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Verdon Regional Natural Park

The territory

The Verdon Regional Natural Park is crossed by the Verdon River which has, over the centuries, incised the rock in a spectacular way. It is 165-kilometer long and has a large storage capacity which make it a real water tower for Provence, supplying the largest cities with drinking water. Two reservoirs have been created: Castillon and Chaudanne.

There are three massifs in this protected area : the Montdenier, whose peak reaches 1,750 meters, the Chiran, whose maximum altitude is 1,905 meters and the Mourre de Chanier, which dominates the territory and is located 1,930 meters above sea level. The valleys formed by these huge rocks are home to small villages. The inhabitants of these towns have learned to adapt to this very special environment and to a strong sun which reminds us of the Mediterranean’s. The Verdon Regional Natural Park is also known for star observation. Preserved from the light pollution of big cities, it is one of the only places in France where you can still observe the stars.

Since prehistoric times, men have tried to tame this arid country and shape its landscapes. The Valensole plateau is a good example of the work they have done over the centuries. Farmers have developed lavender and durum wheat crops on a several hundred-meter thick pebble area. From the perched villages, visitors can enjoy one of the most magnificent view in Provence of these golden and blue fields. The influence of the Gallo-Roman civilization is very present on this territory.

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The heritage

The Verdon Regional Natural Park has a great diversity of environments and Alpine and Mediterranean influences that have allowed the development of a unique and thriving fauna and flora. This territory is home to a third of the French flower varieties and to a rich and diversified fauna. Over the 32 species of bats listed in France, 22 are present in the park. Animals that are less common can be observed with a little patience: little bustard, griffon vulture, ocellated lizard, the largest in Europe, etc. On the water’s edge, holm oaks and kermes oaks are present. They are remnants of an ancient charcoal industry.

The Verdon and its impetuous waves have slowly dug a valley. Men gradually settled there, developing agricultural and craft activities. The bubbling waters of the river have been domesticated and almost all freshwater fish species in France now flourish in the lakes (Lac de Sainte-Croix, Lac Castillon, etc.).

Towns and villages in the park

The Verdon Regional Natural Park is made up of 46 towns. 27 of them are located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department and 17 in the Var department: Quinson and its superb prehistory museum, Saint-Martin-de-Brômes and its clock tower surrounded by  old buildings, Esparron-de-Verdon and its breathtaking view of the Verdon gorges, Comps-sur-Artuby and its emblematic Saint-André chapel, etc.

Tourist sites, emblematic monuments

The French writer Jean Giono described Gréoux-les-Bains as the “Romantic Oasis of Verdon”. Thanks to its thermal baths and its waters with beneficial and therapeutic virtues, this village has become, since ancient times, a pleasant and renowned spa resort where visitors come to rest and relax in a peaceful and quiet environment. Gréoux-les-Bains is overhung by the Château des Templiers (Templiers Castle), classified as a Historical Monument since 1840. This fortress, whose construction began in the XIIth century, belonged to the Count of Provences Charles II.

Riez is located on the plateau of Valensole and has a rich built heritage. Visitors can admire the vestiges of a Roman temple and a Paleo-Christian baptistery dating from the Vth century. These monuments, the fortified gates, the ramparts and the old houses in the picturesque alleys testify to a rich past.

On the road to Napoleon, the visitors can stop in the old Provencal town of Castellane. It attracts many tourists every year who come to discover the region. This village is located in the mountains and surrounded by preserved nature. It is full of charm and surprises: pentagonal tower, Clock Gate and the Marcel Sauvaire square. To enjoy an exceptional view of the valley and the Verdon, visitors can climb up to the Notre Dame du Roc chapel, perched on its rock.

The activities

The Verdon and its lakes are perfect to practice water sports and swim. On a tumultuous or calm river, many beginners or experienced canoeists paddle down the small torrents in a magical scenery.

Several beaches on Lac de Sainte-Croix are supervised so that children can enjoy the lake safely. It is also possible to rent a pedal boat, kayak or electric boat without a license in order to find a wilder place to go relax and enjoy a great Mediterranean climate.

The Verdon Regional Natural Park is also appreciated by hiking enthusiasts who can discover this rich and preserved nature thanks to thematic and biodiversity trails. Visitors can go hiking the steep summit or walk in the valley.

Selection of natural parks

 

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