If you’ve never heard of the Gorges du Verdon in south-east France, you’re in for a treat. It is arguably one of the most beautiful river canyons on the continent. Carved out by the Verdon River, steep limestone cliffs flanking its edge and azure waters characterize the 25-kilometer waterway which reaches a staggering 700 meters deep.
During the summer months, don’t expect to have the gorge all to yourself. Gorge du Verdon activities includes hiking the trails, kayaking through the waterway, and climbing the challenging cliffs. The best way to explore this natural wonder is by a car rental Verdon Gorge, with the winding French country roads almost as impressive. Follow it all the way to the end, and you’ll reach the Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon lake. You don’t need a Gorge du Verdon travel guide to have a good time, but to make the most of it, here’s our plan for the best road trip.
Day 1 – Gorge du Verdon and Riez
There are several different starting points, but the easiest place to pick up your cheap car rental South France is at Nice Airport. When you arrive, grab the keys from one of the car rental firms inside the terminal building. Try to arrive early, so you’ll have time to drive to the gorge on the first day, or alternatively fly in a day early and spend the night in Nice.
The drive from the airport takes around an hour and a half, much of which will take you along the Route Napoleon, the road used by the famous military leader after he returned back from Elba Island during the early 19th century. If you’d like to split up the journey, stop in Grasse along the way for a coffee and croissant.
Drive along loop D23 in your car hire Verdon Gorge, stopping along the way to look down into some of the deepest parts of the canyon. It’s worth noting that the road is uneven and windy, but scenic nonetheless. With a few short stops, the loop shouldn’t take more than an hour. Afterwards, continue on to the Riez, an ancient little village surrounded by pretty French countryside. Here, you can check into one of the guesthouses (some of the best Gorge du Verdon hotels are here) or pitch up at one of the nearby Gorge du Verdon camping spots for a night under the stars. There are several excellent bistros and a pizzeria along Rue de Marche.
Day 2 – Gorge du Verdon and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
After an early start, walk down to one of the bakeries in the village for freshly baked bread and pastries. If you bring kids, they’re love baguettes slathered in thick French butter and dipped in rich hot chocolate.
Drive out of town and along to the Valensole plateau, an 800-square-kilometer area covered in lines of purple lavender, the scent of which fills the air. You’ll also find several pretty little villages along the route. Stop in one to pick up little bits for a picnic later on as well as hopping into one of the roadside shops to buy lavender products like honeys and oils.
Drive on down to Sainte-Croix Lake. Here, you can rent kayaks and hit the water for hours in the beautiful gorge area. There are a ton of other gorge du Verdon activities, like climbing and hiking along the trails should you wish. While tomb stoning in from the cliffs (like the locals so) may look exciting, we’d recommend refraining from it without knowing exactly the spots to jump from. From the sandy shore, you can bury you toes in the sand, uncork a cold bottle of cold white and gorge on the picnic you brought with you.
When the afternoon light is beginning to descend, hop back in your cheap car rental south France and drive on to the town of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie a short distance away. Backed by a towering limestone cliff, France doesn’t get any prettier than this. There are several little Verdon gorge accommodation options in town to lay your head down for the night, as well as some fine bistros serving up classic French fare – think walnut salads, foie gras and confit de canard.
Wander down to the square for a little café au lait and perhaps a pain au chocolat before climbing the steps to see the beautiful Notre Dame de Beauvoir. Jump back in your car rental to finish your road trip. The way back to Nice Airport will take you along a different route, winding its way along the scenic south side of the gorge. Arrive and drop off your cheap car rental south France, flying back with memories that will last a lifetime.
The hottest and busiest time to visit are the summer months when the days are long and the skies clear and bright. During this peak season, you can expect hotel, camping and car rental prices to be higher. We prefer the shoulder seasons, particularly May to June and September to October. During these months, the temperature can still be wonderfully warm, but the high season prices have dropped away. If you decide to visit in winter, the weather will be cold, and swimming and kayaking won’t be possible, but it is still scenic, and you may very well have the gorge all to yourself.
Have a great road trip!
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