The Verdon Gorge is known as “Europe’s Grand Canyon”. It is a 25 km long and 700 m deep river gorge that extends all the way from Provence to the Alps.
The Verdon river has carved this dramatic gorge, named for the color of the water: an emerald/turquoise green color which is said to come from the floating rock particles and microalgae. The color is stunning, and the water is beautifully clear.
The Verdon Gorge is the deepest canyon in France, and said to be one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Europe. For this reason, we didn’t hesitate to take the 2 hour drive from Nice to explore this amazing place.
Lac St. Croix
The water flowing through the Verdon Gorge is used for hydroelectric power, which in turn created a man-made lake where the river has backed up: Lac St. Croix. It has a vibrant aqua blue color from the surrounding minerals and silt the water has collected on its journey from the Alps.
We decided to rent some kayaks and paddle up river through the gorge to see it from a different perspective. The limestone cliffs that have been carved out by the river were impressive. There were even a few waterfalls to go under if you needed to cool off from the heat of the day!
On the west side of the Verdon Gorge is another “beaux village” of France: Moustieres-Sainte-Marie. I know we sound like a broken record by now, but Moustieres is another pretty French town sitting atop a hill overlooking the nearby Lac St Croix.
But a few things help Moustieres stand out from among the rest. First, the town looks somewhat like a nativity scene, with a big gold star hung over the town, strung between two tall mountain peaks. No one is really quite sure of how it got there.
Second, Moustieres has its own aqueduct, its own river flowing through town, and even its own waterfall. It’s the perfect place to cool down after all your Verdon Gorge activities!
And lastly, hovering over the town is a church perched high up into the hills. It requires a hike to get up to it, which made us wonder how people manage to do it in their Sunday’s finest:
To truly appreciate the grandeur of the Verdon Gorge, you must see it from above. This can be done by driving along the cliffside road that follows the rim of the gorge. Hairpin turns, steep drops, and even a hotel with a patio dangling out over the cliff add to the excitement of the drive!
Along the drive we came upon the Pont de l’Artuby, a concrete arch bridge that spans over 100 m and is over 100 m above the river. It was just calling out for someone to bungee jump off it, but we were not fortunate enough to catch anyone doing it.
Maybe we’ll do it next time? :)