Turquoise-blue water meanders through the rock and formed this great canyon.Älgbert Elgson
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The canyon, which is over 20 kilometers long and up to 700 meters deep, begins downstream to the town of Castellane and ends near Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in the Lac de Sainte-Croix reservoir. The turquoise river Verdon leads through the gorge and the gorge of the same name is, along with the Tara Gorge in Montenegro, one of the longest in Europe. The entire Verdon river is of course longer – but the section through the gorge is the most interesting section of it, with a depth between 250 and 700 meters and a varying width between 6 and 100 meters. The canyon has been officially a nature reserve since 1990.
Around the Verdon Gorge there are winding roads with numerous stopping bays on both sides, which offer a magnificent view of the breathtaking landscape. In the gorge itself, cooling in the river should not be carried out, because the dangerous currents are life-threatening. On certain sections of the Verdon Gorge, various activities (hiking, climbing, canoeing or white water kayaking, …) are offered, some of which depend on the amount of water. These can be queried via an information hotline.
The Lac de St. Croix reservoir is also a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Both sailing and electric boating as well as swimming and surfing are permitted on the lake. It is the second largest in France and is mainly used for energy generation and water supply. Before 1973, the village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon stood on the site of the reservoir, which was completely flooded and destroyed by the construction of the dam. The village was rebuilt at a place about 400 meters away. Today, this community is one of the youngest in France.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was almost impossible to cross the Verdon Gorge. It was only in 1905 that cave explorer Eduoard Alfred Martel was able to explore the gorge, and hiking trails were gradually created. These are available in all difficulty levels, but good hiking shoes are a prerequisite for all of them. The „Sentier Martel“ hike is named after the speleologist, almost 15 kilometers long and there are some difficult sections and two hiking tunnels along the path.
There are parking spaces for this hike at Chalet de la Maline, at Point Sublime or at Couloir Samson. From the parking lot at Couloir Samson, a bridge, a staircase and several steps carved into the rock lead into the unlit 670 meter long „Tunnel du Baou“. In this tunnel there is a small platform through which a view of the deeper flowing Verdon is possible. From there you can also see the „Baume aux Pigeons“ cave. This was once formed by the partially underground Verdon, is located in a 350 meter high rock face and is itself about 30 meters high. From the tunnel you can also see the „Couloir Samson“. There the smoothly cut rock faces are particularly close to each other and large rocks lie in the narrow gorge.
The second tunnel is just over 100 meters long and is known as the „Tunnel de Trescaire“. This tunnel is also completely unlit and just like the first, there are holes filled with water and rocks of various sizes lying on the ground, which have come off the ceiling. For the longer tunnel in particular, a flashlight or headlamp brought along is recommended.
After these two tunnels and the paths in between, there is a small viewpoint from which you can look back beautifully on the gorge. After that, a sign warns of difficult and dangerous passages that should only be started by well-equipped and experienced hikers. Everyone else is advised to start back at this point.
How to get there?
There is a winding road on both sides of the Verdon Gorge. There are some stopping bays and there are always parking spaces along the street to start hiking from there. There are large parking spaces at the reservoir, some with large potholes and height restrictions.
Sufficient time should be planned for the Verdon Gorge. In addition to the opportunities for water sports enthusiasts and climbers, there are also many beautiful and varied hikes with different levels of difficulty. The drive through the valley is also beautiful and there is a lot to discover. The stony natural beach at Lac de Sainte-Croix is the ideal place to relax next to the turquoise blue water or to eat comfortably brought along dishes.
We were here: 2019