Photo: Richard Semik/Shutterstock

This Is the Biggest Canyon in Europe and You Can Swim in It

France Outdoor
by Ashley Welton Dec 15, 2022

The Gorges du Verdon is a 2,300-foot-deep river canyon in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in southeastern France. It stretches for over 30 miles between two points: le Point sublime et le pont de Galetas. It is the biggest canyon in Europe.

Formed thousands of years ago by the Verdon River which slowly but surely cut through the limestone terrain, the Gorges du Verdon has been a huge tourist draw since the 1930s. These days, more than one million visitors come every year.

While the Gorges du Verdon is busy with tourists, especially in the summer months, the site is protected from development by French and European laws. It is located within the Verdon Natural Regional Park, home to rare and threatened species of birds, bats, and lizards (including the biggest lizard in Europe, the ocellated lizard), among many others.

No matter what activity you chose to partake in while visiting the canyon, remember that the summer months are very hot in this corner of France, so get up early when the temperatures are cooler and protect yourself from the beating sun. To keep cool in the hot weather, swim in the Verdon, rent a paddleboat or a kayak, or go canyoneering. Of course, you can also hike the famous hiking trails in the surrounding mountains, climb the canyon’s cliffs, and watch for wildlife, but bring plenty of water and sunblock.

The Gorges du Verdon are home to many picturesque villages worth visiting or staying at, including:

  • Annot
  • Castellane
  • Colmars-les-Alpes
  • Entrevaux
  • La Palud-sur-Verdon
  • Saint-André-les-Alpes

Les Gorges du Verdon is within a three-hour drive from Marseille, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Toulon, and Gap. That said, it’s not an ideal destination for a day trip — plan to stay a few days to enjoy the area properly.

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