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Verdon Gorge: Europe's Grand Canyon

Verdon Gorge: Europe’s Grand Canyon

Tour details

Price
from $1,035
Rating
Average rating:   0,  0 reviews
Country
France
Activity type
Self Guided Walking
Duration
7 days & 6 nights
Difficulty
Moderate to Strenuous
Accomodation
Comfortable
Availability
April - October

Itinerary

Day 1: Castellane
Day 2: Point Sublime
Day 3: La Palud
Day 4: La Palud
Day 5: Point Sublime
Day 6: Trigance
Day 7: Castellane/Departure

Overview for Verdon Gorge: Europe’s Grand Canyon

The Verdon Gorge (Les Gorges du Verdon), also called Verdon Grand Canyon, is considered one of Europe’s deepest and most spectacular (the other contestant being the Vikos Gorge in Greece) and it is often described as Earth’s second-biggest canyon (after the US’ Grand Canyon).

The Verdon was formed by the Verdon River, which is named for its startling turquoise-green colour. The most impressive part lies between Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, where the river has cut a ravine to a depth of 700 metres through the limestone mass. At the end of the canyon, the Verdon River flows into the lake of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon.

Our Verdon Gorge walking holiday takes in some truly dramatic scenery and offers a colourful and genuine flavour of Provence. The circuit starts and finishes in the quaint medieval village of Castellane nestled in the Alpine foothills of Haute Provence. The most spectacular parts are the famous GR4 route and the Blanc-Martel Trail including a series of steps, tunnels, ladders and bridges allowing access to much of the length of the gorge (23 km in total). The itinerary will let you immerse in the atmosphere of the authentic Provencal villages, where you can taste local delicacies like truffles, olive oil, tapenade, lavender honey, goat cheese and unique wines.

  • An incredible variety of scenic walks and awe-inspiring vistas 
  • Picturesque Provencal villages 
  • Characterful accommodations and locally sourced food 
  • Verdon Gorge National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site 
  • The perfect spring and autumn destination for experienced hikers 
  • The famous GR4, Martel and Bastidon trails 

Itinerary for Verdon Gorge: Europe’s Grand Canyon

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Day 1: Arrival Castellane

Arrival in Castellane, a medieval village nestled at the foot of an impressive limestone block, Le Roc (a listed natural site). Depending on your arrival time, you have the possibility of taking a short walk to visit the Notre Dame du Roc chapel and the remains of Petra Castellane (the abandoned city). From the top, you’ll enjoy commanding views of the canyon and the river valley. Overnight Castellane.

  • Walking for the day (optional): 5 km, 1.5h ↑240m ↓240m

Day 2: GR4: Castellane to Point Sublime

You leave Castellane and join the famous GR4; this follows the old route used by the Romans to reach Lyon. You climb for a short while up to a balcony trail; from here you can look down on the trail leading out ahead. As we continue along the Verdon valley we find ourselves surrounded by rocky outcrops and passing through unspoilt peaceful hamlets, beautiful Chasteuil being the ideal place for your picnic lunch. Then climb again up to a plateau at 1228m and continue onto the village of Rougon, perched on a rocky spur, where you can take a break and sample the crepes and ice cream and might catch sight of a Griffon Vulture soaring overhead. From here, it is a short descent to the hotel in Point Sublime.

Note: it may be necessary to spend the night at La Palud (if the Auberge du Point Sublime is closed) and to add transfers to and from La Palud (there will be no extra charge for the transfers). Please also note that the Auberge du Point Sublime restaurant is closed on Wednesday evenings. If you arrive at the hotel on a Wednesday, you will be served a cold plate dinner.

  • Walking for the day: 15 km, 5-6h ↑700m ↓780m

Day 3: The Martel Trail

Today you will traverse the Grand Canyon of Europe. The trail is a little more challenging underfoot. Once you have accessed the Couloir Samson you descend toward the river along the steep walls of the gorge, to join the Martel Trail, named after Edouard Alfred Martel, who was the first to explore the Verdon Gorge in 1905. You are then surrounded by stunning limestone walls and towering cliffs. The trail works its way along the gorge passing spectacular viewpoints. Along the way, you will pass the Brèche Imbert, six metal ladders with a total of 252 steps that facilitate the steep descent and you go through the tunnels of Trescaire and Baou (torch or headlamp and warm jacket required), several walkways and stairs. It is a demanding but unforgettable experience! A final pull up and you exit the gorge just a little way from the Chalet de la Maline bar and if time allows you can stop for a well-earned drink. You then take a short transfer to the lovely Provencal village of la Palud where you spend the night.

  • Walking for the day: 14 km, 6h ↑900m ↓800m

Day 4: The Bastidon Trail – Maline to La Palud

After breakfast, a short transfer will bring you to the start of your hike from Maline to La Palud. Today you’ll see the huge contrast between the gorges, the Garrigue and the Barbin forest. You follow the Bastidon path on a balcony above the Grand Canyon du Verdon overlooking the gorges 700 m below from the Belvedere de Mayreste. The second part is more demanding and goes steeply up the Brusc ravine to reach the Barbin plateau before heading down to the small village of La Palud where you will spend the night.

  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 7h ↑950m ↓900m

Day 5: La Palud to Point Sublime or Circular Walk

After a rather steep climb, you can discover hundred-year-old oaks and beech trees as well as other plant species before admiring the gorges seen from above and the village of La Palud sur Verdon. You continue on the Baou path between cliffs and ravines to Rougon, a balcony dominating the Gorges, the ideal location for bird watching, especially vultures.

Walking for the day:

  • Option 1 – loop from La Palud to Tour de Barbin: 11 km, 3-4h ↑520m ↓520m
  • Option 2 – from La Palud to Point Sublime: 6 km, 2 h ↑260m ↓460m
  • Or you can combine both options: 18 km, 5-7h

Day 6: Point Sublime to Trigance

Today’s hike will take you over the Verdon’s riverbed via an ancient Roman bridge. Once you pass the left bank, you head up to the hamlet of Entreverges. When you arrive at the Rancoumas lookout, nestled at an altitude of 981 metres, you will discover a natural ramp overlooking the Verdon, allowing you to fully enjoy a plunging view of the Verdon, which flows several hundred metres below. Note: be extremely careful and do not go too close to the edge; this is a natural lookout with no safety barrier! You then follow the ridge to Trigance, a typical Provencal village dominated by a beautiful feudal building with four towers, dating from the 11th century. You can also take a tour of the botanical trail that allows you to discover the flora of the Var highlands.

  • Walking for the day: 10 km, 4h ↑625m ↓635m (optional extension – climb Mont Breis: add 1.5 km, 2h ↑625m ↓635m)

Day 7: Trigance to Castellane / Departure

During your last hike, you cross the gorges and the Jabron valley with the bonus of a picnic break by the green waters of the Verdon at the Pont de Carajuan, the gateway to the Gorges of the Verdon. You follow the river before starting a pleasant ascent to reach the Col du Pertuis de la Colle (1151m), the ideal place for your picnic with a 360° view on the area before starting your descent to Castellane through the forest. Pick up your luggage at the hotel in Castellane or stay for an extra night there.

  • Walking for the day: 19 km, 6h ↑570m ↓630m

Hotels for Verdon Gorge: Europe’s Grand Canyon

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Accommodation is in characterful and welcoming 2-star hotels and country inns in private en-suite double/twin rooms. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that are located close to the trailheads and offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. Optional hotel upgrade is possible but it may require additional transfers.

  • Castellane (Day 1): Ma Petite Auberge located at the entrance of the Gorges du Verdon and at the foot of Notre Dame du Roc, Hotel Ma Petite Auberge is only a few steps from the Verdon River and 5 km from Lake Castillon. It offers a gastronomic restaurant, a garden and a terrace. The rooms are equipped with heating and a flat-screen television. The private bathroom is equipped with a bath or shower and free toiletries. Some rooms offer a view of the terrace and the village square. A continental breakfast is served every morning. You can enjoy lunch and dinner in the park, next to the century-old lime tree. In addition, grocery stores are at your disposal less than 1 km away.
  • Point Sublime (Days 2 & 5*): Auberge de Point Sublime – family-run comfortable hotel where you will enjoy peace and quietness in a majestic setting. Ideally located a stone’s throw from the Blanc-Martel trail. Note: it may be necessary to spend these two nights at La Palud (if the Auberge du Point Sublime is closed) and to add transfers to and from La Palud (there will be no extra charge for the transfers).
  • La Palud (Days 3 & 4 + eventually Days 2 & 5 – see note above): Le Panoramic – a family establishment located 700 metres from the village of La Palud sur Verdon. Stunning setting with a magnificent view over the valley will make your stay an unforgettable experience.
  • Trigance (Day 6): Le Vieil Amandier – located in the heart of the Verdon Regional Nature Park. Some rooms have direct access to the hotel’s garden. You can have breakfast on the terrace overlooking the pool and the Jabron valley or in the main dining room. There are also restaurants in the village. Hotel Le Vieil Amandier has a spa and a wellness centre including a sauna and Jacuzzi, accessible for an additional charge.

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

All breakfasts are included, as well as the two dinners in Point Sublime if you are staying there. Lunch packs for the next day can be pre-ordered at each accommodation, or you can buy bread, cheeses and meats as well as fresh fruit and vegetables at local markets. For dinner, you can visit one of the restaurants in the villages or order from the a la carte menu in your accommodation.

Travel for Verdon Gorge: Europe’s Grand Canyon

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Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Nice. Then by bus to Castellane (2 hours). Alternative airports are Marseille and Toulon.

 

Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.

Check airport transfer options

Private Transfers

Airport transfers by public transport are recommended for this trip.

Baggage Transfers

All hotel to hotel luggage transfers on walking days are included (maximum one piece of 20 kg per person).

Travel Insurance

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A comprehensive and reputable travel insurance policy is essential to your enjoyment and peace of mind while on an active holiday. It is highly recommended when booking with us that all group members have valid travel insurance which includes cover for all activities included in your trip. We have teamed up with to offer you adequate cover at a great value from a reputable insurer, and it takes only a few minutes to buy online.

Buy travel insurance online

Country Info

Up-to-date travel advice on France is available here. Detailed travel information and hints will be provided in your holiday information pack.

Trip Info for Verdon Gorge: Europe’s Grand Canyon

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Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous

A very good level of fitness is required, expect to walk 5-7 hours per day and +/-950m of elevation gain/loss. You should be comfortable with walking on steep mountainous terrain. You should also be sure-footed on mountain paths and have a good head for heights. The walks take place on good paths for the most part, but they are sometimes steep and rocky with some loose limestone. In addition, on the sections in the gorge you will encounter steps, tunnels, metal ladders and bridges. This tour is NOT suitable for people suffering from vertigo. You must be extremely careful at viewpoints as there are no safety barriers installed (read more about difficulty grades).

Route Navigation

We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to Go

This trip is available on any date the end of April till mid-October. Best periods to visit are spring and autumn. In July and August it may become too hot for walking.

Important: From June 15th to September 15th (or sooner/later depending on the weather) access to the Gorges du Verdon can be restricted by local authorities if the risk of forest fire is high (mistral, heat). Paths may be prohibited from noon or all day long. The information is available at 18:00 on the day before for the next day via the local authorities’ website. It is your responsibility to check them daily during the holiday. If a trail is closed, we will try to recommend alternative routes. If you opt to do these walks, any related additional costs (eg additional transfers) will be at your expense and payable locally.

See forest fire info

What to Bring

We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 15 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.

  • Hiking boots or trail runners
  • Hiking socks
  • Several t-shirts (preferably breathable/fast drying)
  • Packable waterproof and windproof jacket / Goretex jacket with hood
  • Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
  • Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside the accommodation
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
  • Hat/Baseball cap
  • Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)

Included for Verdon Gorge: Europe’s Grand Canyon

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  • 6 nights double occupancy with private facilities, in 2-star hotels and guesthouses
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 2 dinners (only if staying at Point Sublime)
  • Day 3 transfer la Maline to la Palud Day 4 transfer la Palud to la Maline
  • Luggage transfers days 2 to 6
  • Travel kit with roadbook and integrated maps, vouchers for restaurants & transfers
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative in Avignon

Supplements

  • Single room supplement for members of a group
  • Solo traveller supplement for individual travellers

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Lunches and dinners (apart from the dinners at Point Sublime)
  • Tourist tax, if due
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Entrance fees for attractions and museums
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Extensions and Upgrades

  • Extra nights before or after the holiday
  • Upgraded hotels

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