Les Gorges du Verdon or often called the Grand Canyon of Europe is one of the must-see natural wonders of Provence. We heard from Damar’s friend about this place for the first time. He suggested to go there for camping and he was right!! Frankly I never thought there is such place in Europe. I know I underestimate the nature that Europe has to offer too much. One of the reasons I think that way is because I am used to the flat ground surface of Netherlands.
Gorge du Verdon has such a great vibe. It is very touristy especially in the summer time. During summer time, you better try to catch the river quite early to avoid the crowd. It is worth visiting by anyone in need of a reality check on the passage of time. You should trust me when I say that floating along the lake Gorge feels super majestic. Just imagine centuries ago, it used to be a gigantic mountain and dropped little by little with water until it is split and become a beautiful blue flowing river. It’s called persistence! And I got to float on it 🙂
In this post I will walk through our activities in the 5 days 4 nights stay. Believe me, there’s no shortage of activities in Gorges du Verdon unless when the weather does not allow.
We arrived in Nice airport in the morning and directly fetched our rented car that were awaiting. So happy that we got a car with open roof in such a sunny day. We stopped on our way to get all the utilities and food+water we might need in the camping site. On the way, we visit convenient store Intermarche in the city we passed by. The purpose was to be well stocked for our way and for the first 2 days in the camp at least.
We continued to take the route below, which is one of the most scenic drive in Europe. The last thing you would do is falling asleep in that type of scenery. Prepare a good playlist to listen while enjoying the beauty of nature or just have a life (or even trivial) talk with whom you have the drive with.
One of a lot of stops we made on our way to Gorge du Verdon. Take your time and stop as much as you want, because the way back would be different and it’s worth the air you breath.
After around 2,5 hours we finally arrived in our camping site. I was quite surprised with how western takes camping life to the very next level. Most of them are French, Dutch and German (obviously). They literally had every single thing ones have in the house except toilet. Whilst, our are just one mini tent that did not allow us to even stand tall. Luckily we both are small.
Somehow we were so tired, so after building up our tent, settled in and took a visit to the the close ‘beach’ that is just in front of our stay site, we fell asleep and woke when the sun was reaching to set. Look how beautiful it is.. We enjoyed it for a bit, cooked rice, instant noodle, and pouched eggs in our teeny tiny pot. Ahh the feeling to be in nature was just so worthwhile.
We got ready at around 9, but unfortunately the wind was not very cooperative with our plan to hike. So we had to wait.. The sport activity was even all cancelled due to the bad weather. We just walked around the camp and played table tennis until around 1, then we had lunch with our canned and instant food. I don’t know why but in camp situation where food are limited, canned and instant food taste so good!
When the wind got calmer around 1.30 pm we headed to route D71 and started our hiking there. It was not an official hiking track or anything. We found this route on google as I looked for level easy for 5 miles. We started quite late, so to be safe we took the easy way. Turned out we ended up in the military terrace that is prohibited to trespass. Yes we did not reach the peak, but it is okay, because the purpose of me hiking is to engage with nature and be in wild just with Damar (and wind sound + bird chirping). I got all that and sweat was bonus, so that made me very happy. That was just how I always picture the kind of relationship and experience I want to go through with Damar.
After that we just go back on our way further to D71 and enjoyed what we encountered on our way
If you go around September, you should start checking the weather forecast in order to plan your activities. You will eventually find it by the feeling of increased temperature or rain or by the sport activities worker telling you not possible to play with water. But before all efforts you make, keep yourself updated with weather forecast as Summer has slowly gone in that period.
We were planning to do the sport activity but the wind was too severe that day. So we went up there and drove along the villages nearby the camping site location.
Moustiers- Sante- Marie
Do not underestimate this village!! After we parked our car in a street parking spot, which was easy to find, we made a wrong turn and ended up in the only restaurant we could see. So we took a break and had coffee. I thought at that time, how small this village is. It is up the hill and it let you see the scenery to the green forest area in the lower level. Nice but tiny.
Little did we know, there was another turn to the city that we eventually took. The view I was looking at was mesmerizing. There was a spring flows through the cliff in the middle of the town and creates a waterfall which is provides water power. There were many pottery shops which made me gasps, so incredible. I can’t imagine it’s all man-handmade and supposedly by the local people. The village was built on terraces and you can hike meters up in the side of a cliff. See the video in this link.
Above the town, a gold-painted star hangs on a 225m-long chain suspended between two cliffs. Its origin, according to a legend popularised by Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral, lies in the 10th century; the original star and chain have been replaced several times since then. The current star is about 50 years old. Ten years ago it fell after the chain snapped, and was rehung using a helicopter. (Source: Wikipedia
The beauty in this experience is not the village itself, but the road we passed to get through this village. Actually I always want to go to the Lavender field, and we surprisingly drove through it!!! I only could play with my imagination how even more beautiful it would be with full lavenders. No wonder I already found a lot of lavender based products in the other village. Well, after all it’s Provance.
The fully bloom time would be around Jun-Jul and Jul-Aug for harvesting period. I guess there is always a reason to come back 🙂
Lavender field without lavender
Finally, although this is the day we would leave Gorge du Verdon, but it was exciting to do Kayak/Canoe in the beautiful famous Sainte- Croix lake. We went to the Bae de l’etoile. There are also another boat rental company in the opposite. Start early, but make sure that sun is already up to make a good picture lighting and also to give warmth.
We chose canoe out of ignorance. After that we learnt the difference and next time we would take kayak. The difference is canoe paddle has a blade on one end, while a kayak paddle is bladed at both ends. Canoe has the raising end in the boat and kayak has only one, the other end is flat.
By the way, the water was quite cold, but it’s worth to jump!
We rented the canoe for 2 hours (30 eur) and once finished, we drove towards Castellane. On this way, we got hitch hiked for the second time during this trip. Funny enough, the 2 hitch hikers speaks quite a bit Indonesian. Damar and I were really surprised because they are French. They love Indonesia and they had lived there for 2 months. Oh what are the chances! For this hitch hike subject, I’d suggest to do it only when you feel comfortable. You’ll find a lot of them waving in the street.
My one and only thought, do something good and greatness will come back to you. Also as my dad says, be kind and positive, everything will be okay when your intention is good. We have extra seats and we love getting to know new people while listening to their stories. So why not? 🙂
It is a small town in the Provencal Alps on the Route Napoléon. Castellane has about 1,600 inhabitants. It has the distinction of being the least in population sub-prefecture of France. It is quite big comparing with the other villages, unfortunately we did not have much time to go around. But if you have more time, it’s a must to explore! We aimed to pass the cliff side before dark.
Because we had such an early flight, we wanted to find a city nearby in which we could also explore a bit. We drove via D2 towards Cagne- Sur-Mer. We do not have pictures in Cagne-Sur-Mer but I completely fell in love. It’s so petite, beautiful and warm. There’s a castle in there and we stayed just next to it.
In Gorge du Verdon: We stayed in a camping site called La source. Highly recommended. Price: 28eur per night
In Cagne sur Mer: We stayed in Chateau Le Cagnard. Price: 60 eur per night
Getting Around: Do yourself a favor and rent a car. You’ll be glad with that decision.
Pack: For Verdon Gorge you’ll definitely want to bring snacks and water. For more, check out my other blog post.
Kayaking/canoeing: We paid 30Euros to rent for two hours. The price includes a life vest and parking is free.