Gorges du Verdon
La grotte de la sainte baume
The village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in Provence (France)
Church in Aix-en-Provence
Plateau Valensole, Provence: lavender field
Mont Sainte Victoire in Provence, France
ESY-024090199 - © - Richard Semik
Between Ste-Victoire and Ste Baume, Luberon and Haut-Var
After a quick exploration of Aix-en-Provence, your cycling route follows the north of Montagne Saint-Victoire towards Gréoux-les-Bains. An outing to Luberon the following day above Manosque is followed by the magnificent Valensole plateau, before you arrive in the picture postcard town of Moustiers-Saint-Marie. The Verdon Gorge will be the touristic and cycling highlight of your route. The numerous belvederes offer unique views of the Gorges that you will overlook, almost vertically, up to 700m high. The return ride to Aix is via the charming roads of Haut-Var, Brignoles, the Saint-Baume massif and south of Montagne Ste-Victoire. A really beautiful route!
MyTripTailor Advice: March is a beautiful period of blooming almond trees along this Provencal course, from the Valensole plateau with its magical colours. But it’s a little early for the bike, we recommend the other floral highpoint of late June – early July when the lavender blooms; the local symphony orchestra (the cicadas) will also be present!
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The charming spa town of Gréoux-les-Bains is only 4 hours away by bike: take a stroll in Aix-en-Provence before going around the Fontaine de la Rotonde, Cours Mirabeau and its beautiful mansions, St-Sauveur Cathedral and its cloister. Montagne-Sainte-Victoire dominates the route as far as Vauvenargues. The Gorges de l’Infernet, the Grand-Sambuc pass (597m) then take you to Jouques, a typical Provencal village. You will reach Gréoux via smaller roads with pretty views.
Old Manosque, on the banks of the Luberon, is a pretty maze of steep, often vaulted streets, from where a beautiful little road leads you to the col de la Mort d’Imbert (591 m) and Forcalquier. The streets, narrow to protect themselves from the mistral, go up to the Chapel ND-de-Provence where a unique panorama awaits. Next, 20km on the Valensole plateau is a delightful mix of the colours of lavender, almond and wheat. In Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, an exceptional location, a life-size Provencal crib, concludes this stage.
The Verdon Gorges, a legendary stage! From the tip of Lake of Sainte Croix hop in the direction of Col d’Illoire (967m). It climbs up and it’s beautiful! At Cirque de Vaumale, the Verdon is 700m below. The Pas de l’Imbut, the Baucher Cliffs, the Cavaliers, the stretch of road between the Fayet tunnels, the balcons de la Mescla are other equally extraordinary viewpoints. Point Sublime, on the right bank of the Verdon, a few km from Palud-sur-Verdon, can be reached on foot: the view is… splendid.
MyTripTailor Advice : If your legs are up to it, the Route des Crêtes awaits. It’s a 27km loop (700m altitude difference) from La Palud where the belvederes are linked: Trescaïre, Carelle, Escalès, Dent d’Aire, Tilleul, Glacières, Imbut . Take note, the direction (schedule) is restricted as part of the route – aerial in places- is one way. You can opt to make this loop before leaving Brignoles the following day, as the route is easier.
Three belvederes on the Verdon Gorge still lay ahead from La Palud: col d’Ayen (1031m), cirque de Mayreste and Galetas , from where you will see the Verdon plunge down to Lake de Sainte Croix. Follow the lake for a few km before proceeding to a beautiful route which, via the Col de la Bigue (792 m), takes you on a long descent through the pretty villages of Haut-Var: Aups, Sillans -la-Cascade, Cotignac, Carcès and its lake. Another 10km and you’re in Brignoles.
From Brignoles, you join Mazaugues, famous in the nineteenth century for its ‘glacières’ (coolers). The massif at Sainte-Baume has been sacred since ancient times, with many hikers making the excursion to the grotte sanctuaire (‘cave sanctuary’) of Marie-Madelaine and the breathtaking views of col du Pilo. St-Zacharie, a pretty little road with beautiful views climbs up to Col du Petit Galibier (534m). The Montagne Sainte-Victoire is dazzling. The Route Cézanne will take you to Aix-en-Provence, at the foot of the Mountain, above the Barre du Cengle, where your trek ends.
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