France // Provence //

The Gorges du Verdon

Also widely known as the Grand Canyon du Verdon, the breathtaking beauty and majesty of the Gorges du Verdon almost matches its American counterpart, albeit on a much smaller scale. Peppered with spectacular viewpoints, plunging crevices up to 700m deep, and glorious azure-blue lakes, the area is absolutely irresistible; try not to leave Provence without spending at least a day here. The river falls from Rougon at the top of the gorge, disappearing into tunnels, decelerating for shallow, languid moments and finally exiting in full, steady flow at the Pont du Galetas. Alongside, the huge artificial Lac de Sainte-Croix is great for swimming when the water levels are high; otherwise the beach becomes a bit sludgy.

With so many hairpin bends and twisting, narrow roads, it takes a full, rather exhausting day to drive right round the Gorges. Many visitors choose instead between tracing either its north or south rim. The entire circuit being 130km long, this is cycling country only for the preternaturally fit.

Local outfitters and guides offer activities including climbing, rafting, canoeing, canyoning, cycling and horseriding.