- At a glance
- Locality & Walks
- Accommodation & Meals
- Travel options
Your Holiday at a Glance
|Independent Walking Holiday||
|Dates for 2020||
|Price 6 nights||
|Accommodation and Meals||
|What's not included||
Sensations of Verdon Gorge
A sensational walking holiday that explores the Verdon Gorge, from above and below, one of Europe's largest and most spectacular canyons. Its location between Provence and the Alps means it is a great spring and autumn destination.
Your walking trail starts in St Andre les Alpes nestled in Alpine foothills of Haute Provence and then heads towards the gorge itself. The Verdon gorge is a superb natural feature in the upper Provence landscape, the deepest gorge in France and one of the largest in Europe. Reaching 700m in depth and only a few metres wide at its narrowest point the Verdon Gorge is as beautiful as it is impressive. Turquoise blue waters at its base increases the sense of beauty.
The walking is challenging, but as long as you are used to hard walking trails and are sure-footed then you should be fine as it never becomes a scramble. By contrast, the sensations imposed by the vertiginous rock walls are strong and this walk is certainly not suitable for anyone who suffers from vertigo. The most famous part of the trail is the Sentier Martel, which was laid out in 1928 by the Touring Club de France. It was named in honour of the explorer who had led the exhibition through the Verdon in 1905. Today the path today includes a series of steps, tunnels, ladders and bridges allowing you access to much of the length of the gorge. You have two days walking and exploring the gorge.
In addition to the natural wonders of the gorge itself, you'll also discover pretty Alpine summits and rock towers of the Upper Provence with great views, as well as several historic villages such as Castellane and Moustiers Ste Marie at each end of the gorge. Part of your trail also follows in the footsteps of Roman Legions who passed here, through a largely uninhabited landscape which at times is wild and mountainous.
5 day's self-guided walking moving between accommodation. Walking per day amounts to an average of 6-7hrs (not including lunch stop) and 700m of ascent and descent. The walk along the Martel trail could take longer (possiblly 8 to 9 hours) especially if conditions are hot. The walks take place on good paths for the most part, although they are sometimes steep and rocky in nature with some loose limestone. In addition, on the sections in the gorge you will encounter steps, tunnels, metal ladders and bridges. We have chosen to grade the holiday challenging largely due to the nature of the trail itself rather than the amount of ascent or distance each day.
You should have a good level of fitness and be comfortable with walking on steep mountainous terrain. You should also be sure-footed on mountain paths and have a good head for heights. It is NOT suitable for those who suffer from vertigo. You need good walking boots throughout the trip.
Holiday Profile day by day
Day 1: Arrival
Make your own way to St Andre les Alpes nestled in the Alpine foothills. You could travel from Nice via the tourist train. Welcome at your hotel.
Day 2: St Andre les Alpes - Castellane
Your first day's walk takes you along narrow paths through pine forests and then over open ridges with shrub and wild flowers. Great views over the intensely blue waters of Lac de Castillon below. Once at Castellane you can climb up to the little chapel at the rock outcrop of Notre Dame de Roche for superb views. 15km, +600m, -750m
Day 3: Castellane - Point Sublime (Rougon)
Today your walking trail takes the GR4 long distance trail from Castellane which follows in the footsteps of the Romans. This historic route takes you above the Verdon Valley through tiny hamlets, their historic houses and churches clinging to the rocky hillsides. Take a small diversion to chapel St Jean at the top of cliffs for great views. Afterwards, pass through the hamlet of Chasteuil, below rock walls before climbing onto the high pastures of the Suech plateau. The path then descends to the village of Rougon clinging to a promontory above the gorge and then onto Point Sublime and your auberge for the night. 18km, +650m, -500m
Day 4: Point Sublime - La Palud sur Verdon
The most eagerly awaited day of the entire walk, the Martel trail takes you along the gorge itself for the first time. The walking is challenging with steep sections and metal ladders, but it never becomes too difficult or exposed as long as you have a good head for heights and are reasonably sure-footed. Keep an eye out for climbers on the seemingly endless and impossibly smooth rock walls. It is worth leaving early to allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy the different facets along the gorge. The more adventurous and fit can add options, for example, in the Tunnel du Baou there is a window hollowed through the rock that allows access to the Baume aux Pigeons, with a steep metal staircase leading to the river and its rock formations. This wonderful day ends with a climb up to La Maline, where you can take in great views of the gorge before walking the last section on road to La Palud, or take a taxi. 22km, +800m, -600m
Day 5: Tour from La Palud sur Verdon
Today you have a shorter but nonetheless beautiful trail along the next section of the Verdon Gorge along the Bastidon Trail. This trails stays higher nearer the top of the gorge ending at the impressive Maireste viewpoint. Transfer back to your accommodation at La Palud sur Verdon. 8km, +350m, -500m
Day 6: La Palud sur Verdon - Mousteirs Ste Marie
Climb out of La Palud sur Verdon along the GR4 long distance trail through forests as you skirt around the Cime de Barbin. After crossing a high plateaux with thinner tree cover, you'll reach a panoramic ridge-top overlooking the turquoise-blue Lac de Ste Croix. Descend from the ridge before heading towards the pretty town of Moustiers Ste Marie gathered at the foot of impressive towers and cliffs, as you return to civilisation after a beautiful and wild day's walk.
Day 7: Departure
Leave after breakfast and transfer to station at Manosque.
Accommodation & Meals
You'll stay in auberges and hotels of 2 and 3 star standard. They are located in the villages. Some have pools to relax. Comfortable accommodation in great settings with a warm welcome and good cuisine. Three evening meals included in holiday price.
|Hotel du Commerce||Hotel||Friendly 3 star hotel with swimming pool in the heart of the village of Castellane||3 stars|
|Auberge du Pointe Sublime||Hotel||Simple and comfortable family run auberge in a great setting near the start of the gorge||2 stars|
Make your own way to the start of the walking holiday in Andre les Alpes.
Local tourist train from Nice CP station to St Andre les Alpes. Trains at 9.25, 13.05, 17.15 (at time of publication) & travel time 2 hrs 20 min.
Bus from Marseille: Several regional bus services from Marseille St Charles et Aix en Provence to Digne les Bains. Change for bus service to St Andre les Alpes (part of above train service which is now replaced by a bus between St Andre les Alpes and Dignes les Bains).
Flights: flights from French and UK airports to Nice Cote d'Azur airport and Marseille. Operators from UK airports include Flybe, Easyjet & British Airways. Shuttle to Nice town centre.
End of holiday: transfer to train station at Manosque & train or bus to Aix or Marseille.
Please visit our travel shop for links to useful sites for reserving airport parking or booking train tickets
Note: Please check concerning the availability of a holiday before booking any flights or train tickets. If you need further information or would like to discuss any aspect of your travel arrangements, please contact us, we’re here to help you.