It’s amazing just how much you can do in this region. If you are looking for an adrenaline-rush of outdoor activities, then look no further. There are a number of exciting sporting activities on offer, in and around the Gorges du Verdon for you to get your fix. From white-water rafting to bungee jumping, hot air ballooning to abseiling, you’ll find it all here. Below are just a few of the exciting outdoor activities you can enjoy, on foot or on a bike.
The wild and diverse region of the Verdon owes its name, which is derived form “vert” – the French word for green, to the vibrant turquoise colour of its rivers lakes and streams.
In a nutshell …”One of the most scenic, breathtakingly beautiful wildernesses in the world, and home to the majestic Griffon Vulture.”
Explore the beautiful Gorges du Verdon
Located at the crossroads of the regions of the Var and the Alpes de Haute Provence it is a fascinating part of France with its imposing landscapes made up of numerous gorges, its grand canyon, and its massive and steep calcair cliffs. Home to the Griffon Vulture, reintroduced here following near extinction in the 90s, the group now flourishes and you can see them sweeping through the gorge so close you can almost reach out and touch them.
The National Park
Stretching from the Plateau de Valensole to the heights of the Var, the National Park of the Verdon gathers 44 communes. It contributes to the preservation of a rich and wild nature. In this protected and prestigious site there are innumerable superb landscapes: lakes, gorges, canyons, rivers, forests …
Lavender and Local Produce
The Verdon and Haute Provence have been famed for the production of medicinal plants since the middle ages. Today this activity is mainly centred around the culture of lavender and lavandin essential oils. From the Plateau de Valensole in July you will enjoy the beautiful views over the lavender fields. Honey, olive trees, truffles, meats and cheeses are renowned for their superb taste, and the local producers will delight in helping you discover all these delicacies when you visit their markets in the Summer months.
Craftwork and Artisans
Numerous craftwork fairs happen in the region will enable you to discover the know-how of the area’s artisans. Among the activities which are represented are wool, weaving, leather, ceramics, pottery, dried flowers, metals, jewels, wood, santons, figurines and crêches…
History & Heritage
A region with a long and noble past, the Verdon will charm you by the richness of her heritage. Numerous prestigious places will allow you to discover chapels, fortified villages, prestigious homes as well as remarkable museums (the museum of Prehistory in Quinson).
Put on your running shoes and head down from the house into La Palud sur Verdon for a run across the village and into the surrounding fields. Your 1.5km descent is a killer on the way back up, but you will enjoy the challenge and reap the benefits as you pound up the steep incline – why not take the steeper detour up the GR4! A December run is particularly beautiful as the frost cover resembles a winter wonderland.
Hiking & Horse Riding
The dozens of kilometres of paths (both signed and unsigned) are an invitation to discover nature and go for circuits on foot or on horseback. Some families may appreciate the possibility of hiking with a donkey. So it’s on with the walking boots and off to the end of the garden where you will join the GR4 on an out and back route. This trail heads up, up and away and in the direction of Moustiers Saint Marie. Once atop the hill, your walk will take you along the ridge where you can take in the stunning views of the Gorge. Walking poles are useful on both ascent and descent back to the house.
MTB & Road Cycling
Whether it be on the road or on the country paths, you have numerous possibilities to ‘get on your bike’. There are a great many cycling clubs as well as organisations which specialise in setting up circuits. Details of Mountain Bike clubs. Regional Committee of cyclo tourism. Hop on a bike and take a trip down the hill to take an immediate turn left as you reach the bottom. Take the left and head up towards Chateauneuf where the tarmac will end and you hit the jeep track taking you through the woods or the hill up towards the ruins of the village. Technical skills may be useful if you take the wooded trail.
Take a circular round-trip ride of the Gorges rim for a spectacular yet challenging ride. Roads are fast and at times very steep but worth the effort as you rise above the river looking across the deep ravine and a fantastic downhill back into the village … oh, and that steep climb back up to the house expanding those lungs!
Rock Climbing & Abseiling
A rock climber’s heaven. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced climber, you will find many routes to suit your ability. The big routes are amongst the prettiest in Europe. There are also medium-sized cliffs which will allow you to begin or else to make progress around the areas of Digne, Annot, Volx, Castellane, Quinson.
This preserved environment is a paradise for fishing… Carp, trout, pike are plentiful. The Verdon River offers excellent fly fishing conditions with few trees to spoil your casting. Lake fishing: Apart from the river itself, the course of the Verdon offers a number of impressive lakes in which there are huge lake trout and pike. As these lakes are quite deep, the fishing techniques vary from trolling and heavy spinning to bait fishing. The river trout fishing season is from March until September.
Don’t forget your fishing permit available from cafés near the fishing areas. Fédération des associations pour la pêche (French Fishing Association).
White Water Rafting, Canyoning and other water activities …
With its numerous water sports and lakes the region counts many nautical bases where one can indulge in sailing, waterskiing or rowing. The Verdon however is most famous for its white water activities such as canoeing, kayaking, canyoning, rafting, tubing – all of which can be arranged through numerous local operators.
Up in the air
‘Hot Air Ballooning Provence’ in Gordes offers flights between one and one and a half hours. Flights go from the historic village of Gordes to the spectacular overhanging cliffs at Bonnieux. After the flight, a champagne picnic is served overlooking the valley. Ballooning is also available in Roussillon, ‘Montgolfiere Provence’ in Joucas and Forcalquier. ‘Rustr’aile Colorado’ in Rustrel offers paragliding for both beginners and experienced gliders from Easter to November depending on the weather. Introductory flights are offered for anyone over the age of five. Not only is the weather generally good with many thermals, but the hills and mountains are ideal for leaping off! What better way to appreciate the beauty of the Provençal countryside!
At 182m, you can plunge into the ravine from the bridge at Pont de l’Artuby, whilst onlookers marvel at your bravery! Open during the summer months – bookings are essential.
Winter sports such as skiing can be enjoyed at the resorts atop Mont Ventoux, whose peak reaches 1912 metres and north to Pra Loup and beyond. The snow is unpredictable, but often quite abundant. At Mont Ventoux, you can downhill ski, snowboard and cross-country ski in the surrounding area.