The Verdon Gorges
A unique natural site in Europe
This spectacular canyon results from the limestone erosion of the plateaus of Haute Provence by the Verdon river that springs near the col d’Allos, in the massif of the Trois Évêchés. The 50 km long canyons stretch from Castellane to the lake of Sainte-Croix, and reach 700 metres in depth in places.
A multi-facetted sports ground
The canyons present many sports opportunities. From hiking paths of all levels that follow the river banks to nautical or air sports, everyone will discover the pleasure of surpassing themselves here. When looking at the sky, you could see a griffon vulture or a lappet-faced vulture soar above your head… You can also drive through the gorges by car , by following the Route des Crêtes or the Corniche Sublime road. They are built in such a way that they enable frequent stops at the scenic viewpoints which provide an exceptional view.
Tip! Brochures containing the trails are for sale in most souvenir shops. Hiking Map IGN 3442OT here!
The Lake of Sainte Croix
The Lake of Sainte-Croix (French: lac de Sainte-Croix) is a man-made lake, impoundment in 1973, following the construction of the Sainte-Croix dam, on the course of the Verdon. It is located between the departments of Var and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence at the foot of the Verdon Gorges, the Plan of Canjuers and the Plateau of Valensole, the Mecca of growing lavender.
The largest lake of the Verdon covers an area of 2200 ha (10 km long and 3 km wide), bounded on the south by the hydroelectric dam of Sainte Croix and north by the bridge Galetas, where the Verdon Gorges feed into the lake. The dam (thin arch type), built at the entrance of the gorge Baudinard, holds 760 million cubic meters of water over a year and produces over 150 million KW / H. It supplies electricity and many of the towns in its vicinity. The lake, beyond its usefulness as a water reservoir for the Provence or electricity generation, has become a popular tourist attraction.
In a magnificent landscape, framed by hills of the Haut Var and Valensole, Lake Sainte Croix offers turquoise waters to the pleasures of travelers. Here you can swim, sail there, electric boat, water cycle, moving up the gorges of Verdon. Only electric boats are licensed to operate on the lake, which guarantees a perfect water quality.
- Les Salles-sur-Verdon (new village, the former was drowned by the lake)
The project of flooding the Salles valley by the creation of a lake on the Verdon river dates back to Georges Clémenceau, in 1908. But it was only implemented by Électricité De France in 1968. Initially the lake was supposed to engulf the villages of Salles sur Verdon, Bauduen and to make Sainte- Croix du Verdon inhabitable. The artificial lake was finally created in 1973, following the construction of the Sainte-Croix dam. The villages of Sainte-Croix and Bauduen were ultimately saved and Les Salles rebuilt sheltered from the water.
The first flooding by the dam took place in August 1973 and the final flooding on November 15, 1973.
The Plateau of Valensole
Erected at 590 m altitude, the village of Valensole has given its name to the whole plateau.
Nicknamed “the region’s granary”, the 800 km2 plateau is mainly dedicated to the cultivation of lavender and grain. It changes in look with the seasons; the snowy peaks and the blooming almond trees of March are replaced in July with the changing purple of lavender and the golden wheat. In November, the ochre of the furrowed land contrasts with the pure blue winter skies.
Lavender, just like its aromatic cousins savory, thyme and rosemary, belongs to the mint family (labiatae). They are a bee favourite (melliferous plants) as the delicious honey they produce demonstrates. It comes in different varieties such as Lavandula angustifolia (true lavender) providing better quality essential oil and Lavandula intermedia, or lavandin, the most commonly grown for its productivity.
Uses of Lavender
Lavender is used in the manufacture of soap, bees turn it into honey; it is also distilled for its scent and its therapeutic properties.