Vast stretches of lavender fields scattered with traditional villages built against the hills and emerald blue lakes form the landscapes of the Alpes de Haute-Provence, like described by Pagnol and Giono. To fully enjoy this colourful region of southern scents, you can visit the Provençal markets in the typical villages of the region.
The Alpes de Haute-Provence are a delight to hikers. It must be said that the more than 100 kilometres of signposted hiking paths around Moustiers-Sainte-Marie or the Gorges du Verdon, various hiking possibilities are offered to you. Those who love water sports will not be left behind. The Sainte-Croix lake allows boating and sailing, while Castellanne is the starting point for white water sports (canoe, rafting, canyoning). The most daring will try extreme sports like parasailing or climbing in the Gorges.
Springing from its breathtakingly high Gorges, the Verdon throws itself into the waters of the Sainte-Croix lake. This 2200 ha lake is a blue emerald gem set in an unspoilt nature formed by the hills of the Haut Var, the plateau of Valensole and the Gorges du Verdon. The lake is ideal for swimming, and it offers big beaches as well as the hire of pedal boats and electric boats (motor boats are prohibited) for a trip on its clear waters.
Baudeun, located in a unique setting against the hill, is terraced in the arc of a circle opposite the Sainte-Croix lake. This is one of those typical Provençal villages you can discover in the region of the Verdon. And between all the villages with the southern accent, it is probably the village most worth a visit for the beauty of its setting as well as the authentic atmosphere, bathing in southern colours and scents.
The Gorges du Verdon, set between the Var and the Alpes de haute Provence, form one of those extraordinary sites where nature seems to have been inspired by a divine spirit to sculpt such a landscape. Other than offering giant dimensions (with heights up to 700 metres), this canyon hollowed out by the emerald waters of the Verdon, is a breathtaking site. Whether you hike on the cliff roads or whether you ride down the waters by canoe, it offers a unique setting to practise outdoor and white water sports.
The plateau of Valensole is a land of traditions of growing lavender and cereals that loves celebrating these products that offer its wealth. In Valensole, mainly in July, during the lavender festival, local producers present their specialities based on lavender, with the sound of folkloric groups. In Riez, in August, demonstrations of harnessing or bread making as well as exhibitions of old working materials are on the programme of the cereal festival.
The first inhabitants of the Alpes de Haute Provence settled between Quinson and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Therefore, Quinson is the town that houses a museum dedicated to the prehistory of the region of the Verdon. This modern museum, designed by the architect Norman Foster (who also designed the Viaduct of Millau) is the biggest museum of Europe dedicated to the prehistory. It gathers all the archeological heritage of the region of the Verdon, presenting it in a way to make us understand the life of our ancestors in the Provençal caves.
Downstream the Grand Canyon of the Gorges du Verdon, the Esparron lake is definitely smaller than the Sainte-Croix lake (328 hectares) but it is non less charming. The lake is more unspoilt, with steep banks, offering an exceptional setting, sunk in a valley. Like the Sainte-Croix lake, it is also much appreciated for the practise of water sports and swimming, thanks to its leisure centre.
At the heart of the plateau de Valensole, and in the parc naturel régional du Verdon, the small town of Riez is set between the sunny Provence and the first reliefs of the Alps. Its history starts with the Roman occupation at the end of the 1 century before our era and it has known a wealthy period during the Middle Ages. A rich Roman heritage is left from this glorious past, offering Roman columns, a bishop’s palace and ramparts with high gates.
The reliefs scattered around Digne are ideal to practise Via Ferrata, the famous discipline that joins hiking and climbing along a rock wall. In the region of Digne, several tracks are accessible, including the Via Ferrata du Rocher de Neuf Heures in Digne-les-Bains or the Via Ferrata de la Falaise de Meichira in Prads-Haute-Bléone.