Tracks and Trails / Walking / Scheduled Departures / UPDATED: Verdon Gorge & GR4: Europe's Grand Canyon

UPDATED: Verdon Gorge & GR4: Europe's Grand Canyon

Gorges du Verdon

The Verdon Gorge

Hike the Grand Canyon of Europe! If you love dramatic landscapes and the power of nature then this is one for you: experience the stunning limestone gorge carved by the Verdon river. The gorge is one of the most beautiful in Europe and attracts walkers, climbers, bird watchers, geologists & canoeists from all over the world.

We walk from the foothills of Haute Provence through the Verdon National Park and some of the most dramatic scenery in France as we make our way along the GR4 taking in the famous Verdon Gorge.

  • NEW for 2017 a 6 Day Itinerary
  • Discover the largest canyon in Europe
  • The famous GR4 & Parc National du Verdon
  • Follow the footsteps of Napoleon
  • Views of lavender fields and olive groves
  • Characterful accommodation
  • Provençal food & wine

Departures

Trip Departure date End date Price Status
VER5 17 Sat 16 September 17 Sat 23 September 17 £1195 Places available | Make a Booking
VER6 17 Sat 23 September 17 Sat 30 September 17 £1195 Places available | Make a Booking
VER1 18 Sat 28 April 18 Sat 5 May 18 £1195 Places available | Make a Booking
VER2 18 Sat 19 May 18 Sat 26 May 18 £1195 Places available | Make a Booking
VER3 18 Sat 8 September 18 Sat 15 September 18 £1195 Places available | Make a Booking
VER4 18 Sat 22 September 18 Sat 29 September 18 £1195 Places available | Make a Booking

The 25km of the Verdon Gorge makes it the largest canyon in Europe and 2nd in the world slicing through the limestone plateau midway between Avignon and Nice. Carved by the turquoise water of the Verdon River, the gorges are 250m to 700m deep. The bottom is 8m to 90m wide, while the rims are 200m to 1500m apart! The National Regional Park of Verdon was created in 1997 to protect an environment that has evolved over two million years and also prides itself in being labelled by UNESCO as the largest geological reserve in Europe. We finish in the capital of ceramics - the famous and beautiful medieval village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

Day 1 Arrival

Fly either to Nice or Marseilles then transfer to the start of the walk at Saint André Les Alpes. Saint André sits at the start of the turquoise blue Lac de Castillon. This quiet, local Provençal village rests on a 12th century medieval castle built by the Templar Knights and can be easily linked by road with other Provencal regions on what's known as the Route La Lavande.

Early arrivals maybe interested in taking the local 'Train des Pignes' opened in 1911 from Saint André to visit the spa town of Dignes-les-Bains famous for clothes making, their amazing ammonite wall and geological park and thermal waters.

Day 2 St Andre les Alpes to Castellane

From our hotel, we ascend steadily through woodland to reach high meadows and ridge on the western side of the lake which offers excellent views of the Lac de Castillon, the neighbouring valley and back towards the peaks of Haute Provence. The trail meanders over a high a limestone plateau where the spring primroses are usually found in abundance. We then descend and join the famous Voie Imperiale, a trail used by Napoleon returning from Elba, in March 1815. Our destination today is the village of Castellane a beautiful example of the architecture of the area. If time allows a walk up to the 'Notre Dame de Roc' is well worth it as from here we gain commanding views of Castellane and the Verdon River. Walking time: 7h, Distance 20km, +790m -850m.

Day 3 Castellane to Point Sublime

Leaving Castellane we take the famous GR4 which follows the old route used by the Romans to reach Lyon. After a short climb our trail reaches a along the Verdon valley with unspoiled sleepy villages and houses typical of the region, with red tiles and terracotta walls. Mid-afternoon we arrive at the Chalet du Point Sublime, our hotel for the night. The viewpoint here gives great views of the Couloir Samson, a narrow gorge and the traditional walking entrance to the Verdon river. Walking time: 7h, Distance 20km, +780m -750m.

Day 4 Traverse from Point Sublime along the Verdon Gorge

Today we enter the famous 'French Grand Canyon'. From our hotel, we access the Couloir Samson, and the Verdon river 300m below. Here the trail is more challenging under foot as we descend toward the river along the steep walls of the gorge joining what is known as the 'Martel Trail'. What follows is a stunning world of limestone and towering cliffs. This trail was laid out in 1928 by the Touring Club of France and bears the name of the French speleologist Édouard-Alfred Martel (1859-1938), who undertook the first complete descent into the canyon in August 1905. We exit the gorge at a bar, which seems to go down rather well! Tonight we stay in the lovely Provencal village of La Palud. Walking time: 7hr, Distance 16km, +700m -700m.

Day 5 La Palud to Moustiers Ste Marie

The trail today leads up and through a large pine forest to the Col de Plein Voir to an exceptional viewpoint above the turquoise lake of Saint Croix. We make our way on a single track trail along a limestone craggy top along the Crete de l'Ourbes to reach 1213m. A final steeper descent brings us to the picturesque village of Moustiers, where we spend the night. Moustiers, steeped in the history of the Knights Templar, is a gem of a village, totally Provençal in its nature with many lovely art workshops and galleries to visit. Walking time: 7h, Distance 18.5km, +750m -900m.

Day 6 Moustiers Ste Marie to Riez

Still on the GR4 route we leave Moustiers and first cross low lying meadows then climb through pines to a higher plateau. We are rewarded by well manicured lavender fields stretching in every direction the higher Alps creating a backdrop. Our trail continues past a truffle farm then through orchards of apples and oak trees. A coffee stop at the old village of Roumoules sets us up for the last climb of the day to regain the higher ground before descending down to the ancient Roman riverside town of Riez also known as the 'Lavender Capital' - another souvenir destination! Walking time: 6h, Distance 17.5km, +370m -420m.

Day 7 Riez to Gréoux-les-Bains

Our last and longest day completes our traverse of the Verdon Nature Park and has a touch of Provence around every corner! Our route begins along a quiet lane then takes in ancients mule tracks and paths linking rolling fields of; wheat, lavender, poppies and coriander to reach the village of Saint-Martin-les-Bromes and its thirteenth-century tower built by the powerful Knights Templar. Back on trail the final section of our GR4 route leads us partly through forest, then to fine views of our final destination, Gréoux-les-Bains, stretching out below us. Gréoux is a hilltop Roman town and popular hot mineral spa destination complete with characterful narrow streets and a "Templar" chateau overlooking the town. We aim to arrive with time to explore or simply relax before enjoying our final meal and overnight. Walking time: 7h, Distance 23km, +300m -220m.

Day 8 Departure Day

Today is departure day. Details about how to get to and from this trip are given below.

Price

Included:

The guiding services of a qualified International Mountain Leader, and their expenses. Accommodation based on 7 nights half-board in 2-3 star hotels (to include breakfast and evening meals.). The transfer of your luggage between each overnight stop.

Not Included:

Flights and transfers to the start and the end of the walk. Drinks and other beverages. Mountain rescue insurance – this is compulsory for all clients. Lunches are not included, as we find our guests prefer enjoying the experience of buying local produce en route!

Accommodation

Accommodation will be in small villages along the route. All accommodation is en suite and is in clean and characterful Provençal auberges and hotels. It is based on two people sharing a room. A single supplement may be available upon early booking. There will be vehicle support to transfer your main bag to the next overnight stop. You just carry your day pack.

Guiding

Please note that on booking a trip your guide will make a daily decision on the suggested route based on the weather and the ability of the members of the group. The guide has complete discretion to make any route changes necessary in the interests of safety and enjoyment. Your guide will be a fully qualified International Mountain Leader.

Grading

We have graded this trip 'Difficult' because the days are lengthy, but we would say this is at the lower end of the scale and nearer 'Moderate' in terms of terrain and fitness required. We would not consider it essential that you had previous mountain walking experience if your mental attitude and level of fitness is good!

Minimum Numbers

This trip will run once a minimum of 5 people have booked. We will take a maximum of 8 clients on this trip.

Getting there and back

There is a spectacular train ride through gorgeous Provencal countryside, from Nice to the start of your trip at St Andre. It is on one of the very few private railways in France and with trains running four times a day it is an easy way to get to the start. It is also excellent value for money being 18 Euros per person for a single journey of about 2.5 hrs. Saint André Les Alpes is approx 2hrs by car from Nice. We can provide contact details for a private transfer which you may wish to share with other members of the trip. Many guests prefer to arrive a day early and explore the ancient seaside boulevards of Nice and the old town. The timetable for the wonderful train service from Nice to Saint André Les Alpes on the historic Train des Pignes can be found here. A MUST for train fans!

At the end of the walk in Greoux-les-Bains there are several methods for onward travel. Marseilles is the closest airport but there are also options to return back to Nice plus an easy bus ride reaches Manosque where connections are possible across France including the near by Luberon region. Marseille airport is 1hr by road and 2hrs by train, Nice airport 2hrs by road and 3h30 by train. Please contact us for more detailed information.

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