Beyond the magnificent gorges, discover the different faces of the Verdon, where the force of nature has sculpted the landscape and forged the identity of its inhabitants. There are close bonds between those who give each area its unique, authentic identity.
The River Artuby
Upstream from the Verdon gorges, the Artuby region contains magnificent pre-Alpine countryside, complete with mountains, clear air, fresh mornings, flocks of sheep and relaxed walks – completely unexpected in the Var! Pretty, often tiny, villages are tucked away at the bottom of the mountains or in the foothills. Representing only sign of human habitation in this wilderness, the peace is part of their charm.
At 1714m (the highest summit in the Var), Le Lachans offers stunning views. Overlooking 5 departments, the view takes in the entire Var, from Sainte Baume to the Mediterranean, and Mercantour to the Italian Alps.
The River Artuby winds through the countryside, and flows into the Verdon at Trigance, at the Balcons de la Mescla. The Artuby Bridge is an outstanding bungee-jumping spot for thrill-seekers.
Don’t miss: the Templar chapel of Comps-sur-Artby, Château de Trigance, Bargème – a ‘Village de Caractère’, Artuby Bridge, the stone ‘Pont de Madame’ at La Martre, paragliding at the top of the Lachens, ewe cheese and wicker baskets…
The Verdon Gorges – unique in France
In the heart of the Verdon Regional Natural Park, this enormous canyon forms a huge gash that seems to have been created by the gods. It is the result of the incredible power of erosion in the Verdon onto the limestone plateaus of Provence.
Their exceptional depth (up to 700m!) and geographical location, with both Alpine and Mediterranean climatic influences, have created the perfect conditions for a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. A wild and exuberant countryside, magnificent discoveries and breath-taking views await the visitor…
The canyon can generally be explored by canoe or pedalo, or on foot. It can also be admired from the road by taking the sublime cliff road, which offers stunning viewpoints, such as on the Cavaliers cliffs or even on the Balcons de la Mescla.
Lake of Sainte-Croix
As you leave the main canyon, this fabulous turquoise carpet covers at least 2200 hectares! 10km long and 3km wide, it provides water to many Provençal people. However, its creation in 1974 came at a price. The old village of Salles-sur-Verdon was submerged under the water, whilst a huge agricultural valley and beautiful heritage buildings, such as a Roman bridge and Medieval bridge, were destroyed. The new village of Salles was rebuilt by the lake, and visitors can learn about the village’s unique history on a guided tour.
The lake is bordered to the north by the Valensole plateau and its lavender fields, and to the south by the pretty villages of Aiguines and Bauduen. In Aiguines, explore the museum of wood turners and the history of studded boules.
Surrounded by magnificent countryside, the lake has become a highly sought-after tourist attraction, where you can go for lovely walks along the banks, and its calm waters are ideal for a large variety of water sports (pedalos, canoes, motor boats, paddle boarding and more) and provide access into the Verdon Gorges.
The low gorges
Although less impressive than the main canyon, these lower gorges are a real hidden gem. The lakes Esparron, Artignosc and Montmeyan form a string of small lakes with inviting and tranquil bays. They’re a great place for a picnic, pedalo ride or canoeing. However, the star of the show is exploring these protected, pristine landscapes by motor boat, whose silent motor means the only sound is the lapping waves. The Artignosc leisure centre and Montmeyan Beach are open to the public.
Less hostile, the low gorges have been occupied by humans since the early pre-historic times. People have settled in a multitude of caves and secret gardens. Several traces can still be seen on your boat trips or hikes. History lovers won’t want to miss the Museum of Prehistory in the Verdon Gorges in Quinson.
In Artignosc-sur-Verdon, another pleasant horse ride around the lakes lets you explore the magnificent countryside and the low gorges from the saddle. The village of Saint-Julien-le-Montagnier, with its mill, is a great find.
The hills of the Haut-Var
The rolling hills of the Haut-Var Verdon, with its forests and fields dotted with sleepy villages, stretch as far as the eye can see. One could say that the fertile soil inland of the gorges is marked by vineyards and agriculture, but the undisputed queen is the black truffle, which is perfectly adapted to this area. The altitude, temperature and soil conditions are ideal for this ‘black diamond’ to thrive, to the delight of everyone.
There are also olive groves, market gardening and saffron plantations.
Don’t miss: Aups – a ‘Village de Caractère’, with the Maison de la Truffe and its restaurants, the mills in Régusse, and of course, the magnificent Sillans-la-Cascade waterfall!
But where does the amazing colour of water in the Verdon come from? This green colour is due to fluoride and micro-algae within the water, and is probably at the origin of the name, formed from the Latin ‘viridum’, meaning ‘green place’. However, in the reservoirs (especially the Lake of Sainte-Croix or Quinson reservoir), the water is turquoise due to the clay bottom.