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Self-Guided Provence Inn-to-Inn

Haute Provence to the Luberon

Saignon

Trip Details

  • Location: Verdon Gorge and Luberon Regions of France
  • Length: 10 days, this is flexible
  • Grade: Moderate and strenuous
  • Accommodations: Hotels and small inns
  • Date: April to early June; September to early October
  • 2019 Land Cost: 10 Days – $2,975 per person sharing a twin or double; $2,875 per person for 4 persons. Land cost will vary depending on final itinerary and size of your self-guided hiking group.

Hiking Trip Summary

Click for more detail Hiking at a pace of 3 miles an hour gives you the opportunity to become part of the rich and varied scenery that is Provence: eucalyptus trees, cypress, deciduous and pine forests, lavender fields, rocky limestone cliffs, Roman roads, vineyards, and ancient cliffside villages.

Starting in the high Alps of Provence, you will follow the GR 4 (Grande Randonnee 4) from Annot to Castellane through the Grand Canyon du Verdon across the Durance River and into the Regional Parc of the Luberon. North of the Luberon you will continue your hike on the GR 6 and GR 97 which are punctuated with charming villages perchés (perched villages) and end your journey with a walk between Roussillon and Gordes.

In the Verdon Region, the scenery is that of 1,500′ limestone cliffs, high jagged mountains, and the deep Verdon River gorge. From Moustiers to Cereste, you will hike out of the Alps and cross the open plateau of the Valensole with its lavender fields, cherry orchards, vineyards, and poppy fields. Hiking up along the high ridge of the Grand Luberon, offering great views of the entire area, you will descend down into the once fortified village of Saignon, where you will spend two days. From Saignon, you can explore “classic Provence” with hikes to the “villages perches” of Roussillon and Gordes.

We have endeavored to select a route that has the best of both classic Provence as well as the smaller, lesser-known villages. The small hotels, regional cuisine, remarkable hiking, and compelling scenery combine to make this hike “a must do.”

Itinerary

  • This itinerary represents one of many possibilities. There are many variations depending on your time frame and level of hiking ability. Please contact us if you would like a more detailed itinerary including elevation gain, loss, distance and additional information.

Day 1: Individual transfer from Nice by train to the small picturesque village of Annot. This scenic train trip takes about 2 hours. Annot is a charming, well-preserved, and unpretentious village. There is a small town square and tree-lined main street with little shops. Narrow walkways wind their way past 14th Century medieval houses and under arched passages. If you arrive early in the afternoon, there is stunning hike called the Chambre du Roi. Breakfast and dinner included.

Day 2: From Annot you will travel by van (included in the cost of the trip) to St. Andre les Alpes from where you will begin your hike to Castellane. This isolated trail follows the ridge high above the western side of the Lac de Castillon. Part of this hike will be on jeep roads, through forests, old farmsteads and on high overlooks. This is a varied day of hiking. You will meet your van at the small hamlet of La Baume at about 3:00 in the afternoon. Transfer to Castellane.

Set along side at the northern end of the Verdon River, the village of Castellane is known as the gateway to the Verdon Gorge region. This picturesque village is strikingly nestled beneath a high rock promontory crowned by the chapel Notre Dame du Roc, Our Lady of the Rock. The leafy town square, where locals gather to play boules, is appealingly bordered by shops, hotels and cafes. Narrow lanes wind through the cozy village interior leading to fountains, tiny shops, boulangeries, and boucheries. Castellane has been inhabited since before Roman times. Evidence of these early settlers is still visible. Breakfast included. Dinner on your own.

Day 3: Departing Castellane, you hike through what some guide books refer to as “the most dramatic and natural scenery in all of France.” The scenery is certainly impressive. The limestone and rock outcroppings rise up to canyonesque pinnacles as your route traverses high above the Verdon River. This is a rocky, arid landscape scented with broom, rosemary and hints of lavender.

The trail takes you through the tiny artisan’s hamlet of Chasteuil, over a high plateau, and down to the little hamlet of Rougon perched at the entrance to the Gorge du Verdon. Here will have your first real glimpse into the gorge. From Rougon, you continue down through a thin stand of oak forest to your auberge in Point Sublime. Bustling with visitors to the Gorge during the day, Point Sublime takes on an air of restful tranquility as evening approaches. This is a spot for lingering. Breakfast and dinner included.

Day 4: Today’s hike leads through the Gorge du Verdon. Known as also the Grand Canyon of Verdon–at over 15 miles long and 2,300 feet deep in places. It is stunning.

From Point Sublime, you descend under dramatic red and yellow striped limestone cliffs to the riverbed. Following the river, a newly constructed set of cement stairs leads you to a set of tunnels constructed before WWII. Once through the tunnels the route undulates pleasantly as it follows the river. You pass in and out of thin stands of forest oak with ever changing views of the river and canyon walls. Several hours into the hike the trail takes on a stiff climb as you approach a long set of stair like ladders with handrails and 240 steps. Descending again from the ladders, you can stop for a riverside picnic and a chance to cool your feet, before the final climb out of the gorge.

Ending your hike at La Maline, you will then have a short transfer to your hotel in La Palud.This is a strenuous hike with varied terrain. Breakfast and dinner included.

Day 5: The hike from La Palud to Moustiers St. Marie takes you through the Forest of Gorges du Verdon and the Forest of Montdenier. Climbing up out of La Palud you will have the opportunity to look back over the terrain you have covered in the last couple of days and to see the snaking rims of the canyon.

The first part of the day, your route winds its way through the forested Plaine de Barbin. Leaving the forest, the route traverses along open hillside with expansive views of the huge dammed lake of Lac de Sainte Croix and the plains of Valensole beyond. To the northeast are views of the Crete du Montdenir and beyond to the peaks of Le Chain, the Grand Mourre, and the Mourre de Chamier. The GR 4 then climbs up to the Col de l’Anes (donkey pass) and to the high point of the day Signal de l’Ourbes. The final descent (steep and rocky) leads off this high rocky plateau to the village of Moustiers St. Marie. Breakfast only. Dinner is on your own. There are several restaurants in the village.

Known as the village of “Faience” (pottery), Moustiers was an important center of pottery during the 17th and 18th centuries until the demand for English china and porcelain decreased so much that the “pottery fires eventually died out.” Thanks to the influence of Marcel Provence in the late 1900’s, the fires have been rekindled, and today there are numerous pottery workshops in Moustiers.

Day 6: Free Day in Moustiers. This is an attractive village wedged dramatically in the cleft of a small ravine. High above the village, spanning the ravine is a chain, and dangling from it is a star. The romantic symbol of Moustiers, legend has it that during the Crusades a knight hung the star here in gratitude after his release from prison. There is time to wander through Moustiers’ narrow streets, visit shops, stop for lunch at a café and walk up to the high chapel of Notre Dame de Beauvoir.

Day 7: A shorter hiking day will take you from Moustiers to Riez and transfer to Saignon. This will allow time for browsing around both these interesting villages. On today’s hike the landscape changes dramatically as you descend from the mountains and begin to hike across open plains. With the mountains serving as a backdrop, the trail leads by oak forests (where farmers encourage the growth of truffles) and through lavender and poppy fields.

The Roman village of Riez is said to be the oldest town in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and is somewhat bypassed by tourism. You will rendez vous with your taxi in the middle of the afternoon and transfer to your quiet village perché of Saignon and your small hotel. Once a fortified village, Saignon sits on the west face of the Luberon Mountain at an elevation of 1,560’. Saignon is a wonderful village to browse around, relax and enjoy the view. Travel time is about 1 ½ – 2 hours. The transfer is included in the cost of the trip. Breakfast included, dinner is on your own.

Day 8: From Saignon you will first transfer to the trail head (about 30 minutes) and then hike into the heart of the Luberon. Though not a high Alp, the hiking is rewarding and a bit demanding as you gain steady elevation from Cereste, cross the Grand Luberon ridgeline and finally reach the top of Mourre Negre at 3,712’. All along the ridgeline there are wide, open, 360-degree views. Descend to Saignon. Breakfast included. Dinner on your own.

Day 9: After breakfast there is a short transfer to Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt. This quiet and unassuming village is filled with history dating back to Roman times. Its old church and fortress and quaint narrow streets are enjoyable to stroll. Time, and crowds, has left this town relatively untouched.

Today’s walk to Roussillon leads through vineyards, olive groves, almond trees, forests, open fields and down grassy lanes. The view, across the Luberon valley, all the way to rounded humps of the Grand Luberon is lovely. The spectacular ochre cliffs greet you as you near Roussillon. It is a stunning hike.

Roussillon is a perfectly picturesque village, with its buildings and houses painted in nearly all the different hues of the ochre that was once mined in the area, pale yellows, oranges to deep reds and everything in between. The inhabitants of the area began mining ochre in prehistoric times and by the 19th century export of the ochre dust was considerable. The onset of synthetic dyes put the ochre mines out of business. The effects of this mining have made for some very interesting rock formations. You will have time to explore this very quaint and picturesque village. Overnight in Roussillon. Breakfast included. Dinner on your own.

Day 10: Private taxi transfer to Marseille Airport. If you plan to travel to other destinations in France there are shuttles from the airport to the TGV Rail Station from where you can travel to Paris.

Additional Information

Included

General consulting regarding hiking dates and abilities, travel information, maps covering the route, and detailed trail notes. We make and prepay all overnight accommodations, breakfasts, some packed lunches and some dinners. We make and prepay all private taxi transfers as detailed in the final itinerary and the transfer to Marseille Airport.

Not Included

Airfare, travel to starting point, some dinners, lunches, optional transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to taxi drivers, and items of personal nature.

Luggage

This hike includes luggage transfer each day.

Accommodations and Facilities

Hotels: The accommodations on this hike are all very different, sometimes quirky, and sometimes plain and some are very nice. All have private bathrooms. The food at these small hotels is often very good. A few night have swimming pools.

Travel

It is easiest to fly into Nice and depart from Marseilles.

Who would like this trip?

Our Provence Inn-to-Inn hike is a great combination of Mediterranean climate, mountain views, varied hiking terrain, picturesque villages, remote hiking, and overnight stays in comfortable and relaxing inns. We grade this trip moderate with some strenuous. Though not as difficult or as challenging as our Alps hikes, participants should be prepared for some long days on rugged terrain, this is not an easy hike but your efforts will be richly rewarded. You will be completely enchanted and impressed with the beauty and the fantastic hiking this area has to offer.

Start point

Typically this self-guided route begins in Annot, about a two train trip from Nice. It is also possible to start in Castellane.

Ending Point

Our standard 10-day self-guided itinerary ends with a morning transfer to the Marseille Airport. Transfer to other destinations are possible. Just ask us.

For a more detailed itinerary that includes elevation gains, loss and distance, or to register please call or email us.

Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.