Verdon Gorges in France, also called Europe’s Grand Canyon, deserve to be named the best hidden attraction of Provence. Overshadowed by the French Rivera, they never become overcrowded. Despite their luck of popularity, the gorges are one of the most spectacular sites in Europe. Verdon Gorges offer unparalleled beauty and tranquility. They could be a destination on their own or combined with a visit to other attractions of Provence.
I discovered Verdon Gorges while planning my trip to Provence. When I first came across pictures of the canyon, I could not believe that I did not know that they existed. I immediately put them on my must-see list.
The Grand Canyon of Europe stretches for more than 15 miles in central Provence. Its 2,000 foot limestone cliffs overlook strikingly blue Verdon River which empties into the pristine Lake Sainte Croix, France’s third largest lake.
Getting to Verdon Gorges
The most logical way to reach the area is by car. In theory, only a two-hour drive from Cannes (my previous stop in France), took me an entire day. The scenery did not allow for a fast ride. You will want to stop often. The country site of Provence is one of its major attractions.
Towards the end of the drive, the roads become narrow and winding but what a feast for your eyes!
Where to stay
If you want to get the full feel of the canyon, there is only one place that makes sense as your lodging option: Hotel Grand Canyon du Verdon. Located in the heart of the gorges and situated right on the cliff, this hotel offers spectacular views of the landscape and the river below.
Unfortunately, the hotel is in need of renovation so do not expect too much. What you are paying for is its spectacular location. You will be spending your time outside enjoying the views.
The guest rooms are a decent size and feature a balcony or terrace, a flat-screen TV, a telephone, free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom.
The hotel has its own restaurant overlooking the canyon and serving traditional French cuisine. It is perfectly located for adventure activities, such as rafting, climbing and practicing water sports.
Other types of accommodation, including holiday rentals, you will find in the nearby village of Aiguines.
How to visit
I spent two nights at Verdon Gorges. It was not nearly enough. I could easily see myself there for a week. The area is designed for a slow pace visit and it will not cost you a fortune to enjoy it.
The area offers spectacular views any way you go. In the high elevation, you can see the mountains and the winding river below, but when you reach the lower elevation a completely new world opens up.
Around the village of Aiguines, the scenery becomes less dramatic and, to my delight, this is where I found the most beautiful lavender fields I could dream of. And these fields overlooked the blue water of the Lake of Sainte Croix. Right there my dream of Provence came true.
In France, anywhere you go there is something that grabs your attention and makes you stop. It could be an amazing vista, a charming place to eat in the middle of nowhere, or my personal favorite – the meadows!
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Soak up the sun on the beaches of Sainte Croix Lake
The lake offers a perfect environment for relaxation. Its beaches deliver tranquility and beauty. Here, you can pick a spot and make it your own.
Visit Aiguines for a variety of sport activities
Aiguines offers active tourists a wide choice of activities like white kayaking, pedal boating, windsurfing, and rock climbing. Extreme sports enthusiasts will be delighted with bungee jumping from the bridge of Artuby, the highest bridge in Europe.
Try local cuisine
I do not recommend Verdon Gorges as a food destination, but this is France, places to eat can show up out of nowhere. Stop and walk in, grab something to eat or drink, and enjoy the local charm. Consider eating like a local in Provence.
Take a hike
I did not have enough time at Verdon Gorges to take an extended hike, but it must be spectacular. You will need to come prepared to find the trail to get to the bottom of the canyon. I did not see it visibly marked.