Verdon Gorge Pictures
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France's version of the USA's Grand Canyon, the Gorges du Verdon (Verdon
Gorge) is 21 km long and much favoured by folk on watercraft of all sorts,
as well as foot-sloggers, horsey types and even - unbelievably - though those who prefer to travel by car, who can do a 130km (81 miles)
circuit, but beware of summer traffic jams.
The most dramatic view point of the gorge is at the 'Balcons de la
Boating: Getting out onto water is a French summer's raison d'etre and just about any watery system is OK except internal combustion engines. From pedal boats, kayaks, sailing dinghies and windsurfers up to electric-powered low-speedboats, they're out there when the temperature rises.
One of the largest boating venues is Sainte Croix Lake, with rentals from either delightful Ste. Croix de Verdon, newly built Les Salles sur Verdon and Bauduen.
Apart from hiking some of the activities possible in the Verdon Gorge area are rafting, canyoning, kayaking, sailing, water skiing, fishing, paragliding, free flight, gliding, climbing, hiking, horse riding and mountain biking.
White water activities: including rafting, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, floating, hydrospeeding and whatever else is fashionable that year. The two best Gorge sections are:
- Haut Verdon, with 40 kms (25 miles) of rapids between Allos and St Andre Les Alpes (Castillon Lake); best April-June.
- Moyen Verdon, either a short bit from Castellane to Pont de Carajuan, or 30kms (21 miles) of serious rapids and steep sides in the Canyon du Verdon; best March-September.
White-water specialists: Aboard
Canyoning and Climbing: Aventure et Nature
Multiple activities including kayaking, rafting, biking, canyoning, climbing: Aqua Viva Est
Pont de l'Arby, a popular viewpoint over the Verdon Gorge
Climbing: Climbers love the Verdon area, mostly composed of nice, firm and grippy limestone with occasional sandstone; there are 930 spectacular climbing routes ranging from beginners to one-foot-wrong-you-die faces. Starting points:
- Quinson, a pretty little village close to not only the Verdon river but also Quinson lake, Ste. Croix lake and Esparron lake. There are at least 100 climbing routes around here (80-100m) catering to all levels. Route D1 3, 21 kms from Riez. Call Club d'escalade de Quinson at 04 92 74 40 04 for guides or rentals. Moustiers Ste. Marie (pictures below), another quaint and touristy town offering 20 routes (25-50m), moderate difficulty. Go to the tourist office for climb information.
- Gorges du Verdon, either Aiguines (D957 from Aups, a popular and panoramic location) or La Palud (with its fantastic route des cretes hiking trail; on route D952, between Castellane and Moustiers Sainte Marie), with 1,500 climbs suitable for all levels. Call Association Lei Lagramusas 04 92 77 38 02 for guides and rentals.
- Castellane, at the start of the Gorges, is near to 20 easy climbs up to 20m. It's on the D955 between Draguinan (60km) and Digne (55km); also 60km from Grasse.
Moustiers Sainte Marie, seen from the medieval church.
There are many attractive towns and villages in the Parc Naturel Regional du Verdon such as Riez and Moustiers-Ste-Marie (photo above and below),
but they are frequently full of pre-booked visitors so get your reservations
Canyoning: this thrilling, newish sport involving climbing/abseiling down and through canyons and waterfalls using proper equipment requires fitness, courage and care - people die occasionally from flash floods. The wet canyoning season runs May 1- November 30 in this area. Go with professional guides from the towns listed above under climbing with the companies listed under white water activities!
Moustiers Sainte Marie is on route D952 between Castellane (45km) and Greoux les Bains (34km).
Cycling/Mountain Biking: This is France, home to road biking so the place is loaded with cycle routes, though many are shared with car users. One favourite around the Verdon Gorge, 98.5 kms long, travel time about 6 hours. Aiguines is again a fine starting point; information here is in French (www.provenceweb.fr/var/cyclo/randonnees/b5.htm)
Horse Riding: Some good rides around Verdon, including a 7 day trip around the Ste.Croix Lake, the largest Verdon lake at 10km long. Call Ferme Equestre des Tilleuls in Salernes at +33 494 67 50 38.
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