One of the most fascinating canyons in the world was formed by a river that has cut itself through the limestone rock formation. The views are breathtaking and this remarkable natural landmark is a popular tourist destination in France.
In this article, you can explore some of the most fun and interesting facts about the Verdon Gorge, an incredible piece of nature that you simply have to put on your bucket list!
1. The canyon is located in the southeastern corner of France
The Verdon Gorge is one of the most fascinating natural features in southern France. This river canyon is situated in the southeastern corner of the country in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
The major cities of Marseilles and Nice (to the southwest and southeast respectively) are just a 1-2 hour drive away, which means that the canyon is a very popular tourist attraction in the region.
The entire region of the canyon with all its natural beauty, including the canyon with its steep cliffs and captivating river, a wonderful lake, and multiple scenic hiking trails, is part of the Verdon Natural Regional Park.
2. It forms the natural border between 2 French Departments
The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region is one of the 18 administrative regions that make up the country of France and is the utmost southeastern region in the country.
It pretty much encompasses the historical region of Provence in France and is world-famous for being the location of the “French Riviera,” as well as the location of the yearly Cannes movie festival.
This region is made up of 6 departments of which the canyon partially forms the natural border between two of them. These are the Departments of Var to the south, and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence to the north.
3. It was formed by a remarkable river with the same name
The history of the canyon remarkably begins during the Triassic Period which lasted between 251.902 million and 201.36 million years ago. Back then, the entire Provence region was covered by the sea and large deposits of limestone were left here.
It wasn’t until the Cretaceous period, between 150 and 66 million years ago, that the landmass of the area was raised and rivers were eventually formed that gradually cut through the landscape to form canyons.
One of the most prominent rivers in the area is the Verdon River, a stream that has cut through the limestone for millions of years, resulting in this amazing natural landmark!
The river is very distinctive because of its turquoise color (after which it was named). This effect is created by the deposits of the minerals of glacial flour, small particles of rock that turn the water into this amazing color.
4. The source of the river is well-known by cycling fans
The Verdon River is one of the larger rivers in the southeastern part of France and has a total length of 166.5 kilometers (103.5 miles). This means that its source is relatively far away from Verdon Canyon.
If you’re a cycling fan and regularly watch the Tour de France, the most important cycling event in the world, then you will surely have heard about the Col d’Allos, a narrow mountain pass often used during this event.
The source of the Verdon River is situated near the Col d’Allos. The river flows to the southwest, passes by various artificial lakes, and eventually drains in another major river in the region, the “Durance River,” one of the most important tributaries of the “Rhône River,” one of the major rivers in Europe.
5. The Verdon River drains into an artificial lake near the canyon
One of the most amazing facts about the Verdon River is that its entrance is literally situated near the location that the Verdon River flows into the Lake of Sainte-Croix.
This is easily one of the most picturesque lakes in the region, mainly because it has the same turquoise color as the Verdon River!
6. The lake was formed by one of 5 dams in the area
The lake is a popular location for all sorts of water sports and was created during the construction of the “Dam of Sainte-Croix,” one of 5 dams constructed in the region between 1929 and 1975.
The construction of the other important dams in the area also formed lakes, including the “Lac de Castillon” and the “Lac d’Esparron-Gréoux,” as well as the “Reservoir at Chaudanne” and the “Reservoir at Quinson.”
These artificial bodies of water really add to the overall charm of the region, that’s for sure!
7. An entire village was moved higher for the dam’s construction
In order to construct these dams, several villages had to be flooded. In case of the Lac du Sainte-Croix, this village is called “Les Salles-sur-Verdon.”
When you travel to the Verdon Gorge from the south, you will pass by this village which is situated just a few minutes away from the mouth of the canyon at the lake.
This means that the original village, which is situated at the bottom of the lake, was completely rebuilt at a higher location, creating this magnificent sight.
8. The canyon is relatively long and incredible deep in some areas
So how long and deep is the Verdon Gorge?
The canyon is situated between two villages in the area, Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. It has a total length of approximately 25 kilometers (15.5 miles).
Millions of years of the river cutting through the relatively soft limestone also made this canyon extremely deep, with a maximum depth of about 700 meters (2,300 feet).
The overall depth of the canyon is anywhere between 250 and 700 meters (820 to 2,300 feet) and the width ranges from 6 to 100 meters (19 to 328 feet) at the ground level. This means it’s extremely narrow at some points as well.
9. The river disappears underground at some point in the gorge
One of the most remarkable facts about the Verdon Gorge is that some parts of the Verdon River suddenly disappear underground, only to remerge from the enormous underground rock formations a bit further.
This part of the canyon is referred to as the “Styx du Verdon,” a reference to the river Styx. In Greek Mythology, the river Styx forms the boundary between Earth and the underworld, which is kinda what literally happens to the Verdon River in the canyon.
10. There are multiple scenic hiking trails near the canyon
One of the best ways to explore the region is to follow one of the multiple popular hiking trails. This allows you to explore the entire canyon through narrow passages, steep climbs, tunnels, and exciting footbridges.
The most popular hiking trail is called the “Sentier Blanc-Martel” and takes hikers about 12 kilometers (8 miles) all across this wonderful piece of nature!
This trail was named after explorer Édouard-Alfred Martel (1859-1938), a man often referred to as the “Father of modern Speleology.”
11. The limestone rocks are heaven for rock climbers
Apart from being one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe, it’s also one of the most popular locations for rock climbers. The gorge one of the best locations in the world for multi-pitch climbing, which means routes divided into several sections with resting stations in between.
There are over 1,500 routes available with pitches ranging from anywhere between 20 meters (65 feet) to over 400 meters (1,300 feet). This makes the cliffs of the Verdon Gorge the perfect location for climbers of any experience level as well!
12. You don’t have to be a rock climber to enjoy the region
The region is popular for a wide variety of adventurers as a wide range of outdoor activities and sports are conducted here. These include canoeing, paragliding, rafting, and canyoning!
Fishermen can also enjoy the canyon, especially those interested in fly fishing which can be done right inside the Verdon River.
Yes, this amazing spot is bustling with tourists during the holidays, and it’s not hard to imagine why!