Set between the dramatic landscapes of the Verdon Gorge and the Valensole plateau, the man-made Lake of Sainte-Croix is among Provence’s most popular vacation spots. With sandy lakeside beaches, water temperatures rivaling those of the Mediterranean Sea, and fewer crowds than the French Riviera, it’s the ideal summer destination.
Whether hiking through France’s “Grand Canyon,” swimming in the lake, or just taking in the views, a visit to the Verdon Gorge (Gorges du Verdon) and Lake of Sainte-Croix (Lac de Sainte-Croix) is a popular inclusion on tours of Provence.
Private tours are the most convenient option, allowing ample photo stops along the way. Tours depart from Marseille, Nice, and Cannes along the French Riviera coast, and Provencal towns including Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. On the way to the lake, take in highlights of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, from magnificent lavender fields to the medieval villages of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and Valensole.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The three villages around the lake—Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, Bauduen, and Les Salles-sur-Verdon—all offer various accommodation and dining options.
- Summer temperatures regularly reach 80°F (27°C), so be sure to bring sun protection.
- Booking tours and accommodation in advance is highly recommended, especially during the peak summer season.
How to Get There
Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon is the main entry point to the lake, located 58 miles (94 kilometers) northeast of Aix-en-Provence, or about a 1.5-hour drive. There is little public transport in the area, so it’s best to drive your own car or participate in a guided tour. The closest international airport and cruise port are in Marseilles, less than a 2-hour drive away.
When to Get There
The most popular months to visit the lake are July and August. To avoid the crowds but still benefit from summer temperatures, opt to visit in June or September. For hiking the gorge, the cooler months of May and October can be ideal.
Outdoor Activities at Lake of Sainte-Croix
As France’s third-largest lake, the Lake of Sainte-Croix offers plenty of opportunities for swimming, sailing, and water sports. Motorboats and sailboats depart from the harbor at Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, while most of the lake’s beaches have pedal boats and kayaks for hire. Other popular activities include windsurfing on the lake, rafting or canoeing along the Verdon River, and canyoning in the gorges.