||Verdon Gorge and Luberon Regions of France
||Hotels, Small Inns
||1 - 12+
Apr 15, 2023 - Jun 30, 2023
Sep 01, 2023 - Oct 15, 2023
|Single Supp Cost
Hiking Trip Summary
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 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.”
- This itinerary represents one of many possibilities. There are many variations, depending on your timeframe 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: Independent 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 a 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 alongside 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 bordered by appealing 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 and 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 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 also as 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 originally 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.
For the first part of the day, your route winds its way through the forested Plaine de Barbin. Leaving the forest, the trail traverses along open hillsides 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 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 increased so much that in France the “pottery fires eventually died out.” Thanks to the influence of Marcel Provence in the late 1900s, 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 you'll then 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 past 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 rendezvous with your taxi in the middle of the afternoon and transfer to the 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 in which to browse, relax, and enjoy the view. Travel time is about 1 ½ – 2 hours. The transfer is included in the cost of the trip. Breakfast and dinner included.
Day 8: From Saignon you will first transfer to the trailhead (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 and dinner included.
Day 9: After breakfast there is a short transfer to Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt. This quiet and unassuming village is filled with history that dates to Roman times. Its old church and fortress and quaint narrow streets are an enjoyable place to stroll. Time, and crowds, have left this town relatively untouched.
Today’s walk to Roussillon leads through vineyards, olive groves, almond trees, forests, across open fields and down grassy lanes. The view, across the Luberon valley and 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 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 ochre dust was considerable. The invention of synthetic dyes put the ochre mines out of business. The effects of mining have made for some very interesting rock formations. You will have time to explore this very quaint and picturesque village. Overnight in Roussillon.
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.
This may vary depending on your final itinerary:
- General consulting regarding hiking dates and abilities
- Travel information on getting to and from the starting point
- Maps covering the route
- Detailed trail notes, which include additional information covering various aspects of your trip (i.e., lunches, laundry, water, hotel routines, alternate transportation)
- Overnight accommodations
- All breakfasts
- Some dinners; please see your final confirmed itinerary for specifics.
- We make and prepay all overnight accommodations, breakfasts, and some dinners. We make and prepay all private taxi transfers as detailed in the final itinerary and the transfer to Marseille Airport.
Airfare, travel to the starting point, some dinners, lunches, optional transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to taxi drivers, and items of a personal nature.
This hike includes luggage transfer each day.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FACILITIES
Hotels: The hotels on this route are very comfortable; some are simple but classic, others offer a high standard of amenities. All reflect the local character and offer a warm Provencal welcome. Unless noted, all have private bathrooms. Three hotels have swimming pools.
It is easiest to fly into Nice and depart from Marseilles.
Typically this self-guided route begins in Annot, accessible by train from Nice. It is also possible to start in Castellane.
Our standard 10-day self-guided itinerary ends with a morning transfer to the Marseille Airport. Transfer to other destinations are possible, please just ask us!
WHO WOULD LIKE THIS TRIP?
Our Provence Self-Guided Inn-to-Inn hike is a great combination of Mediterranean climate, mountain views, varied hiking terrain, picturesque villages, remote trekking, and overnight stays in comfortable and relaxing inns. We grade this trip as 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.
For more information, a more-detailed itinerary that includes elevation gains, loss, and distance, or to register, please contact us. We're happy to share a list of past participants willing to share insights into this self-guided Provence Inn-to-Inn Hiking experience.
Reserving This Trip
A non-refundable deposit of $500 along with your completed registration forms will reserve a space on your requested trip. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express card as well as personal checks. To make a deposit, you may either follow one of the “Reserve a Trip” links below, give us a call at 1-888-845-5781, or include your payment information in the area provided when completing your registration forms.
Before registering for this, please read our Terms and Conditions in their entirety and then refer to our Self-Guided Trips page for specific information regarding the process.
The balance is due 75 days prior to departure for most of our trips. When applying less than 75 days prior to departure, full payment is due. For final payments, we accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express, as well as personal checks.
As confirmation of receipt of your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive packet of information pertaining to your trip, an invoice for final payment and additional information including release agreement form, medical information form, travel information, and packing list. Upon receipt of final payment, you will receive trip
rendezvous information and a list of accommodations. Returning trip participants will receive a 5% discount on most trips.
Receipt of all forms will finalize your registration.