Domaine de Valx, 04360 Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, France
GPS: 43.826849366909, 6.2266354474015
Visiting Verdon Gorge is situated in the Natural Regional Park of the same name established in 1997. The latter extends over 1,780 km² and includes 43 French towns. This grandiose natural site is nestled in the south-east of France, straddling the departments of Var and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, of which it forms the natural border. The Verdon Gorge is labelled “Grand Site de France” for the richness of its natural environments and the grandeur of its landscapes.
Also nicknamed “Grand Canyon of Europe” in reference to the Grand Canyon of Arizona (United States), the Verdon Gorge forms the largest canyon on the European continent. It was formed during the Tertiary period by the phenomenon of erosion of the Verdon River, a tributary of the Durance, over thousands of years. With a length of 33 kilometres between the small town of Castellane and the Lake of Sainte-Croix, the Verdon Gorge has deep and narrow cliffs of limestone rocks that can reach 700 metres deep in places. Due to its extraordinary dimensions, this wild area can be divided into three distinct zones: the pre-gorge, the gorge and the canyon itself. The latter shelters the Styx du Verdon, a geological curiosity resembling a natural mini-canyon dug inside the main canyon.
Characterized by its steep slopes and hairpin bends, the Verdon Gorge was only really explored at the beginning of the 20th century because it had the reputation of being impenetrable. It was the French speleologist Édouard-Alfred Martel who first explored and mapped the area in 1905. He was accompanied in his task by Isidore Blanc, a local schoolteacher who served as his guide. The Verdon Gorge quickly became world famous thanks to the beauty of its panoramas and the brilliance of the surrounding lakes. Hiking trails and long-distance GR footpaths criss-cross the steep crests of majestic cliffs as much as they run along the Verdon River in the shallows of the canyon. More recently, this site is attracting more and more climbers who have come to confront the 2,500 or so climbing routes set out in the limestone mass of the Verdon Natural Regional Park. Two panoramic roads linking the villages of Castellane to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (the “Route des Crêtes”) or the villages of Aiguines to Castellane (the “Corniche Sublime”) have numerous belvederes and remarkable viewpoints over the Verdon Gorge.