Winding its way through scenic Provençal countryside, the spectacular Verdon Gorge is Europe's largest canyon and a paradise for outdoor adventurers. On this family-oriented itinerary, you'll base yourself in the fairytale village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie for a week of hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and canyoneering. In between high-adrenaline activities, visit the blooming lavender fields of the Valensole Plateau and explore the charming city of Aix-en-Provence.

Highlights

  • Discover the clifftop village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
  • Rappel down the rugged canyons of the Verdon Gorge
  • Explore the lavender fields & rose farms of the Valensole Plateau
  • Go horseback riding through the Provençal countryside
  • Try kayaking & canyoneering on the turquoise waters of the Verdon River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Marseille, Drive to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Day 2 Via Cordata in the Provençal Alps & Route des Crêtes Scenic Drive Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Day 3 Verdon Horse Riding & Kayaking Adventure  Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Day 4 See the Lavender Fields of the Valensole Plateau  Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Day 5 Canyoneering in Clue du Haut-Jabron Canyon Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Day 6 Verdon Guided Sunset Hike Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Day 7 Drive to Aix-en-Provence & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Marseille, Drive to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie 

Moustiers Sainte Marie
The fairytale French village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Welcome to France! Upon arrival in the historic Mediterranean city of Marseille, you'll pick up your rental car and set out into the stunning Provençal countryside. Your destination is Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, famed as one of the country's most beautiful villages. Located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department of southeastern France, the area is known for its alpine vistas, limestone mountains, and fields of lavender. The village sits at the edge of a mountain, out of which a spring flows creating a waterfall that provides hydropower to the town.

The population of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is less than 1,000. However, even though few people live here, there is a thriving industry: the village is famous for producing uniquely refined and decorated ceramics which its residents have created for generations.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is also noteworthy for its location at the western entrance to the Verdon Gorge (Gorges du Verdon). This spectacular canyon runs 31 miles (50 km) and reaches up to 2,296 feet (700 m) deep in places, making it the largest in Europe. The canyon was formed as a result of limestone erosion of the plateaus of Haute Provence by the Verdon River. Kayaking and canoeing along the river and Lake Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon are popular excursions, as are hiking, canyoning, and rock climbing.

After settling into your accommodations, the rest of the day is free to explore. Follow one of the village's 13 hiking trails which wind through olive groves and across rugged cliffs, or discover some of the local delicacies, like cookies made with lavender honey and almonds, and beer brewed with Valensole honey.

At the end of the day, take the time to appreciate one of the village's spectacular sunsets, which color the surrounding cliffs in shades of ochre, pink, and orange.  

Day 2: Via Cordata in the Provençal Alps & Route des Crêtes Scenic Drive

Enjoy the sights from the top of the gorge
Enjoy the sights from the top of the gorge

Start today with an adrenaline-fuelled climbing experience among the rugged cliffs of the Provençal Alps. You'll follow a via cordata, a mix between climbing and walking with a rope attaching you to the route, along the Fox Hole section of the canyon. Follow passages along the wall with abseils, a zip line, pendular jump, and monkey bridge to take in the breathtaking landscapes of the Verdon Gorge below. As long as you're good with heights, this exhilarating activity is open to all abilities.

After your climb, discover the villages of La Palud-sur-Verdon and Rougon with a drive above the canyon. La Palud was once a potters' village and is now home to a wealth of local products including trout, crayfish, lavender honey, truffles, ham, and country bread. It's also the starting point for a scenic drive along the Route des Crêtes, offering 14 miles (23 km) of stunning canyon views. Go through the Point Sublime overlook for one of the best views of the gorge, then continue to Rougon. This petite village offers a view of Point Sublime from its castle ruins, where you can see how it earned its name before heading back to Moustiers for the afternoon.

Day 3: Horse Riding & Kayaking in the Verdon Region

Horseback ride
Saddle up to explore the countryside by horseback

Today you'll experience two unforgettable excursions into stunning Provençal landscapes.

Start the morning with a peaceful horseback ride along the scenic rivers and lakes of the Verdon. In the afternoon, you'll be transferred to the starting point of a canoeing/hiking adventure, where you'll paddle to the gorge's hidden lakes and caves and explore portions of the route on foot. 

After a full day of fresh air and mountain breezes, return to Moustiers for a well-earned rest.

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Day 4: See the Lavender Fields of the Valensole Plateau

Lavender fields of Valensole
Vibrant fields of lavender in Valensole

After breakfast today, take a scenic drive to the Valensole Plateau (Plateau de Valensole), the most famous area in all of France to see blooming lavender. Each year starting in June and peaking in early July, the fields in this part of Provence come alive with vivid displays of purple that stretch all along the countryside. As a pleasant contrast, many of these lavender fields sit alongside wide expanses of golden wheat.

You can also discover other aromatic plants in the heart of the Verdon Regional Nature Park. Local farmers cultivate and harvest damask roses and thyme on a plateau overlooking the gorge, which they pick by hand and distill on the spot to transform them into essential oils, floral waters, and lotions. You'll learn first-hand about the distillation process, with your own specific botanical depending on the time of year.

In the afternoon, enjoy the shores and waters of nearby Lake Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon. The vast lake offers perfect conditions for sailing, swimming, windsurfing, or kayaking/canoeing on its emerald green waters. On the lakeshore lies the pleasant village of Saint-Croix-du-Verdon, which is filled with old houses, public squares, and viewing points that look out over the tranquil waters below.

Day 5: Canyoneering in Clue du Haut-Jabron Canyon

A canyoneering adventure down the Verdon River
Embark on a canyoneering adventure down the Verdon River

After breakfast, make your way along the Route des Crêtes again and follow this steep mountain road to your destination for a two-hour canyoneering excursion in Clue du Haut-Jabron—a tributary of the Verdon River. This adrenaline-fueled activity features a variety of jumps, natural water slides, swimming breaks, and culminates in an abseiling adventure involving a 98-foot descent (30 m). 

Families with younger children or just in the mood for something more sedate can opt for an aquatic hike instead, which will see you floating through some gentle rapids along with optional jumps and hiking along the banks of the river.

Day 6: Verdon Guided Sunset Hike 

Sunset views over the Verdon Gorge

Today, enjoy a leisurely morning in the village. After lunch, you'll meet your guide in the center of Moustiers and embark on a 4.5-hour hike through the rocky paths of the Verdon region. The loop is beautiful and varied, crossing high plateaus, ancient Roman roads, and hiking trails to reach your destination: the summit of a mountain that offers sweeping, panoramic views across Lake Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon and the entire valley. With perfect afternoon light, you'll have lots of opportunities to capture the landscape in photographs along the way, especially as the sun starts to set and fills the valley with brilliant colors.

Day 7: Drive to Aix-en-Provence & Departure

A charming cafe in Aix en Provence
A charming cafe in Aix en Provence

Bid the enchanting village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie farewell this morning, as you drive 1.5-hours southwest towards the former Provençal capital of Aix-en-Provence.

Spend the morning exploring, uncovering the rich heritage, art, and culture that defines the city. Visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, a Romanesque/Gothic church built on the site of an ancient Greek temple to Apollo. Stop and see the Town Hall (known locally as the Hotel de Ville), which dates to the 14th century and sits on an equally old plaza. Make sure to save time for a stroll along the Cours Mirabeau, a busy thoroughfare lined with leafy trees and full of markets and cafés—perfect for people watching. Shop in the fashion boutiques of this "mini-Paris" or relax in the squares of "a thousand fountains." Don't miss the many local specialties on offer, such as macaroons, calissons, goat cheese, olive oil, honey, and fantastic local wines.

In the afternoon, your French adventure draws to a close, as you return your rental car and continue your onward journey. Bon voyage!

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