To the south of Haute Provence, the Verdon is a legendary destination known throughout all of France and beyond. It is a name synonymous with turquoises expanses of water, colourful sails and stunning gorges.

The shaping of the Verdon landscape began five million years ago when a turbulent torrent, determined to make its way through the arid plateaus of Haute Provence, forced its way through the Alpes de Haute-Provence and the Var, through alpine and Mediterranean environments. This site of tormented relief was born out of the Earth’s tectonic movements and the retreat of the Mediterranean Sea. Unique in Europe, the Verdon has dug its bed over several tens of kilometres.

The Verdon is also known for the Lake Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon – a 2200ha sheet of turquoise, its calm waters mirroring the sky on one side and concealing a submerged agricultural valley underneath. The hydroelectric dam was built in 1974. Water sports are practised there all year round complementing other more traditional activities such as the artisanal production of ceramics and earthenware in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

Reverse in its verticality, the Gorges du Verdon has long inspired fear even in the most intrepid of adventurers. In the past, only a few bold boxwood gatherers would rope up and venture into the green darkness between the steep rock faces, some perched more than 700m above the river bed. Today, climbers follow in the footsteps of these gatherers, and hikers use the routes opened in 1905 by Édouard-Alfred Martel and Isidore Blanc to get close to the river tamed by dams. This magnificent mineral monument is surveyed by majestic griffon vultures which have been reintroduced to the site between 1999 and 2005 ***ajouter dans le texte français entre 1999 et 2005”; the 7 villages around the gorges also act as guardians and gatekeepers of this protected site. Take the Route des Crêtes for awe-inspiring views from the 13 observations decks along the route. Consider, also, hiring a guide to accompany your hike or activity, in order to uncover the natural and cultural secrets of the Verdon.

The Valensole plateau, an extensive sea of pebbles accumulated over several hundred metres in thickness, is the kingdom of durum wheat and lavandin (a hybrid of two types of lavender). Lavender blue and gold at the start of summer, red and grey in the heart of winter, the colours of the plateau vary according to the seasons. The geometric alignment of the plantations, borders of fields outlined by almond trees and villages sheltered from the Mistral in the valleys draw a picture of a French garden that stretches out as far as the eye can see. This landscape, one of the most striking in Provence, owes its beauty to the work of man.

This unique environment, whose biodiversity is both rich and fragile, is protected by the Verdon Regional Natural Park.

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