The Verdon Gorge (French: Les Gorges du Verdon) is an awe-inspiring canyon in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region of France. The canyon varies from between 6 and 100m at the bottom, and 200 to 1500m at its rim.
The canyon was formed in the Quaternary Era as a result of earth movements while the Alpes were moving upwards, and also from erosion of Jurassic era limestone by the Verdon river.
Throughout the 19th century, the deepest gorges were thought to be impenetrable. Only a few local woodcutters went down into the gorges on ropes, looking for box wood (buis) stumps that they used for making boules.
The canyon remained unexplored until the early 20th century. Armand Janet attempted a canoe exploration in 1896, but gave up because of the violent currents. In August of 1905, the speleologist Edouard Alfred Martel did the first complete exploration of the gorges on a 3-day expedition. Part of the Martel trail is still used, between Point Sublime to La Maline.
Les Gorges du Verdon is chiefly made up of extremely rugged terrain.
Flora and fauna
Fees and permits
The best way to see this spectacular region in France is by car. The twisting, turning switchbacks would be no fun in a bus anyway. Beware, however, that gas stations are few and far between. Fill up well before approaching the gorge as the towns close to it do not have supplies. Also, while very enjoyable, this is a slow journey on winding roads, both going through the gorge and to reach it. So allow plenty of time.
- 1 Point Sublime. Considered one of the best viewpoints over the Verdon gorge.
- 2 Lac de Sainte-Croix. The Lac de Sainte-Croix is the biggest of five reservoirs with which the Verdon was tamed. It is used for energy production and drinking water supply. The Lac de Ste-Croix has developed into a bathing and surfing paradise, it may not be navigated by motor boats (except electrically operated ones).
Take a drive along the north rim of the gorge (D952) and check out the numerous vantage points in the gorges along the way. Hiking - La Grande Randonnee passes near the northern rim of the gorge and can be used to link up with a few smaller local tracks down into the gorges.
Rafting is also a possibility, but unless you are an expert, should only be attempted in an organised group.
- 1 Sentier de L'Imbut. The 4.3-km Path of Imbut (Sentier de L'Imbut) is one of the most beautiful paths through the Canyon du Verdon. The pleasantly shady trail leads through the deep and narrow part of the canyon to the Imbut (funnel). There the Verdon disappears into three tunnels. Along the way there are several wonderful bathing spots. The hike leads to a dead end, so you must walk back to where you started from (either road D23 or D71).
- 2 Sentier Martel. The 23-km-long Sentier Martel is the classic Canyon du Verdon walk. It accompanies the Verdon through the deep canyon. Along the way, there are breathtaking views of the cliffs, the boxwoods and the turquoise river. Highlights are the Mescla where the Artuby flows into the Verdon, the steep stairs Breche Imbert and the two tunnels with a total length of 800 m (toch light required).
Most tourists choose La Pallud-sur-Verdon as their base to discover the region. It has plenty of accomodation options to choose from.
Although the area is rich in natural beauty, do take care when leaning over guard rails to take photographs. The terrain is steep and the loose rocks can be dangerous if you are not careful. There would be quite a lengthy wait for a rescue, particularly out of season.