Who doesn’t love camping? I remember when I was a kid, my brothers and I used to do camping in our backyard. I vividly remember it as a nice and cozy experience. However, when I grew up I did not have many opportunities to do camping to a mountain or anything. So I figured this was a good time as any. I am an adult now and I can do it whenever I want.
So where should we go? Well, the Netherlands was too cold. So we needed to go south, we figured since this was September, the weather should be warm enough. Upon researching we came across Gorges du Verdon in Southern France. So what are Gorges you say? It is a French word for Canyon, very similar to Grand Canyon. It is a canyon that is formed by the erosion of the small river. In this case, a river going to a man-made lake. The lake is called Lake of Sainte-Croix that is used to generate energy. Even though the lake is man-made, the river has been there for thousands of years and carving the canyon. Along this man-made river, there are plenty of camping sites and there where we decided to do our camping trip.
There was another reason why we decided to go to this area. The roads in this area are one of the 10 great European road trips you must do in your lifetime. Few of the roads are actually on the way from the airport in Nice to our camping site. So this was a perfect set up.
What did we bring? Well, for one we need a tent, sleeping bags, and camping gear (pan and pots). I had a tent (Quechua Arpenaz 2) as a gift from one of my colleagues. And we luckily managed to buy 2 sleeping bags(Quechua sleeping bag S10 M and L) second hand with the aluminum mattress bed for €20. We bought a mini pan and folding gas stove as well.
Day 1 Amsterdam to Nice and driving to the Gorge
We flew from Amsterdam to Nice which was the closest airport to the Gorges. Our flight was in the morning and it took about 2 hours. Once we arrived there, we rented a car from on a french ride-sharing site (OuiCar). The car was an old convertible Renault Megane CC. As soon as we have the car we had a quick breakfast in BurgerKing and bought some groceries in the supermarket. Few things on our list were water bottles, gas cans, cornet beef, instant soup, and noodles. Once we are all set we started driving north to the Gorges through The Napoleon Route.
So what is the Napolean route? The Route Napoléon is the route taken by Napoléon in 1815 on his return from exile in Elba. On the France territory, it started from Cannes all the way to Grenoble. However, we did not do the whole route. Our final destination was somewhere west of Castellane. So the cities we passed were Cannes, Grasse, St. Vallier de Thiey and Castellane. The route was 2 1/2 hours from Nice – Cannes – Castellane – Gorge du Verdon. All the way from Cannes we were definitely feeling that the road was climbing and opening up. The view started getting better as you passed St. Vallier de Thiey. We often rode next to the mountain and canyon. There was plenty of stopping for rest so we stopped a few times to take photos.
Soon thereafter, we started to enter the Gorge du Verdon area through the route D71 (one of the most scenic routes). We were not expecting how deep was the canyon was. There were a lot of viewpoints along the way. And we were actually hitchhiked by one French guy wanting to go to the nearby Town Augines. He was an ex-french army and he had done few nights of wild camping in the forest.
We decided to stay in a lakeside campsite – La Source Verdon. There are many campsites along the lake and the river leading up to the lake. We choose this one because the location seemed strategic and it was close to a small town with a supermarket.
Wild camping is generally forbidden in Europe. It is required that you camp in a campsite, where everything is provided including sanitary (shower, toilet, sink to wash dishes) and electricity from an actual grid. You can rent a plot to set up your tent or camper and each slot has a dedicated electric socket. You are also forbidden to set your own campfire, normally there is a dedicated few spots in the campsite. Therefore, camping in Europe is a lot like camping in your backyard 😂.
We were quickly checked in and given a spot above the hill and had a view of the lake. We parked our car next to it and set up our small tent. Unfortunately, our small burner did not fit well with the french gas can. Ours had English head on it, and we decided to rent a small electric stove from the camp. So we had our tent connected to an electrical grid for charging our battery and phone. We proceed the rest of the day with noodle soup and went to bed.
Day 2 Route D71 and a small hike
We started the day pretty late as both of us were pretty tired from yesterday’s traveling. And to be frank, the sleep was not as comfortable as we thought it would. The foam mat was doing okay but we still felt the cold ground beneath us. In addition, there was wind blowing the tent even though we had our car parked next to it. In hindsight, going in the earlier summer perhaps June or July would be warmer.
Nonetheless, since we were there we have to make the best of it. So we went back to route D71 and started to look for a small hike. There is actually plenty of hiking routes along this road. The access is as close to the road as possible. So we decided to pick a small 5km hike, it started from the road and started veering into the forest. We though the hiking route was clear, there are signs everywhere on the trees. Unfortunately, at some point, we were lost and ended up in a no-access military zone. The route was not so popular, we were the only 2 people going in this route. So we did not reach the top of the hike and headed back to our car.
The route back from our hike (D71) was truly the highlights of this trip. The winding road has mountains on our left and canyon on our right. The view was truly amazing. We can see the lake in the background and the river leading up to it. We stopped in a couple of viewpoints to take photos. We then stoped by the small town and bought groceries for the night.
Day 3 Moustiers- Sante- Marie and drive around lake
The next day, we decided to go to a nearby town called Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. The village was built on platform terraces a hundred or so meters up the side of a limestone cliff. At the top mountain, you can see a monastery and a gold star hanging in between the cliffs. We tried to climb the stairs, but neither of us had the energy 👴. We then had a little brunch of a coffee and cake at Les Magnans with a view.
We continued venturing to the other side of the lake. There was supposed to be a beautiful lavender fields but since we when there on September, the lavender was already been harvested 😭, the best time to go there is late June to July. Nonetheless, driving around the lake was pretty nice.
We then took the rest of the day in our tent and when the night came I tried to take the photos of the milky way galaxies. However, my gear was not sufficient enough to do this. I had a small crop size sensors and 12mm f/2.8 Samyang Lens. I wished I had full-size sensors with me.
Day 4 Kayaking and Driving back to Cagne- Sur-Mer
So our flights back to Amsterdam were still tomorrow early in the morning at 9.35. However, we decided to stay in the nearby town of the airport called Cagen-Sur-Mer. I was not feeling relatively safe driving back early in the morning on the winding road. So today we will check out from our comping site.
The first thing on our list was kayaking in between the canyon. We went to a rental called Basic Star and we rented a 2 person kayak. Neither of us had been kayaking before but we managed pretty well in the end. We spent about 2 hours kayaking up the rivers and back again and the view from the river was amazing. I would love to swim in the river however the water was pretty cold in September.
Once we finished we headed up to the 2nd most scenic route D952 which is basically the other side of the river of D71. The view was breathtaking as and we can feel that we started going up the road.
We stopped at Castellane for a quick lunch and then we decided to take a different route from where we came (Napoleon route). We took the route D2. The winding route again was beautiful, it is really hard to explain in words, feel free to see the videos about this trip below.
We arrived in Cagne-Sur-Mer and stayed in a hotel called Chateau Le Cagnard. The hotel was located on top of the hill and we ventured down the hill and had a pizza for the night. We slept pretty well that night and woke up early to return the car at the airport and flew back to Amsterdam. Below is the interactive map of the places we went to.
In total, we spent about €250 per person. In conclusion, we should have gone in the summer and the weather would have been nicer. Nonetheless, the view when driving was the top of the list.
|Easy Jet flight ticket return||€57|
|Car rent (4 days)||€66.5|
|Stay Camping La Source (3 nights)||€42|
|Groceries and Food||€10|
|Coffee and Cake||€3|
|Chateau Le Cagnard||€30|
Maurilla also make videos about our trips for better visualisation:
Have you been to Verdon area? What do you think about the driving? Let me know in comment below.