdon has been looking after and ensuring the conservation of the Gorges du Verdon since 1997.
Image Credit: Joseph Plotz