[GORGES DU VERDON, FRANCE] — All along the skinny serpentine road that follows each side of the Gorges due Verdon canyon rim are cool slot canyons to explore.

Canyons like this awesome hike below the jaw dropping Point Sublime.

Le Point Sublime river view

I wasn’t planning on this hike. It was all innocent, really. I just stumbled on the signs and kept going. I had no water, no backpack, no raingear, no flashlight, no map, no guidebook. But the Scope-colored water and steep canyon kept pulling me “just a little farther.”

The path descends to follow along the water, then climbing up ladders, dodging between stone arches then, disappearing into cool dark tunnels, emerging on the other side. When I say tunnels, I mean pitch black tunnels.

Signs warn you should have a headlamp. Not having one, I mumbled to myself “Hahaha, we don’t need no stinking torchiers” as I entered that last… and longest tunnel.”

Well, they were serious. Unbeknownst to me, that tunnel is about a half mile long, in pitch black. So hundreds of feet in, the few other hikers ahead soon disappeared and their flashlight, so did any faint light at all. I was in total blackness.

Not knowing if I was walking into a pit or wall, I was walking like Frankenstein with my arms straight ahead, clicking like a bat to bounce sounds against the invisible walls to find my way. I pulled out my iPhone 6, the battery at 10%, natch, after driving all over with GPS all day. I was fucking scared.

Using a burst of dim light every few metres, slowly walking toe-to-toe and feeling my way the along walls, heaving a big sigh when a beam from other well-prepared hikers appeared from the distance. Trying to act cool as the baffled other hikers pass this tall dark shadow emerging from the blankness. “Bonjour! Errr, soir, bon soir!” (I never get that right)

I may or may not have been in there a very long time.  I could just see the NYPost headline: “Ignorant tourist found dead in tunnel. Body may have been there three weeks, steps from other hikers.”

Finally, after seemingly eons, a faint light appears. The end of the tunnel. Other people! Thank god. And then⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️. The loudest thunder I’ve ever heard. Then, a torrential thunderstorm. Listen for it.

Okay, click this video, turn your sound up and watch until the end:

This was a Noah-level downpour, lightening and roaring thunder all around. Buckets of rain. Of course I wasn’t prepared for that either, not even planning on this spontaneous hike. No poncho. No backpack, just raw-dogging my camera strapped to my hand, exposed to the elements. Rain so intense, it was like swimming standing up. I was soaked through my boxers; frying my expensive camera to its core.

And then it dawned on me… to get back to the car… I had to turn around and return the the same dark tunner.

Totally baffles me I’m not dead yet.


Gorges du Verdon — The Grand Canyon of France

This is France?!? Moustiers is a great fairytale surprise, but the real reason I was there was this.
The Grand Canyon of France. And an Adventureland of fun, with trekking, boating, canyoning, climbing and just plain gawking at all the natural beauty.

Gorges du Verdon best view

I’ve wanted to come here since I saw photos in my high school French class book. I’d like to show you why you should come here, too.

Gorges du Verdon from the air
You think of Provence as this great mellow land of beautiful fields and lavender… but not this great maw in the earth.
Gorges du Verdon large
Most people just go to the Cote d’Azur or Provence and never venture beyond that. This is so close to everything. Definitely make a detour up to the upper right-hand corner of Provence. Just about and an hour to hour half away.

You can hike inside the canyon, ride things on the river in the bottom of the Gorges du Verdon, looking up, but you can also ride things on top of the of the canyon, looking down.

Drive the even twistier and narrower Route du Crêtes (Route of the Ridges) and let it all hang out… over the sides, 700m down, with massive Griffon vultures flying thisclose to your nose on the windy edge.

upper canyon Gorges du Verdon

There are stops, teeny stops, all along the narrow rim road. Some, barely the size of your car. But the views are to die for.

You can do the whole circular route in a day if you really push it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I spent nearly a whole day just gawking at the North Rim and wish I could have stayed longer. Here is a link to the Top 5 best views over the gorge.

Overview Gorges du Verdon
Dent d’Aire viewpoint, the best view of the canyon.
canyon view from Dent d’Aire viewpoint
You can see from the tops of the canyon how the river zigzags along deep below.
Dent d’Aire viewpoint
narrow canyon Gorges du Verdon
mountain Gorges du Verdon

Le Point Sublime Trail

entrance to Le Point Sublime
Le Point Sublime is a big yaw in the earth, bleeding Scope-colored water.

This is the trail I started the post with. It plies along the roaring river, ducking in and out of tunnels, with chutes and ladders to boot. Bring 1) a flashlight/torch/torchiere 2) water 3) raingear.

I got caught in a torrential downpour after emerging from the longest tunnel. These are the last photos my camera took before it got fried from my swim/hike.

trail along Le Point Sublime
You can see the trail in the lower left. And how it dobs in and out of tunnels.
Le Point Sublime river canyon

I Never Knew a Paddleboat Ride Could Be So Cool

Gorges du Verdon entrance
Pictures do not do this place justice, so make sure to watch the video. You gotta rent a boat. Paddleboat, kayak or a silent electric hummer like above. Follow the signs down to Lac du Sainte Croix and pick your poison — there are a half dozen nice places to rent boats and you’re off, heading into the gorge.

You gotta watch this quick video to get a feel for how amazing this place is:

Right at the mouth of the Gorges du Verdon, you can rent canoes, paddleboats or silent little goofy electric boats and quietly mosey up the gorges, steeps canyon walls on all sides, emerald green water below.

I choose goofy, which was a blast. (And fitting). Here there are no screeching party coves of frat boys blasting a boom box and throwing beers in the water. Just the lulling sing-song of lovely French women speaking.

Everyone and everything was silent, in awe. Like in a church. It is awesome.

steep walls Gorges du Verdon
But once you pass the bridge…it is ahhhhhhhh.
view of Gorges du Verdon
boaters on Gorges du Verdon
boating on Gorges du Verdon
boat rental Gorges du Verdon
geology along Gorges du Verdon

Last visited June 2015. Updated June 2024 —  

More Information on Gorges du Verdon

Here’s another post I made about staying in nearby Moustiers before heading to the gorge.

Here’s a great list of cool things to do in Gorges du Verdon in SeeProvence.

Here’s an unverified list of great hotels near the Gorges on Trip Advisor. I have one awesome suggestion in another post.

Another list of resources from one of my go-to sources when I was in Provence. ProvenceWeb.

And a good roundup article in the UK Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/france/8698150/Gorge-du-Verdon-France-life-on-the-edge.html

Seeeee. I’m not alone, look at this in Conde Nast Traveler, the most beautiful places in France. .

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