Provence typically conjures up images of rolling green hills, endless rows of lavender fields and honey-stone hilltop villages, but in reality this area is much wilder than you might think. Its setting lies in the south-eastern corner of France, better known as the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azure region, which is one of the country’s most diverse areas: a place where you can be rubbing shoulders with the glitterati in Cannes one day and scaling limestone peaks or skiing in the mountains the next. The Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department is where this landscape shifts up a gear, revealing an increasingly steep terrain until it meets the jagged band of snowy summits that make up the southernmost portion of the French Alps. This topography is heaven for adventurers, with all kinds of thrills on the menu, from hiking and rafting to cycling, canyoning and, of course, mountaineering.
In the south of the department lies the Verdon Natural Regional Park. Here you will find France’s answer to the Grand Canyon: Verdon Gorge, a breathtaking 25km-long ravine that sinks to a depth of 700m at points. The turquoise-green glacial waters of the Verdon River are a hotspot for watersports. Elsewhere, in the more remote reaches of the park, you may spy chamois, roe deer and wild boar roaming the land, while griffon vultures and golden eagles are known to patrol overhead. The rest of it is given over to the Plateau de Valensole, where endless lavender fields brighten the summer months.