The Gorges du Verdon is one of the best drives in the South of France is located in the Verdon Natural Regional Park in Provence, with the beautiful Lac de Saint-Croix and the dramatic 'Europe's Grand Canyon' - the Gorges du Verdon (Verdon Gorges). Perched high up above the gorge are two balcony roads, one on each side of the gorge, both with breathtaking views.
Driving the Gorges du Verdon
The D952 between Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and Castellane is the main road and therefore more busy, however it does offer some stunning views. The D71 between Aiguines and Comps-sur-Artuby runs parallel on the other side of the gorge, and although there are no lane markings the width is mostly actually quite generous although there are some blind corners to watch out for, and it doesn't experience as much traffic as the D952. Additionally there is a loop section called the 'Route des Crêtes' (D23), which can be accessed from La Palud-sur-Verdon on the D952. The D23 is a narrow, partly one-way stretch of panoramic road which doesn't have great road surface but the views are spectacular - not for the faint-hearted.
There are several gorgeous viewpoints on all of these three roads. Some of the best shots you can get from the D952. Not that long after you've began your ascent from the Lac de Sainte-Croix there are several lay-bys to your right, with panoramic views of the gorge, the bridge, the lake and the green mountains beyond. If you're arriving from Castellane the lay-bys are even easier to find as you'll see signs for parking on the road.
The roads around the Gorges du Verdon stay open all year, however in the winter months - December, January and February - you might get snow on the high balcony roads, and after heavy snowfalls the roads don't always get cleared that fast which can result in temporarily road closures.
Where to stay close to the road
The Verdon Natural Regional Park is an absolutely fabulous place to explore, and there are plenty of activies in this area, from kayaking in the turquoise gorge to horseback riding in the serene mountains. Additionally you can find some of Provence's most beautiful lavender fields in this area, should you happen to travel here in July or August.
Within walking distance of the hilltop village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, often called one of the most beautiful villages of France, is the 4* La Bastide de Moustiers. This little paradise is home to a Michelin starred restaurant by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse, who also happens to be the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world (perhaps best known for his three star restaurants such as the Le Louis XV in Monaco, and The Dorchester in London). The La Bastide de Moustiers is a small exclusive boutique hotel with only 13 rooms, all tastefully decorated in Provencal style, and from the terrace you have dreamy views over the valley - a lovely place for a romantic meal.
On the D952, just below La Palud-sur-Verdon, is the 4* Hotel & Spa des Gorges du Verdon which isn't as exclusive as the La Bastide de Moustiers, but more suitable for a family and slightly less pricey. This hotel with modern rooms offers beautiful views of the valley and the mountains, and on site is also a restaurant and a spa.
And less than 1 km from the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie you'll find a small hidden country retreat - the 3* La Ferme Rose-Hôtel de Charme has a quirky decor which resembles a museum, clean rooms, a swimming pool, and a pretty garden which is the perfect place to have a relaxing breakfast.