When I saw the Verdon Gorge for the first time, I understood why the French have so many adjectives to describe something wonderful. Verdon is maqnifique and formidable! You just have to see it.
Verdon Gorge (Gorges du Verdon), also called the Grand Canyon of Verdon (Grand Canyon du Verdon), is located in Provence, but from Nice it is only 2 hours by car. If you’re on the French Riviera and have access to a car, it is definitely worth spending a day traveling around the Verdon Gorge – it’s one of the finest creations of nature in France, and even in Europe.
Verdon Gorge was carved into the limestone rocks by the relatively small Verdon river as it flowed down from the Alps. In a few places the river has been dammed to obtain electricity, and the reservoirs created in this way form lakes. One of these, Lac de Sainte-Croix, is at the end of a magnificent canyon. For the 21 km up to this point, the river flows in a gorge called the Verdon Gorge. At some places it is over 700 m deep, while the upper edges are between 200 and 1,500 m apart. At the bottom, the canyon is between 6 and 100 m wide. It is the second deepest gorge in Europe, just after the river Tara’s canyon in Montenegro.
What is the best way to visit Verdon Gorge?
On our trip we visited this amazing place by car. The route led from the tiny village of Comps-sur-Artuby, from where we drove along the D71 road keeping the Verdon on our right. Because of this, it was possible to stop at several lookouts along the way to admire the amazing panoramas. We finally reached Lac de Sainte-Croix itself, where, right next to the road, you can rent pedal boats, electric boats, and kayaks (about €15-25 per hour). We continued along the D952 route towards Castellane, still keeping the canyon on our right.
Along the way, you can enter a “special stage” (called Route des Crêtes), which provides the best views of the canyon, and is only intended for the most courageous tourists. I definitely recommend it! It’s an extra hour, but the route is amazing. Approximately 7 km further is the last interesting lookout point, behind which you can find a path leading to the bottom of the canyon. From here we went for a coffee in Castellane, and then returned to Nice via Grasse.
Castellane is a place where it’s easy to find companies who organize tours to Verdon Gorge. If you want to cross the canyon in a pontoon or kayak, or jump from the bungee bridge – here you will find someone to help you organize it. There are several very large campsites in the town, so it can be a good base if you plan to spend more time exploring the canyon. You can get to Castellane from Nice by bus. For public transport information, visit the pacamobilite.fr website.
How to get to Verdon Gorge?
If you want to spend only one day visiting the canyon, it is best to get there by car. From the vicinity of Nice, the fastest way to do this is by taking the A8 motorway towards Marseille. Then take the Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Tropez exit after Frejus and follow the D1555, D54, and D955 routes north to Comps-sur-Artuby.
The route around the Verdon Gorge is not the easiest one, so there’s no question of fast driving. The road is often very narrow, and because it’s a place very popular with tourists, be aware of cyclists, motorcyclists (there are hundreds of them!) and pedestrians.
The second suggestion is to go directly to Lac de Sainte-Croix lake, and bypass the route through the canyon. This option is for people who want to spend a maximum of half a day at the canyon. In this case, from the D1555 route, take D557 to Aups, and from there take route D957 to reach the destination shown in the first photo in the gallery above this article. Return via the same route.