Huttopia Gorges du Verdon Huttopia
Europe France Provence Alpes Cote D’Azur Alpes-De-Haute-Provence
‘When the weather is fine you know it’s the time for messin’ about on the river. If you take my advice there’s nothing so nice as messin’ about on the river.’ You may find these lyrics – or ones like them – ricocheting around your head on more than one occasion as you settle into this riverside spot in the Gorges du Verdon – France’s greatest natural attraction and the world’s second largest gorge.
To save you the time with your map, the Gorges du Verdon are about 12 miles (20 km) long and 300 metres deep. It's slap bang on the riverside that this expansive campsite is found, in the very heart of the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon. Covering some 17 acres and resting at a very pleasant altitude of 660 metres, it’s a wonderfully leafy place that’s dotted with pinewoods and has all the hallmarks of a well-loved spot. The 100-odd pitches are flat and allow easy access for vehicles, with ample space and plenty of natural shade from the trees.
Being right on a river obviously creates a wealth of recreational options. Without leaving the not-so-small confines of the site, you can relax on the beaches, try your hand at a spot of fly fishing or organise rafting, canyoning, canoeing, spring tide swimming or aquatic walks. And if you’re not a big river swimmer (the temperatures can get cool, especially out of season) then don’t fret as the campsite offers an alternative dip in the shape of a heated, outdoor swimming pool.
Other on-site activities include bowling, boules and volleyball, as well as a library and communal room with TV and video. Walking trips can be organised free of charge from the site, and the gorge’s limestone is a popular choice with rock climbers, too – there are reckoned to be anything up to 1500 routes around, ranging from 20 metres to over 400 metres.
Just along the road is the charming medieval town of Castellane. It’s instantly recognisable by the gigantic rock that juts dramatically skywards from the valley. Aside from the 18th-century stone chapel (Chapelle Nôtre-Dame-du-Rock) that sits atop, Castellane doesn’t have any tourist sites as such, but it’s a perfectly charming place to enjoy a stroll and the best place to organise activities over a cafe au lait.
The regional park itself spans almost 500,000 acres and includes 43 towns within its reach, so if you tire of lazing by the river there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the outlying regions. The French Riviera is just an hour and a half away by car, but chances are you’re not going to want to leave one of Europe’s largest natural playgrounds in any kind of hurry.
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