Although much of the Provencal countryside is made up of gently rolling hills, vineyards, wheat and lavender fields, the Vaucluse area has a wilder more rugged side. Take a drive along the spectacular Gorges de La Nesque to discover the wild beauty of these spectacular ravines. They are part of the UNESCO listed Mont Ventoux Biosphere Reserve, an area of rich and varied countryside.
Explore the Gorges de la Nesque
The route to the Gorges de la Nesque begins at Sault, famed as a major centre of lavender growing. Take the D137 from Sault and then heads onto the D942. This is the only road to run the length of the Gorges. You’ll pass the pretty village of Monieux with its cobbled streets and medieval district.
“Enjoy arresting views of La Nesque river and into the deep canyon clefts. The D942 however, is not for the faint of heart. A classic “balcony road” so called because of the lanes cut into the sides of the cliffs. The road is much loved by cyclists for its twists and turns” says Martine Bertin-Peterson of Goût et Voyage tours. Some stretches are lined by low barriers with a sheer drop to the bottom of the gorges. Some stretches have no barriers. It is a very narrow road and definitely not for those who are afraid of heights.
“There are many spots where the road is really only wide enough for one car so keep your fingers crossed that you don’t meet another vehicle coming in the opposite direction!” advises Martine. “Fortunately, the D942 is not heavily traveled. And you can drive at a very leisurely pace while you take in the dizzying vistas during the 22 km drive. Stop at the Castellaras viewpoint, the highest point of the gorge at 872 meters (2861 feet). And admire the Rocher du Cire (Rock of Wax) so called because of the layers of wax coating from the hives of wild bees. This is one of the most majestic clifffs in Provence. You’ll find a slab honoring the Provencal poet Frederic Mistral who celebrated the legend of the Rock in his epic poem Calendal.”
There are plenty of hiking and cycling routes along the Gorges de la Nesque. The Grande Randonnée 9, one of the longest of France’s long-distance footpaths (1000km from the Jura to the Mediterranean), goes along the gorges between Monieux and the Castellaras belvedere and there are many other marked hiking trails.
“End your journey at the small village of Villes-sur-Auzon with its ancient fountains and ochre-coloured houses. Unwind with an apero at one of the small cafés. If you’re there in late July or early August, you can enjoy world-class music for free (or for a nominal fee) at the annual Villes-sur-Auzon jazz festival” says Martine.
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Find out more about the Gorges de la Nesque, hiking and biking routes at: ventouxprovence.fr