Exhilarating hiking through ‘Europe’s Grand Canyon’
Hike the famous Blanc-Martel trail – one of Europe’s most spectacular trails
Discover wild, unspoilt landscapes and picturesque Provençal villages
Listen out for the calls of the vultures that have made the gorges their home
The perfect spring and autumn walking holiday for experienced hikers
Hiking in the Verdon Gorge: self-guided walking holiday
A week-long walking holiday through one of France’s must-see natural sites. In fact, the Verdon Gorge is widely regarded as the most beautiful of its kind in Europe, and is often referred to as ‘Europe’s Grand Canyon’. The gorge is situated in the limestone massifs of the Alpine foothills, an area crossed by rivers flowing down from the snowy peaks of the Alps. Over millions of years, these rivers have carved deep valleys in the limestone, the deepest of all being the Gorges du Verdon. Today, the gorge is a truly impressive sight, with its limestone cliffs towering some 700m over the turquoise waters below.
“For sheer, jaw-dropping drama, few sights in France can match the epic Gorges du Verdon” Lonely Planet.
The gorge is between 250m and 700m deep. The bottom is 8m to 90m wide, while the rims are 200m to 1500m apart. The National Regional Park of Verdon was created in 1997 and prides itself in being labelled by UNESCO as the largest geological reserve in Europe.
This hiking tour starts and finishes in the quaint medieval village of Castellane, nestled in Alpine foothils of Haute Provence. The most famous hiking section is the Blanc-Martel trail, which includes a series of steps, tunnels. and bridges, enabling you to discover the wild and unspoilt landscapes of the lower gorge. You will experience dramatic landscapes of high jagged mountains and limestone cliffs, with panoramic views over the emerald-green river winding along the floor of the canyon. You will be charmed by the authentic atmosphere of the Provençal villages of La Palud, Trigance and Castellane. You will have the opportunity to taste local delicacies, such as truffles, tapenade, lavender honey, goats’ cheese and of course wine – enabling you to combine your walking with a taste of the good life in Provence!
|7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS||From €930 per person sharing*
*Discounts available for groups of 4 or more. Please enquire for prices.
|ACCOMMODATION||You will stay in simple but comfortable family run 2* hotels. All rooms have private facilities.
It is also possible to upgrade to 3* hotels (except at Point Sublime). Please enquire for prices.
|AVAILABILITY||You can start on any day of the week, subject to availability, between April 30th and November 5th.
Spring and autumn are the best times to do this trip. July & August are very busy and can be very hot. Walks need to be done early in the morning during those months.
Important : From June 15th to September 15th
|DIFFICULTY / TERRAIN||This trip is rated as challenging. A very good level of fitness is required; expect to walk 5-7 hours per day not including lunch stops and +/-950m. You should be comfortable with walking on steep mountainous terrain, sometimes in hot weather. 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, although they are sometimes steep and rocky in nature with some loose limestone. You will need good walking boots. In addition, on the sections in the gorge you will encounter steps, tunnels, metal ladders and bridges. It is NOT suitable for those suffering from vertigo.
We have chosen to grade the holiday as challenging largely due to the nature of the trail itself rather than the amount of ascent or distance each day.
Day 1: Castellane loop walk
Distance: 5 km | Ascent: 242 m | Descent: 242 m | 1 hr 45 mins approx.
Arrival by your own means in the medieval village of Castellane, surrounded by the Alpes de Haute Provence and overlooked by its impressive 184-metre-high limestone peak and hilltop chapel. Castellane is the gateway to the Verdon Gorges and is just over two hours by direct bus from Nice.
Depending on your arrival time, you have the possibility of taking a short walk up the steep winding path to the Notre Dame du Roc chapel, perched high above the town. From the top you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views over the valley. Behind the Roc, you will find the remains of an older settlement; Petra Castellane (the abandoned city).
Day 2: From Castellane to Point Sublime
Distance: 18 km | Ascent: 700 m | Descent: 780 m | 5 hrs approx.
Today you follow the GR4 from Castellane, an old Roman road now a small country road high above the deep Verdon valley. The path climbs gradually to the small shepherds’ village of Chasteuil. This is the ideal place to stop for a picnic, before ascending to the high limestone moors and pastures. You then descend towards Rougon, perched on a rocky spur above the famous gorges, before finally reaching the famous Point Sublime. This is one of the best viewing points over the gorge, and is also a great place for spotting vultures.
Overnight: Point Sublime (dinner included).*
*NOTE: it may be necessary to spend an extra at La Palud (if the Auberge du Point Sublime is not available) and to add transfers to and from La Palud. Please 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.
Day 3: Walk the famous Blanc-Martel Trail
Distance: 14 km | Ascent: 900 m | Descent: 800 m | 6 hrs approx.
Morning transfer included to take you to the start of your walk in La Maline.
Today you embark on a must-see hike through the cliffs of the Grand Canyon du Verdon. Le sentier Blanc-Martel is probably the most famous hiking route in the Verdon. It is named after Edouard Alfred Martel, who was the first to explore the gorge in 1905. You descend into the Gorges and follow the course of the river to the Point Sublime. Along the way you will encounter the Brèche Imbert, a series of metal staircases with a total of 252 steps that facilitate the steep descent of this difficult part of the trail (not suitable for people who are prone to vertigo). You will also go through the tunnels of Trescaire and Baou (torch or headlamp and warm jacket required), before finally ascending to the end point of the walk near the Chalet de la Maline. It is a long and quite challenging day, but superb and unforgettable experience!
Overnight: Point Sublime (dinner included).
- This hike (although very well-equipped and secure) is to be avoided by people who are afraid of heights. It is also not recommended for children under 8 years old. Expect stony, steep terrain with technical installations (metal stairs, handrails, tunnels – head lamps and sweaters required). You should plan a minimum of 3l water/person.
- Swimming in the Verdon is permanently prohibited because the river is dangerous on the one hand and on the other hand because of the risks of water releases from the dam upstream. For swimming without risk, there are the lakes of Sainte Croix and Castillon, with beaches and nautical bases.
Day 4: Walk the Sentier du Bastion and the Barbin plateau
Distance: 18 km | Ascent: 950 m | Descent: 900 m | 7 hrs approx.
After breakfast, a short transfer will take you back to la Maline for the start of today’s hike.
Today you will enjoy a hugely varied route, ranging from the deep canyon to a typical Mediterranean garrigue landscape, to the woodland of the Barbin plateau.
You first follow the Bastidon path along on a balcony high above the Gorges du Verdon, overlooking the gorge some 700m below. From the Belvedere de Mayreste, the second part of the route is more challenging. An ascent of some 400m takes you up the Brusc ravine to reach the Barbin plateau before you finally descend to the small village of La Palud, where you will spend the night.
Overnight: La Palud.
Day 5: From La Palud to Point Sublime
- Hike option 1: Tour de Barbin loop from La Palud and hike to Point Sublime
Distance: 18 km | Ascent: 780 m | Descent: 980 m | 6 hrs approx.
- Hike option 2: hike from La Palud to Point Sublime
Distance: 6 km | Ascent: 260 m | Descent: 460 m | 2½ hrs approx.
Today you have two options. The longer route begins with a loop of the Tour de Barbin, discovering hundred-year-old oak and beech trees, before following the Baou trail from from La Palud to Rougon and finally descending to the Augerge in Point Sublime.
If you feel like an easier day today, you can skip the loop walk and just walk the 6 km from La Palud to Point Sublime. In both cases you follow the Baou trail between cliffs and ravines to Rougon, a balcony dominating the Gorges. This is the ideal location for observing the vultures’ feeding area – do not forget your binoculars!
Overnight: Point Sublime (dinner included).
Day 6: From Point Sublime to Trigance
Distance: 10 km | Ascent: 625 m | Descent: 636 m | 4 hrs approx.
Additional hike option: 1.5km climb to the summit of Mont Breis +/-230m
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 (981m altitude), you will find a natural ramp overlooking the Verdon. From here you will enjoy a plunging view of the Verdon river, flowing several hundred metres below (not suitable for people with vertigo – this is a natural viewing point with no safety barrier).
You follow the clifftop path to Trigance, a medieval Provençal village dominated by its beautiful 11th century castle with four towers. The village overlooks the Jabron valley at the foot of Mont Breis. If you feel like more walking you can do a 1.5 km extension to the summit of Breis, or take a gentler tour of the botanical trail that allows you to discover the flora of the Var highlands.
Day 7: From Trigance to Castellane
Distance: 19 km | Ascent: 570 m | Descent: 636 m | 5½ hrs approx.
Your last hike leads you across the gorges and the Jabron valley. You will get up close to the emerald-green waters of the Verdon at the Pont de Carajuan, gateway to the wonderful gorges of the Verdon. You follow the course of the river before starting a regular and pleasant ascent to reach the Col du Pertuis de la Colle (1151m). This is an ideal place for your picnic, with a 360° view over the stunning surrounding region, before starting your descent through the forest to Castellane.
Your walking holiday in the Verdon Gorge comes to an end in Castellane, unless you have booked any additional services with us. You can pick up your luggage at the hotel in Castellane before departure. We would also be happy to arrange an extra overnight in Castellane if you prefer. Please enquire at the time of booking.