In May 2014 we flew to Nice in the south of France, rented a little black Peugeot and drove over 2000 kilometres in five days through the prettiest villages, vineyards, mountains, valleys, and spectacular coastline of Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur. With our accommodation pre-booked in far-flung corners we had set ourselves a very ambitious itinerary! But if, like me, the scenic route is your style, then I’m sure you agree it’s all about the journey and the destination is secondary. Our road trip through the Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur was in every way an incredible trip and one we will never forget.
I mean we definitely won’t forget about that time we got locked into that church (doh!)…
I wanted to write a post telling you all about the Gorges du Verdon because this part of the road was really spectacular, it’s not for nothing the Gorges du Verdon is considered Europe’s most beautiful canyon! The road follows the aquamarine waters of the River Verdon, weaving through the deep and dramatic valley, and leads to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of the prettiest villages in the south of France.
What I’m trying to tell you is this one of the most picturesque drives ever! If you’re planning your own road trip in Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur don’t miss it! The Gorges du Verdon also makes for the perfect day trip out of Nice. It takes about two hours to drive from Nice to Castellane. Scroll down for more details about this stunning route…
There are 3 main driving routes around the Gorges du Verdon. The road from Castellane to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is the most dramatic. At La Palud sur Verdon take the detour for the spectacular and circular Route des Crétes, this will lead you back into La Palud sur Verdon and you can continue onto Moustiers-Saintie-Marie. The Corniche Sublime route runs along the north bank.
Here’s a perfect map from marvellous-provence.com.
Romance worthy, adventure worthy… and if your not happy just driving through here then by all means you can get down and dirty in the valley. You can hike down and take the Sentier Martel trail and get intimate with the exotic looking waters of the Verdon herself. There are plenty of beautiful bathing spots along the route, or you can hire a canoe and find one all to yourself.
The Point Sublime is the starting point for the Sentier Martel hiking trail which resurfaces at Chalet De La Maline. You can find out more information about hiking the Sentier Martel trail here.
Being able to explore a region like this by car will in my view give your trip a whole new dimension of possibility. You’re in the driver’s seat, you can decide where to go, how long to stay. You can go down any road that peaks your curiosity or you may be enticed to leave your car and head down one of many and myriad trails. You might fall for the charms of any one of these beautiful provincial villages and know you need to spend the night…
In a place like this it’s inevitable that you will discover something you hadn’t included in your itinerary. But in order to fully embrace the spirit of spontaneity make sure you come prepared! All that romance and spirit of adventure will rapidly dissolve in the face of adversity! Feel free to throw your itinerary out the window, but below I’ve listed a few things I think are essential before you hit the back roads of Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur:
- Sat Nav: I know you know this one!
- Trail and road maps: If your gonna go off the beaten track like don’t just rely on your sat nav! Pick them up in any supermarket.
- Water: Do not pass go without water!
- Snacks: Head to the supermarket for snack supplies; we normally pick up things like dark chocolate, fruit and nuts, cereal bars and some bread etc. If you’re going to follow you’re feet they might lead you very, very far from where there is a restaurant or shop, and by the time you get back on track things might be closed. Hungry explorers = cranky explorers.
- Food: The boulangerie is the place to stop for beautiful pastries and fresh breads but many of them also offer a hot and cold deli counter so you can get custom made baguettes and sandwiches. And a cafe au lait a partir, sil vous plait! So if you decide to go for a impromptu hike or discover the most idyllic picnic spot you’re covered! You’re welcome!
- Fuel: If you know you’re going to be spending the day exploring the mountains and such, and you’ve got half a tank or less, and you’re accommodation is any distance away, I personally think you should fill ‘er up while you have the chance and you’re driving past all those lovely garages that are open (ask me how I know!).
One of our big regrets about this trip was that we didn’t spend a night in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie; we arrived to the Gorges du Verdon late in the evening and our pre-booked accommodation was hours away. I would whole heartedly recommend that you plan to stay a night here though, especially if you think you would be interested in exploring some of the walking trails and getting down to the river itself.
Are you planning a trip to the Gorges du Verdon? I hope you’ve found this article helpful with planning your trip to the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur! Bon voyage! △