In August 2017, I spent 5 days in the beautiful area of the Gorges Du Verdon. I had seen a video on Facebook a couple of months earlier and was determined to go here 🙂 I was just a couple of weeks too late to see the amazing lavender fields, so I focused on cycling in the Gorges du Verdon, an Aqua Rando tour in the Gorges and enjoying the town of Castellane!
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The way there
After coming from the beautiful Jura region, I made my way down through the Alps. Driving by Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) I took the from road from Thonon-les-Bains up to Morzine where I had lived for several months a couple of years ago. Time for a quick coffee and continuing to the Col de Joux Plane. A crazy drive with lots of hairpins later 🙂 I made it to the other side, the town of Samoens. I had a coffee with the lovely people from La Veille Ferme, a gastronomic B&B in the French country side. (Please go here if you ever can!!).
Then I went on to Bourgneuf where I had located a lovely free camping spot with an amazing view!
After waking up at the camper spot in Bourgneuf, I went to the bakery next door and headed of to my next destination: Castellane, in the Gorges du Verdon.
Gorges du Verdon: Castellane
I arrived in Castellane hot, sweaty and exhausted. These crazy mountain roads, the French drivers, almost 400km and my lack of driving skills made this a nice challenge 😉 I was happy when I saw the signs of the village!
Just down the mountain heading towards the village, there was the sign of Camping Provencal where I planned to stay. It was a lovely campsite, about which I will write more below.
The campsite was about 1km walk from the village, about 15 minutes. When I first entered the village, I already fell in love! Beautiful old buildings, flowers everywhere, lots of restaurants and tiny streets to explore. A central square with restaurants, bakeries and adventure tour operators. Nice people, just enough tourists to make it lively but not overcrowded, beautiful scenery around the village too. A big Carrefour supermarket at the foot of the village is also very useful, though expensive!
Castellane is famous for its outdoor adventures in the Gorges du Verdon. Rafting, Canyoning, Kayaking and the so-called “Aqua-Rando” make for a place worth exploring!
Buena Vista Rafting
The camping that I stayed at, Camping Provencal, recommended me to join the guys from Buena Vista Rafting for a trip in the Gorges du Verdon. They were right next to the camping, only a couple of minutes walk. I first wanted to go rafting, but all the tour operators in the Gorges du Verdon are depending on the opening of the dam or not. So no one was positive whether it would be possible to raft in the next days or not.
I talked to the guys from Buena Vista Rafting and they convinced me that it would be a much better idea to do the full-day Aqua-Rando tour. This would be a mix between hiking, canyoning and swimming and a great way to take in the beauty of the Gorges. I decided to join them the day after and got grouped up with a Dutch family.
After an intensive hike down we got dressed in our wetsuits and entered the water. The first rapid was super scary but exciting, and I only wanted bigger and faster after that! We spent the whole day swimming, floating and going through rapids. We brought our own lunch and enjoyed it at a little pebble beach. After that, we had some more rapids and some walks as the water was quite low. On the way, we had the opportunities to take some jumps from the cliffs! We started at 3 meters high and ended up at somewhere like 20 meters! I stopped at about 5 meters 😉
When we got to the end of the tour, we went swimming into the cave. It was dark and spooky, but really exciting! Here was also the last jump of the day, which I skipped because it was ridiculously high 😉 Then we had to swim out of the cave which was a huge challenge! The good swimmers has to help the younger kids to make it through the current and make their way back, but we made it!
After a strenuous hike back up with the wetsuits in our backpacks, some rock climbing and a lot of sweat and cursing, we made it back to the top. It still was an hour drive back, but it was a beautiful drive and very relaxing 🙂
Beautiful views during the aqua rando in the Gorges du Verdon
Check out my Buena Vista Rafting review on the trip, the guides and more details on the Aqua Rando tour here.
Cycling in the Gorges du Verdon area
You can also explore the Gorges du Verdon by foot or by bicycle. You can check out this page for ideas on how to hike the Gorges du Verdon, because I only did it with my bicycle!
The first day in the Verdon, I took my bike for a relaxed ride to Lac de Castillon and St. Andre Les Alpes. This was about 20km one way and it was pretty flat. Just the first climb was a bit rough and steep, but afterwards, it was not difficult. You do pass a couple of short tunnels, but nothing major. The cross-over over the dam is quite cool and gets you some good views! All in all a good warming up ride in preparation for the mountains.
During the Aqua Rando, I didn’t really have the time to take pictures or take a video, so I decided I had to back by bike 🙂 I did a nice 40km bike ride to the Point Sublime, one of the most populair lookout points over the Gorges du Verdon. At some points, there was a lot of traffic, but in general, it was quiet enough to enjoy the route. The road was absolutely stunning and had great views over the Gorges and some great rock formations.
The whole Gorges du Verdon area is great for cycling. This a map of the area around Castellane which I got from the Castellane Tourist Office in the village.
I spent my 5 days at Camping Provencal near Castellane. Whenever I cycle or do a tour, I always like to stay at a campsite to get tips and tricks about the region and get recommendations for tour agencies 🙂
The campsite was lovely – only about 40 places. The places were quite spacious and many had one or more trees to provide some shade. The sanitary facilities were all fine, especially because there are only so limited places at the campsite. The Wifi works great at the reception area and the people from the camping are the best! Very friendly and accommodating.
Fun detail: I ran into an old friend from my study time at the dishwashing area. Super random, but fun!
Check out my review for Camping Provencal in Gorges du Verdon here to read more details and see some more pictures.
Massage in Castellane: Maison Castellane
After all the cycling and trekking in the canyon, I decided that it was time for a massage! I found Maison Castellane online and decided to give it a go! And it was fantastic. Brigitte welcomed me very warmly and I got relaxed straight away 🙂 The B&B is located in a fantastic location very close to the city center, just a street off the roundabout at the Carrefour. There are several cottages around the house and several rooms and there is a beautiful garden.
The massage was truly everything I needed. Relaxing but firm and I was completely revived after it! So, if you are looking for a massage in Castellane, definitely contact Brigitte from Maison Castellane!
Please go visit the Gorges du Verdon!
This place easily scores in my top 5 favourite places in France so far! Cute villages, nice people, a good vibe and beautiful nature. I would go back here any day, and I am even considering purchasing a little apartment here 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions regarding the area or if I can help out at all!
Here are some good deals on places to stay in and around Castellane
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