Nice – Verdon Gorge – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – Lake Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon – Les Cascades de Sillans

Distance: 222 km from Nice (or 120 km at the start from Castelan),

The journey time is non-stop – 4 hours one way from Nice or 3 hours from Castelan. With full stops – 7 and 5 hours, respectively.

On the route, there will be a toll highway A8 – 5.8 euros for the nice-Fergis fare. You can make your way along the free roads along the coast through Cannes and then along the road DN7 (+1 hour).

When you can go. At any time of the year. The cool mountains of Haute-Provence always contrast perfectly with the warm Côte d’Azur. In summer, it is very colorful, but there can be many tourists fleeing from the coastal heat. In winter, it is quiet, and the prices for housing and food are much lower, and the natural views and cozy villages and towns are no less beautiful. The temperature in December-February is from 0 to +10. In summer, the temperature is +15-25 degrees. In any case, at any time of the year, to travel along this route will require warm non-blowing clothes: the region is famous for cold winds – mistrals.

If you start from Nice, take the A8 towards Marseilles. After about an hour’s drive (75 km), you will need exit 36 (at Draguignan/Le Muy/Les Arcs). Then follow the route, and after 1.5 hours, the winding serpentine will lead you to the first point of our route – the Verdon Gorge. This is a giant gorge in limestone rocks, 700 meters deep (one of the deepest in Europe).

An excellent panorama opens from the observation deck at the Pont de l’Artuby. This is an arched bridge with a height of 182 meters, which is beautiful in itself. You can jump with a bungee from the bridge for about 100 euros (the cost depends on the number of people in the assembled group). In case you decide on this adventure, be sure to reserve a place in advance here. Jumps are made from April to November on weekends, in July and August – also on Fridays. After the jump, you will be given a certificate that you have made it.

Just two kilometers from the bridge, at the highest edge of the gorge, are the Balcons de la Mescla (GPS coordinates: 43.739760, 6.381795). This place is considered the best vantry point with breathtaking views of the Verdon River running into the gorge.

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On the way from the Balconies of Meskla to the west on road D71, you will find another steep observation deck. Its GPS coordinates: 43.767565, 6.274359.

Following our route, in half an hour, you will find yourself in Aegina. Aiguines is a typical Provençal village, small but very authentic. Perhaps the most interesting attraction here is the castle of the early XVII century (however, it is private and closed to the public). Near the castle is the Church of St. John and Our Lady (Église de Saint-Jean et Notre-Dame), a courtyard with a beautiful view of the lake and mountains.

The next obligatory stop is an exquisite and cozy village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, known mainly for producing faience products. Here’s what needs to be done here:

1. Climb to the chapel Notre Dame de Beauvoir, located on a rock.
2. Consider the star suspended above the village on a cable between two rocks (from below, it may seem small, but its weight is 400 kg).
3. Try lavender ice cream.
4. Buy a product of local faience in one of the many shops. Here you can also visit the museum of faience, which exhibits ancient samples from the XVII century.

From Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, head to Lake Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon. This lake is one of the largest in France. It has an artificial origin and is a dammed river Verdon in the gorge of the same name. The water here is azure in color, and along the perimeter rise limestone rocks covered with coniferous vegetation.

On the lake’s western shore, in the town of the same name, Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, you can drive almost to the water itself and the sandy beach (GPS coordinates: 43.757822, 6.152775). There you can also take a catamaran for 15 euros to ride on the lake. You will have the opportunity to swim into the gorge itself, explore the numerous grottoes, admire the small waterfalls, and also land on one of the small “wild” beaches.

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In Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon itself, there are several good restaurants – a good place for lunch with a beautiful view and acquaintance with the cuisine of Provence (parking coordinates: 43.758890, 6.149977).

The last point of the route will be the waterfall Sillans (Les Cascades de Sillans). The waterfall is located on the river Bresque. Its height is 44 meters. We advise you to look at the waterfall from the road and go down to the river (GPS coordinates: 43.568015, 6.179136) to see the steep rapids. If the weather and your shoes allow, this is worth doing: the descent is quite steep and slippery.

You can finish the route in Marseille or in Nice (the road to both cities from Les Cascades de Sillans will take no more than 2 hours on the A8 highway). You can still drive to the ancient city of Roussillon (2 hours) and stay there for the night, and the next day goes further west to continue exploring Upper Provence.

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