Alpes de Haute Provence Travel Guide, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France

The Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is a French department in the Provence region -Alpes-Côte d’Azur. The department is one of the largest in France: with an area of 6,925 km, it occupies the seventeenth place among the largest departments. Bordering on Italy, the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is surrounded by the departments of Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Vaucluse, Drôme and Hautes-Alpes.

From small perched hamlets to prefecture or sub-prefecture towns, the Alpes de Haute-Provence has no less than 200 municipalities. It can be divided into three zones depending on the relief, climate, population and economy:

The plateaus, hills and valleys of Haute-Provence, which regroup a third of the surface but two thirds of the population, almost all of the economic activity apart from mountain tourism and the most important towns of the department. The valley of the Durance, artery of the department, cuts this area into two halves; The land of Forcalquier and Montagne de Lure, dear to Giono, between Luberon and Contadour, where the rural architecture of villages, farms and sheepfolds testifies to a still important peasant and pastoral life, is a jewel of this territory. The Durance and the Bléone are two of the rivers that cross the Alpes de Haute-Provence. Manosque, Sisteron and Digne-les-Bains make these two valleys the main areas for populations, economic activities and tourist reception in the department. Festivities and cultural events multiply there from spring to autumn.

The Prealps, an intermediate mountain area with deep valleys and very isolated villages; A link between the Alps and Provence, the country of Verdon is organized around the river with emerald waters, famous for its gorges and its grand canyon. It offers a whole range of sports activities (climbing, white water sports, water sports, air sports) but also cultural discoveries. Dominated by the Plateau de Valensole, the Pays du Verdon is home to some prestigious cities such as Riez la Romaine, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Castellane and not far away, the village of Annot and the citadel of Entrevaux.

The Grandes Alpes, which brings together the valleys of Ubaye, Blanche and Haut Verdon (upstream from Colmars-les-Alpes), where the economy has been rebuilt around mountain tourism (ski resorts). In Haute-Ubaye, the summits exceed 3000 m in altitude and all the passes are close to or exceed 2000 m in altitude. In this part of the department is one of the highest roads in Europe: the D 64 departmental road reaches an altitude of 2802 m above the Col de la Bonette (2715 m) and links the country of Barcelonnette to la Tinée andVésubie. Large mountain area of the Southern Alps, Blanche-Serre-Ponçon, the Ubaye valley, and the Allos valley unfold along the tumultuous rivers. In summer, these high valleys remain a privileged place for pastoralism. Here, mouflons, chamois and other deer still come to quench their thirst in the clear water of the torrents. You don’t need to be a high-level athlete to get off the beaten track and discover the attractions of the mountains in the Mediterranean climate. In winter the ski resorts allow great skiing under the Provençal sun.

The department can be divided into two parts: the west and the south of the department are Provençal while the north-east is more mountainous (Val d’Allos and valley of Ubaye). The towns of more than 5,000 inhabitants are Manosque, Digne-les-Bains, Sisteron, Oraison, Forcalquier and Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban.

The inhabitants of Manosque are called the Manosquins. Manosque is the most populous city in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Manosque is built on a buttress of the hills of the eastern Luberon, some of which exceed 700 meters in altitude, above the alluvial plain of the Durance. The village is dominated by the Mont d’Or rising and setting by the hill of All-Aures hills. Several major communication axes are nearby: A51 motorway, departmental road 4096 (former national 96), railway line from Lyon-Perrache to Marseille-Saint-Charles (via Grenoble). The territory is located north-west of the Durance fault, within the Manosque-Forcalquier plateau. The town is part of the perimeter of the Luberon geological nature reserve, due to the proximity of exceptional fossil sites.

The old town, characterized by a pear-shaped plan, is surrounded by boulevards which have replaced the old ramparts of which only a few vestiges remain, such as the Saunerie and Soubeyran gates, resulting in a very clear separation from the rest of the city. With tall houses lining the narrow streets, the old town has remained typically Provençal. Construction and town planning follow strict rules, and car traffic is restricted.

Located on the edge of the Digne Prealps, on either side of the Bléone, Digne-les-Bains is the capital of the Alpes de Haute-Provence department. Placed at the geographical center of the department. Digne is a town mainly extended in the plain formed by the valley of Bléone, given that the relief which surrounds it is very rugged. The old town is built on a hill located between the Bléone and the Eaux-Chaudes torrent, but the town has gradually spread in the three directions of the valleys, in particular downstream. Its geographical location is quite remarkable, given that it is on the edge of the Prealps, on the overlap that bears its name. Part of the town is completely enclosed in the Bléone valley, while the town extends widely over the gentler terrain downstream. With the annexation of neighboring municipalities, especially downstream, the city stretches over 8 km in length.

The town, which is at the heart of the geological reserve, has its specificities linked to the ancient city built upstream of the cluse that the Bléone pierced into the Digne aquifer to flow into the tertiary basin of Valensole. The districts of the city cover the alluvium of the torrents which converge upstream of the cluse. The most eastern suburbs join a line of flint limestone hills of Carixian age, forming reddish cliffs facing southwest. The hot springs were captured, from Antiquity, to the point where these Carixian limestones are cut by the notch of the southernmost valley, descending from Entrages. Their curative virtues are linked to their rise along the Triassic gypsiferous levels of the thrust sole of the Digne water table. The most visible mountain in the town is the Cousson (1,516 m); the Bigue rises to 1,653 m.

Capital of the Sogiontiques (Sogiontii), the ancient Segustero is, from Roman times and the construction of the bridge over the Durance, a strategic crossing point. A bridge could also exist from the Gallic period at this place where the Herculean Way joins the territory of the Voconces. This major bridge for the entire region has earned it a thousand-year-old influence. Important place of passage between the Mediterranean basin and the Alps, Sisteron has a mainly summer tourist activity. The presence of a body of water on the banks of the Durance reinforces its appeal.

The town occupies a privileged position, near the confluence of the Buëch and the Durance, where the latter crosses the Baume cluse, on a site that is easy to fortify. The site of Sisteron is a site-bridge, the only one where a bridge survived in a durable way on the Durance, from Antiquity to the 19th century. Nicknamed “the Gateway to Provence”, it borders on Dauphiné. It has many monuments including its citadel, opposite the rock of the Balsam which the strata are almost vertical, a cathedral of the xii th century Our Lady of Apples, five towers, several chapels and the remains of ancient monasteries. It is a city that welcomes many tourists attracted by its Mediterranean climate, with an annual average of 300 days of sunshine, its rich and varied heritage, its body of water or its aerodrome.

Oraison is located at the confluence of the Durance and Asse rivers and is located at the foot of the Tholonet hill. The economy of the municipality depends mainly on agriculture and the agro-food industry. Monuments includes the ruins of Villevieille, the bridge with 7 arches, the Roman bridge, the fountains of the village, bandstand…

The territory of the municipality is densely occupied in ancient times. Its favorable position on the banks of the Durance and on a busy road motivated the establishment of a castle, named after one of its first lords. Château-Arnoux (Roche-Arnoux during the Revolution) remains a single rural district until the beginning of xx th century. Its location far from the borders, protected from invasions by the Alps, and equipped with a rail link, motivated the installation of a major chemical weapons manufacturing plant in the village of Saint-Auban during the First World War., which changes its face until today, almost a century later. Today, the name of the town takes into account this duality, a medieval village on one side, an industrial town on the other, whose Arkema factory has been running many risks since the first pollution of the Durance, but brings the prosperity to the whole canton. The castle, which currently houses the town hall, has been listed multiple times.

Formerly capital of a flourishing county, founded in the xi th century, it is now chief town of district. The motto of the small town is “Pus aut que leis Aups” (“higher than the Alps”) and the nickname “Cité comtale”. Its main monuments are the Notre Dame of Bourguet (xiii th and xvii th centuries), the convent of the Cordeliers (xiii th century) and the Chapel of Our Lady of Provence dating from 1875 and located at the former site of the citadel from where the view dominates Haute-Provence. Forcalquier has the particularity of having “the purest sky and air in France, if not in Europe”. According to Pierre Magnan, “Forcalquier was the most beautiful country in the world and thank God no one other than us knew about it”.

The old village of Villeneuve is located 440 m above sea level. The modern agglomeration has developed on the slopes descending towards the Durance valley and in its plain, now sheltered from its formidable floods. The ruined village of La Roque is the old Roche-Amère: it offers a panorama over the Durance valley and the Larguegorge.

Villeneuve has a historical monument, the Saint-Saturnin church. The parish church, which is therefore placed under the name of Saint-Saturnin, has Saint Sebastian as its patron saint. It is built in the Romanesque style: the nave of three bays vaulted edges lined by a roadside also vaulted edges, opens into a vestibule in cul-de-four. On the south side, there is a chapel. The bell tower is above the choir. Although the southern facade bears the date 1600, part of its construction may be later, especially in view of the portal framed by pilasters, and placed under an entablature. The church is listed as a historical monument by decree ofDecember 28, 1926. Its altar desk, in painted wood, is adorned with a scene representing two angels praying to the Holy Spirit, and cherubs in the lower register. Dating from xviii th century, the object is registered since 1990.

Located in Provence, Pierrevert is at the crossroads of the departments of Var, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Pierrevert is located 5 km west of Manosque, 5 km from Sainte-Tulle, 7 km from Montfuron, 8 km from Corbières-en-Provence, 11 km from La Bastide-des-Jourdans and 14 km from Beaumont-de-Pertuis.

Pierrevert keeps the Porte Saint-Joseph (1701) (listed in the supplementary inventory of historical monuments) out of the four original walls of its rampart, with some elements of the curtain. The two castles were razed, one during the wars of religion, the other during the Revolution. The remains of the Château Sainte-Marguerite or Château des Tributiis consist of a few Renaissance windows integrated into the current farm, on the courtyard side. These windows are plasterwork and date from the middle of the xvi th century. The interior decor is listed as a historical monument. The church certainly erected on the site of a Gallo-Roman “oppidum” has been restored.

Les Mées
Les Mées is a town located in the Durance valley, on the left bank, between Sisteron and Manosque. A monument to the resistance fighters to the coup d’état of December 2, 1851 in Basses-Alpes is erected on the fountain of the village. The hotel de Crose is a historical monument registered since February 21, 1989. The first suspension bridge over the Durance was built in 1841-1843, to replace the Loup ferry, opposite Ganagobie. The Saint-Honorat chapel has been listed since January 20, 1983

In its own presentation, the town hall of Sainte-Tulle highlights its privileged living environment and the typical Provençal environment. The town has been linked to electricity production for a century, with several electricity production plants that have been built on its territory, several ancillary installations and the hydraulic control center of 19 plants located in the Durance and Verdon valleys.

The washing fountain More low-built at the end of the xviii th century and covered 1864-1865, are the largest of the department. Built below Place Jean-Jaurès, they include two galleries. The Notre-Dame de Beauvoir church was built in 1587, on the model of the Carmelite church in Manosque, on the site of the old church which had collapsed following the wars of religion. Above the door, a large bell tower-arcade supports three bells, one of which is dated 1603 and classified as a historical monument under object. Its nave of four cross- vaulted bays, opening into a semicircular apse, placed under an ogival arch. The town hall of Sainte-Tulle houses an antiphonary on vellum dated 1704. Its two hundred pages are adorned with abundant polychrome miniatures and letters gilded with fine gold. Its wooden cover is covered with pigskin.

The village, at 595 m formed in an amphitheater is located on a hill between the Plateau de Valensole and the valley of Notre-Dame. The town is one of the largest in the region and has several hamlets. An association of Valensole, “Les Drailles de Saint Mayeul” 90, aims to safeguard local heritage. Two listed gardens are located in Valensole, the Clos de Villeneuve, a country house whose gardens have the remarkable garden label, as well as the Château du Grand Jardin. The castle of Bars, built in 1627, is arranged around a central round tower. The parish church of Saint-Blaise, former priory of the abbey of Cluny founded by Saint Maïeul, dominates the village.

The municipality offers several characteristics typical of the municipalities of the Mediterranean hinterland: rugged relief of hills, hot and dry climate in summer and cool in winter. Nature can be destructive there: fires, catastrophic floods, earthquakes; technological risks have been added for several decades. The plain is occupied by crops typical of the Mediterranean region: olive trees and vines, and apple orchards, of more recent implantation; the hills have been abandoned to the forest. Many climbing routes are present in the town, some of which are among the hardest in France (Zelig, etc.). Part of the film Master’s of Stone was shot there.

The castle of the xii th and xiii th centuries, which dominates the Durance valley, is in ruins 98; some arches of the aqueduct which fed it still remain. The old lime kilns were restored in 1980. The parish church of Sainte-Victoire was built in 1648 and replaces Notre-Dame de Baulis, the abbey, as the parish church. Its title comes from an ancient goddess of Victory, worshiped locally in Antiquity, and Christianized.

The keep of the old fortified castle, transformed into a dovecote, and a ruined tower dominate the village. Built in the xii th century, it was rebuilt in part to the xvi th century, before being destroyed in the French Revolution. From the ancient walls of the village (maybe just made up of walls of blind houses outside), there remains an arched door passing under a house, perhaps dating back to the xii th century, In the village of Grand Cabaret street is a house that has retained its cross and windows mullions, dating from the xv th century. Nearby, another house from the late xvii th century has windows under round arches. In the square, there is a fountain decorated with an egg cup with hard-boiled egg.The parish church of St. Roch knows first construction xi th century, which remains only the aisle north.

The town is located on the course of the Verdon whose confluence with the Durance is in the town of Saint-Paul-lès-Durance. A dam (the Gréoux dam) was established there on the Verdon upstream from the city, in 1967. The castle called Templar (but have never belonged to them), with parts from the xii th to the xvii th century, is classified a historical monument in 1840 and restored. It belonged to the Counts of Provence from 1248, then to the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem. It was bought by the municipality in the early 1980s. The old houses are rectangular, deeper than the width of the facade, which has forced the use of black rooms, called “alcoves”. The Maison de Pauline operates in a network with the museums of the Gorges du Verdon, the Museum of Prehistory of the Gorges du Verdon in Quinson, the ecomuseum of Old Life in Esparron-de-Verdon, the House of the Gorges du Verdon in La Palud-sur-Verdon and the Sirènes et fossils and Moyen Verdon museums in Castellane.

Barcelonnette is a mountain town, entirely located at an altitude of over 1,100 meters. It is the largest municipality in the Ubaye valley, of which it forms the administrative, commercial and urban center.

The tourism sector is the main employer in the department with 16% of jobs (or 9,000) and a turnover of 750 million euros. In 2012, the department welcomed nearly 2.4 million tourists, for a total of 13.669 million overnight stays (down 3.1% since 2011) and 1.5 million skier days.

After the depopulation caused by the rural exodus, the department innovated by inventing agritourism in the 1950s, even if it is no longer the leader in France in this field. About 120 farms offer a tourist activity (accommodation, catering or leisure) including 70 labeled.

Museums are also a pole of attraction: in 2012, they attracted 470,000 visitors.


Espace Lumière is a ski area that connects two resorts: Val d’Allos La Foux and Pra Loup. 80 slopes and 38 ski lifts are located between 1,500 and 2,600 meters. Quality snow is guaranteed throughout the season. A huge 180 km ski area for everyone: space and height difference. Trails winding through larch forests, curves in valleys, virgin spaces. You enter the Espace Lumière… All kinds of snow sports are practiced here in a panoramic setting, culminating at 2,675 m from the top of the Tête de Sestrière.

Verdon Gorge
The Gorges du Verdon with its breathtaking landscapes, the largest canyon in Europe, between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, offers majestic landscapes. The Verdon river took its time and for millennia dug this canyon that we can admire today.

The cliffs whose height varies from 250 to 700 meters, are the place of many meetings. Many birds nest here, including griffon vultures and monk vultures. From the village of Rougon, you can admire them in the morning, for example, when they warm their wings while swirling above you. Strong emotions and thrills guaranteed.

A road goes around the Gorges. You will travel between the Alpes de Haute-Provence and the Var. Many stops will delight lovers of views and sensational photos: the Point Sublime, the Belvédère de L’Escalés, the Belvédère de Mayreste, the sublime corniche, the cliff of the Cavaliers, the Pont de l’Artuby, the balconies of the Mescla…

Touch the emerald-colored water and go up the course of the Verdon in a pedal boat for other sensations. Practice white water sports in complete safety: canyoning, rafting, canoeing. At the end of the Gorges du Verdon, the Sainte-Croix lake stretches, the ideal setting to end your journey, to practice swimming with the family, sailing and windsurfing.

Lakes of the Verdon
The great lakes of Verdon are a true “blue gold” of Provence. You will find many places of discovery, swimming and nautical activities with the lakes of Castillon, Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, Quinson and Esparron-de-Verdon.

It is the first dam of the Verdon. Work began in 1924 and was completed after the war. In an exceptional site, in the middle of the green mountains, it extends sheltered from the mistral on approximately 8 km for an area of 500 ha. Lake Castillon includes a small perimeter in the southern part of the lake, near Demandolx which is reserved for the National Navy (therefore prohibited to navigation for the public). Its primary role in irrigating agricultural areas has not prevented it from attracting more and more tourists who wish to take advantage of the exceptional setting offered by Lake Castillon.

Started in 1970, after long years of studies, the Sainte-Croix dam in the Alpes de Haute Provence department retains the waters of the Verdon to create the second artificial lake in France by its area: 2,200 hectares s’ spreading over a length of 12 km and 2 km in average width. This immense reservoir of 767 million m3 is primarily intended for the production of electrical energy, but it also allows the supply of water to the large cities of the Mediterranean coast, the irrigation of agricultural land in Provence and serves as a point of scooping for canadairs. This “new country” has made a significant contribution to the development of tourism and leisure activities in the region. Become a paradise for water sports enthusiasts, it attracts thousands of tourists of all nationalities to the banks every year.

Quinson lake
Covering an area of 160 ha, it stretches over approximately 11 km in length. Made up of narrow and wild gorges, it is practically inaccessible except for a few bowls with gentle slopes which make it a camping paradise. Located in the south of the department, it offers magnificent views especially with the gorges which are accessible near the villages of Montagnac-Montpezat and Saint-Laurent-du-Verdon.

Lake Esparron, with an area of 328 ha, is one of the wildest in the Verdon with its many creeks and cliffs, its turquoise waters, its gorges. The two large basins that make up the lake provide domestic and agricultural water to 116 municipalities including Marseille, Toulon and Aix-en-Provence. On the edge of the lake, the village of Esparron de Verdon, perched on the rock, offers a breathtaking view of the valley and the lake. It is the ideal starting point for exploring the Verdon, with towns such as Gréoux-les-Bains and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie nearby.

Lavender from Provence
The cultivation and distillation of lavender mark the landscapes of Haute-Provence. To take beautiful souvenir photos, make the most of the landscapes and smells so characteristic of Provence, the best time is the flowering period which extends from mid June to the end of August depending on the location.

The true or lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most noble of lavender for the quality of its essential oil. It is characterized by a long branch with only one flower spike, and grows in the form of bushes that can reach up to a meter in height. It is spread between 500 and 1500 meters above sea level, on the sunny slopes of the mountains of Provence. The lavender is a true hybrid lavender and spike lavender. It grows easily in a natural environment but it is mainly found in culture. Its branching branch with three flower spikes makes it more voluminous than the thin one. Its yield four times higher than that of true lavender is widely appreciated.

Lavender is used in perfumes and in household products like soap and detergents. In aromatherapy, it works wonders as its properties are extensive. It calms insomnia, headaches, wounds and sunburns and insect bites, muscle stiffness, sore throat, etc.

From the Drôme to the Alpes-Maritimes, via the Hautes-Alpes, Vaucluse and the Alpes de Haute-Provence, the Routes tell you a story, a memory, a know-how, an economy… from this mountain plant to magical virtues and whose fame, over the centuries, has toured the world.

During the harvest period (July and August), many festivals take place in several communes of the department. Distillation, visits to distilleries and lavender fields, products, so many discoveries . The producers and the distillers will make you discover the secrets of distillation…

By car, motorbike, or camper, but also to take more time, by bike, especially with electric bikes or on foot, the Lavender Routes have concocted routes to cross these landscapes as well. different from each other and make unforgettable encounters.

Allos Lake
Lac d’Allos is the largest natural high altitude lake in Europe. At more than 2,200 meters, in the heart of the Mercantour National Park, you will be struck by the beauty of the protected nature, the silence and the calm. The space, the very pure sky, the mixture of colors, the blue of the water with the reflections of the surrounding gray mountains, the green of the alpine lawns and larches…

In all seasons, it is easy to admire a very rich flora and fauna. While circling the lake, you will be amazed by this multicolored flora: blue, yellow, red flowers and butterflies fluttering from one to the other. The wind in the treetops, the cry of a groundhog… a flight of griffon vultures from the Verdon. Look in the distance, towards Mount Pela t, a herd of chamois with their white necks and thin horns. And there ibex.

After this beautiful hike and so many emotions in this little corner of paradise, you can have a thought at the Notre-Dame des Monts Chapel, or continue your contemplation while savoring a blueberry pie and drinking hot chocolate on the terrace of the refuge in front of the lake. An idea also for making other hikes from the refuge: the Col de l’Encombrette, the loop of the lakes of Lausson, the little Cayolle, etc. The bravest will be tempted by a 3000 with Mont Pelat, the highest point in Haut-Verdon which offers an exceptional panorama of the Alps…

Col de la Bonette
By taking the Col de la Bonette road from Jausiers, get ready to climb more than 1,500 vertical meters following the Tour de France riders. By bike, motorbike, car or motorhome … you will feel the slope and you will quickly reach the high mountains. Open your eyes wide, traveling this route is an invitation to countless discoveries. After the souvenir photo in front of the monument at the top, a footpath takes you to 2,860 meters where the 360 ° panorama is exceptional. The orientation table shows you the Viso, Mont Pelat, Tinée, Italy… Remember you are in the Mercantour National Park, the flora and fauna are particularly rich. To recover from all these emotions, do not hesitate to taste traditional cuisine at the altitude restaurant Halte 2000, in an authentic alpine hut.

Citadel of Sisteron
It is the most powerful fortress in my kingdom ”said Henri IV of the Citadel of Sisteron. Since the Romans, Sisteron have been a strategic place, a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley, an obligatory and narrow passage between Provence and the Dauphiné. Today, Sisteron still have a collection of works from very diverse eras: enclosures, bastions, ramparts, dungeon. More than eight centuries of architecture and history have allowed me to become a listed historical monument.

Take the time to climb step by step, step by step to the top. You will be rewarded by discovering an impressive 360 ° point of view. An orientation table and its telescope to help you find your way around, looking around 150 km. Walk to the Devil’s Gate, enter the dungeon where Jean Casimir of Poland was held, feel the mistral along the covered paths, rediscover Napoleon and Vauban.

Napoleon Route
The Napoleon Route starts from Golfe Juan where the emperor, on his return from Elba Island, landed on March 1, 1815 to reach Grenoble via the Bayard pass. A 325 km road which, in the Alpes de Haute Provence, passes through Castellane, Barrême, Digne-les-Bains, Malijai and Sisteron. After being forced to abdicate on April 6, 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Elba Island. From then on he had only one objective, to escape and overthrow the monarchy of Louis XVIII. He crossed Castellane and Digne-les-Bains on March 3 and 4, 1815, then reached Paris, with his men, on March 20, 1815.

By following the Napoleon road, you cross various landscapes. Castellane, such a picturesque village, dominated by its rock, gateway to the Gorges du Verdon, a paradise for white water sports and hiking. Then go through the villages of Senez and Barrême where heritage and outdoor activities come together to ensure a rich and unique stay. Continue your route through the clues of Taulanne and Chabrières, an astonishing mineral landscape and do not be surprised to cross the famous train des Pignes.

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Digne-les-Bains offers you medical care for well-being or prevention, in particular with lavender essential oils to better launch your assault on its famous Via Ferrata. Along the Durance, a once tumultuous river, discover Malijai where the vivid memory of the Emperor’s passage is celebrated every even year in July with a parade of troops in Napoleonic costume. Go up via the exceptional mountain biking site of the Val de Durance, then, leave the luminous Provence, land of scents and landscapes contrasted by Sisteron, a medieval town, squeezed between its proud citadel and the Baume rock to enter the Dauphiné as far as ‘in Grenoble.

Serre-Ponçon lake
Serre-Ponçon lake looks like a piece of the Mediterranean has landed between the green of the trees and the gray of the summits. This astonishment is perhaps due to the fact that it is not a natural lake. Designed since the devastating floods of the Durance and Ubaye rivers in the middle of the 19th century, the dam was built from 1955 and the lake filled with water in 1960. Moreover, a visit to the hydroelectric power station is an excellent way to all about the dam, from its construction to its activity… Since then, the beautiful turquoise water of this lake at an altitude of 780 m, reflects the surrounding mountains with peaks over 2,000 m.

It is this construction and the displacement of several villages which is retraced in the film Living Water by François Villiers, written by Jean Giono … and for which Guy Béart wrote this beautiful song… Living Water.

You have the choice to have a good time with your family: motor boat rental, sightseeing boat, pedal boat, canoe, etc. A family trip in a towed buoy, the more athletic always find new challenges to tackle: sailing, rowing, water skiing, kite surfing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, stand-up-paddle, etc… Saint-Vincent-les-Forts is an excellent panoramic viewpoint over the lake, as it dominates it at an altitude of 1280 m. If the desire to “stroll” between two blue expanses (the lake and the sky) tempts you, this is the ideal place to set off on your own or for a baptism. Saint-Vincent-les-Forts is a spot for paragliding.

Esclangon Velodrome Geopark
The Panorama of the Esclangon Velodrome allows you to experience a great geological adventure, in the heart of the Bès valley, the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence and the Geological Nature Reserve of Haute-Provence. Here sedimentation and deformation rhyme perfectly…

Reach the small summit of Serre d’Esclangon to understand what a velodrome does in the heart of the Bès valley. This surprising landscape was structured by the meeting of marine deposits and the uplifting of the Alps some twenty million years ago. At that time here stretched a beach bordered by vigorous reliefs. The Vélodrome has fascinated geologists for decades and many people have worn out their shoes on the trails that run through it. And in the middle, the blade of Facibelle springs, a miracle of balance highlighted by erosion.

Forcalquier, city of Provence
Forcalquier has a rich history as a county town. The streets of the historic center invite you to stroll. From alleys to squares, from Gothic fountains to beautiful residences, from cathedral to chapel, the heritage can be discovered in a Provençal village atmosphere.

You will be well inspired to unearth a book by Pierre Magnan, in this city where he lived and wrote many of his novels. Its stories take place in Forcalquier and its surroundings: the classified cemetery with its cut yews, the Mourres rocks with their strange shapes, the Lure mountain and its herbalists…

The Couvent des Cordeliers, meanwhile, is home to the European University of Scents and Flavors, a training center. In this 12th century Franciscan convent, which notably has a cloister and magnificent gardens, you can awaken your senses and discover the uses and benefits of plants during sensory workshops: perfumer’s workshop, aperitif…

The Citadel located on the site of the former castle of the Counts of Forcalquier, is a set of fortifications, topped by the Notre-Dame-de-Provence chapel. A 360 ° panorama awaits you at the top of the Citadel hill. The view strolls from the roofs of the city to the first peaks of the Alps to the valley of the Durance and towards the mountain of Lure and the nearby Luberon.

Remains of the Via Domitia, or Domitian way, are present not far from Forcalquier. Of this great Roman road which would run from Rome to the south of Spain remain road stops, works of art, milestones, places of worship… which are part of our past. This is also the path that pilgrims and hikers still take today on their way to Saint Jacques de Compostela and Rome.

The traveler who arrives at the Col de Maure from Digne-les-Bains, suddenly sees in front of him the laughing Valley of the Pays de Seyne, the Vallée de Blanche Serre-Ponçon. Leaning against the hill of La Robine, this is Seyne-les-Alpes, crowned by its Fort Vauban and its “Great Tower”. The 10th century is a time of misery. Land clearing monks reclaim the land devastated during invasions and founded a convent in Chardavon. The 12th century saw the construction of the Church of Our Lady of Nazareth, an imposing monument in the shape of a Latin cross, in Romanesque style however imbued with the principle of the ogive. This church has been classified as a “historic monument” since 1842.

In 1691, Seyne-les-Alpes still being a border town, Vauban, under the orders of Louis XIV, decided to reinforce the fortifications. He ordered the construction of new ramparts flanked by bastions. The Fort will be added to the ensemble and will include the “Great Tower”. The work will be quickly carried out under the orders of engineers Niquet and Richerand.

Today, Seyne-les-Alpes has a dual vocation for agriculture and tourism. The tradition of breeding, the proximity of 3 winter sports resorts and the Serre-Ponçon lake, contribute to the dynamism of this mountain village classified as a “Green holiday resort and snow village”. A walk in the village of Seyne-les-Alpes will make you discover, in addition to the large church, the ramparts, Fort Vauban, the “Great Tower”, the old streets with dated doors and half-timbered house, the place du Convent and other religious buildings.

Theme Travel

Historical heritage
Discover the evolution of man in the department: prehistory, heritage, monuments. From 700,000 years old, they were present on the terraces overlooking the Durance and the caves of the Verdon. Little by little, they settled down near ecosystems allowing them to live from hunting, fishing and gathering. Man has gradually structured his domestic space, has evolved into a production economy, has domesticated fire (400,000 years BC). From 35,000 BC, the first modern men, the men of Cromagnon invented the art of adornment. The Verdon Prehistory Museum in Quinson allows visitors to follow the main stages of this human adventure.

The Roman period constitutes a new stage in the organization of society, rich in innovations, particularly in the fields of agriculture and town planning. The ancient city of Riez has preserved the remains of this brilliant civilization, also present in the thermal baths of Gréoux-les-Bains or Digne-les-Bains. Then Europe entered the Christian era according to a social and political organization that would develop until the Middle Ages. The Priories of Ganagobie, Salagon, the cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Bourg in Digne-les-Bains, the villages and towns of character retrace the evolution of this society, giving pride of place to Roman art and Renaissance.

The testimonies of rural and pastoral life in the Alpes de Haute-Provence, tangible or intangible, present at the Museums and Gardens of Salagon in Mane and at the Musée de la Vallée exploded in the Ubaye valley recount the customs and traditions in the Alpes de Haute Provence from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th Century.

Fortified heritage
Vauban is at the origin of a large number of fortified sites, designed to adapt to the constraints of war in the mountains and to control key areas of the territory, in particular roads and passes. Maginot has constituted an extraordinary military heritage. Built in the middle of magnificent larch forests or at the edge of mountain pastures, these fortifications constitute fascinating goals for a walk, all of which are accessible by old military paths.

The Museums of the Alpes de Haute Provence are very diverse. They tell the story of this land between Alps and Provence, welcoming to all and subject to all currents of influence. The Romans have already made it one of their chosen land. Find them at the Vachères and Riez Museums. Over time, people have invented a way of life in harmony with their environment. The Museum of Prehistory of the Gorges du Verdon, in Salagon, museum and gardens in Mane near Forcalquier and the Museum of the Valley of Ubaye in Barcelonnette tell you their story. Artists, writers and adventurers have loved our land, find their way back to the Jean Giono Center, to Paraïs, the house of Jean Giono in Manosque, to the Maison Alexandra David-Neel or to the Gassendi Museum in Digne-les-Bains. And to understand the formation of our landscapes, visit the Musée-Promenade in Digne-les-Bains.

Blood sausage is traditionally cooked with leek.
Scramble of Riez truffles.
Handmade paws from Fours.
Lamb from Sisteron.
Pierrevert wine (AOC since 1997).
Lavender honey.
Banon cheese.
Génépi from the Ubaye valley.
Sisteron feet and bundles.
Liqueurs Henri Bardouin de Forcalquier.
Bas-Alpine walk.

To discover the aromas, scents and flavors of the terroir of the Alpes de Haute Provence, there’s nothing like spending a moment in a market. For your local shopping, find the weekly markets throughout the year as well as the seasonal summer markets.

Aromatic plants
The Alpes de Haute-Provence have a centuries-old tradition of herbalism and perfume plants. The collection of medicinal and aromatic plants as well as their use in the kitchen, the pharmaceutical industry or in the manufacture of liqueurs, are part of the heritage.

Many sites offer to the glances these checkerboards of colors created by the vast cultivated areas of lavandin, clary sage, mint, tarragon, hyssop, thyme, etc., cultures for perfumery and herbalism.

For aromatic plants, you can find oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory basil. All these plants are present in the Herbes de Provence bouquet, Label Rouge. They will allow you to flavor all your dishes. You will also find tarragon or basil.

In many villages, you will discover craft workshops, the craftsmanship of creators who share their passion with you. Creators, artists and craftsmen rooted in the traditions of Provence, santons, earthenware from Moustiers, share their emotions with you and offer you objects of great diversity, of all styles, for all budgets. Activities represented: wool, weaving, textiles, silk, hats, leather, skins, jewelry, wood – sculpture, turning, toys, objects -, ceramics, pottery, stone, figurines, cribs, dried flowers, metals, etc.Handicraft craft fair.

Each year, the Chamber of Trades organizes craft fairs under the name “Craftsmen without a showcase” for all the products of artistic crafts or by themes (leather, pottery, etc.). These fairs usually last one day and their organization is entrusted to a group of professionals who establish an annual calendar of more than 70 events between April and October. Around a hundred “Saveurs des Alpes du Sud” markets are organized each year in the municipalities of the Southern Alps. Passionate craftsmen and farmers offer their artisanal know-how in the conviviality of direct sales. The quality of their products is faithful to the traditions of the land.

Travel responsibly, in preserved natural spaces where the local population is an actor in the development of its territory. Welcome to the Alpes de Haute Provence, land of natural, cultural and authentic heritage; where the scent of lavender combines with the pure air of the high peaks of the Southern Alps. Ecotourism in the Alpes de Haute Provence is tourism that is concerned with the discovery and preservation of nature, as well as the exploration of ways of life different from one’s own.

With the Mercantour National Park, the two Regional Natural Parks of Luberon and Verdon, the Haute Provence Natural Geological Reserve classified as the largest in Europe, the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence, the UNESCO Global Geopark Luberon, the Réserve de Luberon-Lure biosphere, the Alpes de Haute Provence department can be considered as the “green lung” of the Sud Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region. The diversity of its landscapes, its fauna and its flora, due to the transition between Mediterranean and Alpine environments, is also an asset to be valued in order to join the ecotourism sector.

With nearly 2,800 species of plants, the department is one of the richest in France in terms of biodiversity. You can also see a large number of animals, mostly insects, among which butterflies are very well represented (208 species of day butterflies out of the 260 listed in France.). The pastoralism, still very present in the department, allows maintenance of open environments without degradation of plant cover. It therefore preserves the habitats of reptiles, bats, and remarkable birds.

Mercantour National Park
The Mercantour National Park, a mountainous area par excellence, with its peaks at an altitude of over 3,000 m, is a natural world that opens up to you. 68,500 ha divided between the Alpes-Maritimes and the Alpes de Haute Provence including the Hautes Vallées de l’Ubaye and Verdon, a territory almost uninhabited by man. 2,000 species of plants, hundreds of animal species and awe-inspiring landscapes such as that of Lac d’Allos, the largest mountain lake in Europe. Alone, or with the guides of the Mercantour National Park, discover delicate flowers: the columbine of the Alps or the hoof of Venus, observe the agility of the chamois on the rocky slopes or watch for the marmot which stands guard.

Luberon Regional Natural Park
Between the Alps and the Vaucluse plain, the Luberon stretches its rounded silhouette and watches over Provence. The mild climate, the harmony of the landscapes and the richness of the flora make it a country apart. Here each wall reveals man’s attachment to this land. In the Neolithic, people already lived in the shelter of the white rocks of the Luberon. Then, warriors, merchants and travelers traveled the Voie Domitienne, the oldest road in France, which crossed the country. And always the farmers developed a varied agriculture: orchards, cereals and sheep. Since 1977, it is this terroir where life is good that the Luberon Regional Natural Park has protected and enhanced, a territory of 185,000 hectares, spread over 77 municipalities: 26 municipalities in the Alpes de Haute Provence and 51 municipalities in Vaucluse. The Luberon Regional Nature Park was recognized as a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2015.

Luberon-Lure Biosphere Reserve
The Luberon-Lure Biosphere Reserve is one of the 14 Unesco biosphere reserves in France. In 1997, the Luberon Regional Nature Park was integrated into the network of biosphere reserves. The territory was extended in 2010 to the Lure mountain to become the Luberon-Lure Biosphere Reserve. It has an area of 245,000 ha and affects 91 municipalities in 3 departments. (Alpes de Haute Provence, Bouches du Rhône and Vaucluse). To the south and east the reserve is bounded by the Durance valley, where there are many wetlands of great interest. To the north, the southern slope of the Lure mountain holds a strong biological and cultural interest. Between the two, the territory is made up of plains and Mediterranean hills where the altitude varies from 50 m at Cavaillon to 1826 m at the top of Lure.

The vocation of the Biosphere Reserve is to work on sustainable development and the conservation of biodiversity. It is the place to experiment with lasting relationships between man and nature to continue to live well together in a protected environment. Each year, the competition, The trophies of the Biosphere Reserve, helps a dozen projects that fall within the priority issues of the Biosphere Reserve.

Verdon Regional Natural Park
Tthe Verdon Regional Natural Park protects and enhances 180,000 ha surrounding the river from Saint-André-les-Alpes to Vinon-sur-Verdon. Straddling the Alpes de Haute Provence department and the Var, it is a country of contrasts. We go from the calm horizontality of the Valensole plateau to the abrupt verticality of the famous Gorges du Verdon, then to the peaceful expanse of the great lakes of Castillon, Sainte-Croix, Esparron, Quinson, where the Alps begin. The first actions of the Verdon Regional Natural Park aim to preserve and revitalize the territory: water development plan, inventory and restoration of built heritage, replanting of olive groves, etc.

Haute-Provence National Geological Nature Reserve
The largest protected geological reserve in Europe offers unique places to discover: geological sites, fossils, landscapes with folded and fractured layers. The Haute-Provence National Geological Nature Reserve covers an area of 230,000 hectares and 59 municipalities between the Alpes de Haute Provence and the Var. Among the geotopes highlighted, we can cite the Isnards ammonite slab in Digne-les-Bains, the ichthyosaur fossil sites of La Robine-sur-Galabre or the sirenian site of the Tabori ravine in Taulanne.

The ammonite slab of Digne-les-Bains has 320 m 2 over 1,550 ammonites. These ammonites are large and the largest have a diameter of 70 cm. Their scientific name is Coroniceras multicostatum. This species makes it possible to date the slab from around 200 million years ago (Lower Jurassic). The shells of these ammonites have accumulated on an ancient seabed. They were covered there by thick sediments. These ancient muddy deposits and the remains of shells have over millions of years turned into rock and fossils. During the Tertiary era the region experienced an upheaval with the uplift of the Alpine chain. This is how the slab is now at an altitude of over 600 m with a slope of 60 °.

The ichthyosaur was one of the most impressive fossils. Its name comes from the Greek terms ikhthus: fish, and sauros: lizard, because it looks like a fish but belongs to the order of reptiles. The shape of its body, very hydrodynamic, recalls that of the shark or the dolphin. Its four limbs transformed into swimming paddles, its dorsal fin and its bilobed tail ensured it a great speed of movement. His pulmonary breathing forced him to come and take regular air at the surface. Ichthyosaurs became extinct towards the end of the Secondary Era, about 90 million years ago, even before the extinction of all large reptiles 65 million years ago. No doubt, they have been replaced by mosasaurs, new large marine predators.

UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence
The UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence is a unique and authentic territory located in the heart of the Alpes de Haute Provence. It brings together 58 municipalities of the department and covers an area of 1,989 km2. Around its exceptional geological heritage are articulated many sites enhancing the natural, cultural and intangible heritage. It brings together quality partners: restaurateurs, accommodation providers, artisans, producers, professionals in outdoor activities, museums and tourist offices…

Natural, well-being, fun, feet on the ground or in the air, there is something for everyone. Come and try new non-skiing activities in the ski resorts of the Alpes de Haute Provence.

A pure glide at 20 cm from the ground to carve curves in the fresh snow, it is possible thanks to the yooner. An accessible and fun activity for all to discover in Montclar, Chabanon and Le Grand Puy.

Snow Scoot
A snow scooter between bike and snowboard. Skidding, jumping or just sliding, the snow scoot offers you new driving sensations close to mountain biking but on snow.

Sledging “on rails”
This 4-season sled allows you to hit the slopes in complete safety. Alone or with two people you can manage your speed as you wish. Day and night, come and discover the pleasures of skiing at your own pace in Val d’Allos – La Foux.

With or without snow, settle into a huge buoy for a memorable descent. For adults or children, this 100% fun activity will allow you to slide in all serenity to the ski resort of Montagne de Lure.

Snake Gliss
Hang on to a toboggan train. It’s calm at the front, it moves at the rear: unusual sliding sensations at the foot of the slopes.

Come test your balance… on the ice. Pure sliding sensations to share with family or friends in Pra Loup, Val d’Allos – La Foux and in Montclar.

Sled Dog:
Play musher while driving or letting yourself be guided by a more than endearing dog team. Sharing, emotions, back to basics and sensations of sliding in the heart of nature, a unique experience that will remain etched in your memory.

Ski Joëring:
A discipline accessible to beginners combining piloting, skiing, horse riding and sliding.

Get away on a snowmobile excursion when the ski area closes, supervised by professionals.

Discover the pleasure of driving on snow aboard a buggy. Strong sensations and guaranteed emotions.

Ice karting:
Do you feel like a pilot? Come and try ice karting in Saint-Pons in the Ubaye valley.

Quad circuit
Quad circuit on a snow-covered circuit, in the heart of the resort, for children aged 3 to 12 and Quad Drift circuit for over 14s.

It is always more beautiful seen from above. Come take height and discover nature from another angle.

Speed riding:
Strap on your skis and take off for new sensations.

Parachute jump:
Dare to take the plunge. Defy the laws of weightlessness alone or accompanied by qualified professionals at Pra Loup.

Water activities:
To cool off, relax, have fun or practice water sports or fishing, numerous lakes, bodies of water, swimming pools and rivers await you under the Provence sun and in unique landscapes.

Tags: France