What is there to see in the Gorges du Verdon? Right bank or left bank? What is the best way to visit Verdon’s own Grand Canyon? If you’re not familiar with the Gorges du Verdon and you’re wondering what to visit, this article is for you.
First of all, a map of the Gorges du Verdon provides the landscape. I borrowed this map from the website of René and Jeannine with their kind permission. Check Google Maps here for more information.
Map of the Gorges du Verdon
In a nutshell, the Verdon river consists of nearly 100 km of gorges. Upstream, there’s Lake Castillon, then the pre-gorges between Castellane and the Grand Canyon. Then there’s the Grand Canyon itself, Lake Sainte-Croix, the Baudinard gorge, and the lakes of Saint-Laurent, Artignosc, and Quinson. Downstream of Quinson and Esparron are the lower gorges. When we talk about the right bank or the left bank, we’re referring to the Grand Canyon. Therefore, this is going to be the subject of our article.
What to see in the Gorges du Verdon: the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is the part of Verdon that’s surrounded by cliffs of 300 to 700 meters high. This section extends from Point Sublime to Lake Sainte-Croix. Here, you’ll discover the most important canyon in Europe which remains one of France’s best-kept secrets. The canyon, which spans more than 30 km, consists of four sections. From upstream to downstream, the 14–km Martel Trail runs through the first section, followed by the Imbut Trail in the second section. Then the third section, Verdon Secret, is the most beautiful and secret section. A fourth and final section is the water street (La rue de l’eau) that leads to Lake Sainte-Croix.
We’re talking about visiting the canyon from the bottom of the gorge, but visits are typically along the top so you need to decide — right bank or left bank.
The Gorges du Verdon right bank: which road to visit the Gorges du Verdon?
The right bank of the Grand Canyon begins at the Pont de Soleils (“bridge of suns”). Indeed, this is the only bridge over the Verdon river between Moustiers Sainte-Marie and Castellane that can be driven across in a car.
From the bridge of suns, the road winds through sinuous gorges to the Carajuan Bridge.
This old bridge crosses the Verdon river where it meets the Jabron river.
Point Sublime and the Couloir Samson
Some 4 km after Carajuan Bridge, the road crosses a narrow tunnel to reach Point Sublime.
This is the first scenic point on the right bank. A stop at the local restaurant (l’Auberge du Point Sublime) is essential. Magali’ss terrace is excellent and the food is as magnificent as the view of the gorges. The scenic point is a ten-minute walk away, where you can admire the Samson ravine (le couloir Samson). In fact, the water has carved a stone giant just at the entrance of the gorge. If you have two hours to spare, we strongly advise you to walk the first part of the Martel Trail.
The Martel Trail is a must during a visit to the Gorges du Verdon
Those who haven’t hiked the Martel Trail and crossed its famous tunnels cannot claim to have visited the Gorges du Verdon! This trail is one of the most beautiful sites of the gorges. While the full Martel Trail requires six or seven hours of hiking, there is a shorter version. This easy and family-friendly hike provides a taste of the atmosphere of this unique hike in Europe.
From Point Sublime, allow around one hour to hike to the Trescaïre towers viewpoint (le belvédère des tours de Trescaïre), and one hour to hike back. Hiking through the tunnels is the highlight of this short hike. For more information, visit our site and our article on the Blanc-Martel Trail.
La route des Crêtes in La Palud-Sur-Verdon: the most beautiful viewpoints
Shortly before arriving in La Palud-Sur-Verdon, you’ll see a hotel on your left. You’ve just reached the Auberge des Crêtes hotel, which signifies the start of the road with the same name. La route des Crêtes (“the road of crests”) has 15 lookout points along it, where you can admire Verdon scenery. Here are some of the most famous scenic viewpoints.
The Belvédère de Trescaïre
Trescaïre viewpoint is one of the most impressive. The Verdon flows under your feet, almost 400 meters below. The feeling of the void is very strong here. I must say that few places in the world provide such a sensation. This impression is reinforced by the sudden transition of the cliff. We go from green hills to an absolute drop with nothing in between and that’s the charm of this viewpoint.
The Belvédère de la Carelle
This is the next lookout after Trescaïre, where you might see climbers. Should you be tempted by climbing, you can book a half-day adventure with a guide on our website to experience the exhilaration of climbing in the Verdon.
Escalès viewpoint (Le belvédère de l’Escalès)
This viewpoint was abandoned until 2018 when its access was redeveloped. In fact, this is one of the few viewpoints that involves a short walk (10 minutes) to reach it. From here, look for the slackline (high rope). If you’re lucky, you might see some slackliners precariously balancing on their slackline. Watching them is a breathtaking experience, and that’s why I recommend stopping at this lookout.
La Dent d’Aire
The fourth viewpoint on the road of crests is the most majestic. Most of the time, you will be able to see the vultures who love to hover below the viewpoint. A photo will tell you more about this magical place.
The Belvédère du Tilleul
I voluntarily pass some lookouts to get closer to the “madman’s mirror” (Le Miroir du Fou). At this point, the road passes into a first tunnel. The name “madman’s mirror” comes from the name of the climbing route which is just above the road. The view here is very different from that of the first four lookouts. Indeed, the military camp of Canjuers and the Artuby is right opposite. Moreover, the canyon here is much narrower. Below, you can see a ruined farm resting on a green meadow overlooking the Verdon river. The place seems magical. This is the Guegue farm. This farm has a story…to be revealed in a future article.
Finally, a bar with a terrace overlooking the Verdon river! Don’t hesitate to stop for a drink. The atmosphere on the terrace of this French Alpine Club refuge is worth the detour. It’s a place where you’re likely to meet hikers leaving for the Martel Trail or those on their way back from the Imbut Trail.
The Belvédère Gaston Armanet
After passing the Belvédère du Maugué lookout point, stop at this small, little-known scenic point. The view of the rocks chaotically strewn 400 metres below is striking. Here, everything is so disproportionate that we lose our bearings.
What to see in the Gorges du Verdon from the left bank: the sublime cornice
From upstream to downstream, we’ll see what’s on offer on the left bank. Let’s start our journey at the Pont de Soleils from the the Moulin de Soleils bakery. This is a mandatory stop at an extraordinary bakery, where the bread, just like the biscuits, is exceptional.
After crossing Trigance, we continue our route to La Corniche Sublime (“the sublime edge”).
The Balcons de la Mescla
Our first stop is at Les Balcons de la Mescla — balconies providing plunging views over the confluence of the rivers Verdon and Artuby. When we say plunging, we mean it: it’s a viewpoint that actually gives you vertigo. The shop bar restaurant opposite also deserves a stop by its Provençal style and the friendly welcome.
Le Pont de l’Artuby
A few kilometers further along, the Artuby bridge provides more thrills. Famous for bungee jumping, here you can freefall 182 meters! It’s probably (hopefully!) a little less because 182 meters is the exact height of the bridge over the Artuby river! Once again, a stop is needed. We recommend caution — especially with children since cars and pedestrians don’t always get along well on this narrow bridge.
Grand Canyon Hotel
The starting point of the horse-riding trail which leads to the Imbut Trail, this hotel enjoys an exceptional location. A small tour on its terrace should convince you to stop for a drink to enjoy the bird’s-eye view of the canyon. It is also the meeting place for the Estellié-Imbut aquatic hike.
Feel free to visit our activity pages to discover how to explore the Verdon by water.
Col d’Illoire: a viewpoint which advances above the void
One of the most beautiful views of the Verdon gorges can be found from this passage that dominates Aiguines. The lookout point was redeveloped in 2017 and it is truly a success.
It’s well worth stopping here before descending to Lake Sainte-Croix.
Should we visit the Gorges du Verdon’s right bank or left bank?
As a conclusion, any visit to the Gorges du Verdon by the banks is an invitation to discover the canyon by traversing the bottom of the gorge, where it is the most beautiful. If you are not convinced, explore this canyon by water hiking, canoeing or rafting. Alfred Martel wrote: “You’d have to walk this canyon a hundred times to dare to say that you know it: it is the most beautiful of the world…and even after visiting the Grand Canyon of Colorado, I haven’t changed my mind.”.
Visit Verdon by car or bike?
In Verdon more than elsewhere, the car seems indispensable. But parking your car and exploring the area through other means will allow you to discover the best of Verdon. The Verdon gorge can be experienced by electric bike or paragliding. We also provide discovery tours by raft or canoe for quieter family trips. Visit the activities pages of our site to find the tour that suits you best.