Driving Tour: Gorge Explorer

  • Start Moustiers Ste-Marie
  • End Moustiers Ste-Marie
  • Length 140km; four to five hours

If you’re here in summer, be sure to get an early start as the narrow, winding roads through the gorge slow to a crawl during high-season afternoons, especially on weekends. Pack a picnic: there are a few restaurants along the route, but it’s more fun to bring your own and pick your own viewpoint stop en route.

Set out from Moustiers Ste-Marie, via the rte de Castellane (D952). Aim for the Route des Crêtes, a 23km-long loop with 14 lookouts along the northern rim with drop-dead vistas of the plunging river gorge. (Note that there are two turn-offs for the Route des Crêtes. To make the entire loop, take the second turn-off, after the hamlet of La Palud-sur-Verdon. If you’re tight on time, or if traffic is terrible, take the first turn-off, see a few overlooks, then turn back toward Moustiers. But pay close attention, as the road soon becomes one way in the wrong direction.) En route, the most thrilling view is from Belvédère de l’Escalès – one of the best places to spot vultures overhead.

After rejoining the D952, the road corkscrews east, past Point Sublime, which offers a wide view of serrated rock formations falling away to the river. At Point Sublime, from the D952, the narrow D317 scales 3km north to mountain hamlet Rougon. Without stops or traffic, that’s about a two-hour drive. You could rest in Chasteuil, at cosy Gîte de Chasteuil, or forge onward. If considering a river expedition – or if you’re just passing through on your way to the Côte d’Azur – aim for Castellane. Otherwise, return toward Moustiers Ste-Marie (in two hours) along a different, heart-palpitating route, La Corniche Sublime (D955 to D90, D71 and D19). It twists along the southern rim, taking in spectacular landmarks including the Balcons de la Mescla (Mescla Terraces) and Pont de l’Artuby (Artuby Bridge), Europe’s highest bridge. On the return to Moustiers Ste-Marie, you’ll pass the emerald-green waters of the Lac de Ste-Croix.