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Verdon Gorge: Europe's Grand Canyon

Verdon Gorge Trek: Europe’s Grand Canyon

Overview

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, a UNESCO World Heritage site 
  • The perfect spring and autumn destination for experienced hikers 
  • The famous GR4, Martel and Bastidon trails 

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Castellane

Arrive 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 in Castellane.

  • Accommodation: Ma Petite Auberge or similar
  • Walking for the day (optional): 5 km, 1.5 h, ↑240 m ↓240 m

Day 2: GR4: Castellane to Point Sublime | 15 km

You leave Castellane and join the famous GR4, following the old route used by the Romans to reach Lyon. You climb for a short while up to a balcony trail; you can look down on the trail leading out ahead from here. 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 add transfers to and from La Palud (there will be no extra charge for the transfers). Please note that the Auberge du Point Sublime restaurant is usually closed on Wednesdays and Sundays (depending on the occupancy). So should you stay at the hotel at that time and the restaurant is closed, you’ll get a cold plate.

Day 3: The Martel Trail | 14 km

Transfer after breakfast from Point Sublime to La Maline, the start of your walk. You will traverse the Grand Canyon of Europe along the most famous hiking route in Verdon – the Martel Trail, named after Edouard Alfred Martel, who was the first to explore the Verdon Gorge in 1905. 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 (difficult for hikers prone to vertigo), 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! Dinner and overnight in Point Sublime.

NB! This hike (very well-equipped and secure) is to be avoided by people who are afraid of heights. Not recommended for children under 8 years old, stony, steep terrain, technical installations (metal stairs, handrails, tunnels – headlamps and sweaters required) plan min. 3 l water/person. Swimming in the Verdon is permanently prohibited.

Day 4: The Bastidon Trail – Maline to La Palud | 18 km

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 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.

  • Accommodation: Le Panoramic or similar
  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 7 h, ↑950 m ↓900 m

Day 5: La Palud to Point Sublime or Circular Walk | 11 – 18 km

Today you have two options. For the very fit ones, you can make a loop of the Tour de Barbin, discovering 100-year-old oaks and beech trees and then add the second hike from La Palud to the Point Sublime. In both cases, you follow the Baou trail between cliffs and ravines to Rougon, a balcony dominating the Gorges, the ideal location for bird watching, especially vultures.

  • Accommodation: Auberge de Point Sublime or similar
  • Walking for the day (option 1) – loop from La Palud to Tour de Barbin: 11 km, 3-4 h ↑520 m ↓520 m
  • Walking for the day (option 2) – from La Palud to Point Sublime: 6 km, 2-3 h ↑260 m ↓460 m
  • Or you can combine both options: 18 km, 5-7 h

Day 6: Point Sublime to Trigance | 10 km

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 Var highlands’ flora.

  • Accommodation: Le Vieil Amandier or similar
  • Walking for the day: 10 km, 4 h, ↑625 m ↓635 m (optional extension – climb Mont Breis: add 1.5 km, 2 h ↑230 m ↓230 m)

Day 7: Trigance to Castellane / Departure | 19 km

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 (1151 m), 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, 6 h, ↑570 m ↓635 m (Accommodation is not included)

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in cosy 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.

Click to view standard hotels

  • 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, 3 & 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 three 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 (Day 4 + eventually Days 2, 3 & 5 – see the 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.

Click to view upgraded hotels

Comfort hotels are available in Castellane, La Palud and Trigance. In Le Point Sublime the same standard hotel is used as no other option – Auberge du Point Sublime. If Auberge du Point Sublime is not available on the desired dates, you will stay for 4 nights in La Palud, but there will be an additional supplement (besides the hotel upgrade supplement):

  • Castellane (Day 1): Nouvel Hotel du Commerce – a 3-star hotel with a heated pool in the centre of the village. Rooms feature Provencal and modern decoration; some are with pool, mountain or village view.
  • La Palud (Days 4 + eventually Days 2, 3 & 5 – see the note above): Le Provence – Recently refurbished 3-star hotel in the village centre with a garden.
  • Trigance (Day 6): Le Chateau de Trigance – a medieval castle in the Provencal village of Trigance transformed into a hotel with a panoramic terrace and a wine bar

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.

Difficulty & terrain

A very good level of fitness is required; expect to walk 5-7 hours per day and +/-950 m of elevation gain/loss. You should be comfortable 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). We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through 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 from the end of April till mid-October. The 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 (e.g. additional transfers) will be at your expense and payable locally.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

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

By train or bus

Inclusions

Included

  • 6 nights double occupancy with private facilities in 2-star hotels and guesthouses
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 3 dinners (only if staying at Point Sublime; excl. drinks)
  • Day 3 transfer la Maline to la Palud; Day 4 transfer la Palud to la Maline
  • Luggage transfers days 2 to 7
  • Travel kit with roadbook and integrated maps (1 set per room), vouchers for restaurants & transfers
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Lunches and dinners (apart from the dinners at Point Sublime)
  • Tourist tax, if due
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • 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

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights before or after the holiday
  • Upgraded hotels with a supplement

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