Subprefectures: Barcelonnette, Castellane, Forcalquier
Area: 6,925sq km (2,674sq mi)
Highest elevation: 3,412m (11,194ft)
Lowest elevation 177m (580ft)
Alpes-de-Haute Provence - Discover Provence with Pure French Soaps
Follow the French soap trail & discover Provence with Pure French Soaps
Bordered by Alpes-Maritimes and Italy to the east, Var to the south, Vaucluse to the west, and Hautes-Alpes to the north. Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is a département of contrasts with its high mountains, remote valleys dotted with ancient hamlets and villages, and its fertile plains and fields of lavender - collectively forming a marriage of Provence with the Alps.
The relief of the land compartmentalises the region, which can be divided into three zones depending on the terrain, climate, population and economy. In the High Alps where the economy is built around mountain tourism and skiing, the peaks exceed 3000m (9,842ft) above sea level and all the passes are close to or above 2000m (6,562ft) in altitude. The Lower Alps form an intermediate mountain area featuring superb landscapes of forests, waterfalls and enclosed valleys with remote alpine villages.
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence - an irresistible mecca for lovers of outdoor pursuits
The plateaux, hills and valleys of Haute-Provence, remain a wilderness harbouring countless wild-life and rich vegetation. Comprising one-third of the département, it is also home to two-thirds of the population and almost all of the economic activity. The main towns are Digne-les-Bains, Manosque, Sisteron, Barcelonnette, Castellane and Forcalquier, all of which are quite small with only Digne-les-Bains and Manosque approaching 20,000 people.
Ubaye, Haut-Verdon and the Blanche Valley
To the north of the département stand high mountains dominating the valley of Ubaye, a wild and unspoiled area of glacial origin, criss-crossed by mountain trails spanning narrow gorges. The Haut-Verdon, which offers superb landscapes of villages and mountain peaks; and the Blanche Valley - dominated by high ridges which reach altitudes of over 2,700m (8,850ft).
Skirting the Italian border and the Alpes-Maritimes département, these high mountain valleys offer one of Europe’s greatest natural reserves. Lavender, Martagon lilies and edelweiss perfume the beautiful larch and cedar forests and here in the southern alpine climate, surrounded by orchards and lush green countryside, lie villages like Barcelonnette, with its wealthy-looking residences inspired by a mix of Italian, Baroque and Tyrolean styles.
Peaks and Gorges
Peaks and Gorges
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon
Gorges du Verdon (Verdon Canyons)
Further south, the river Verdon marks the limits of the Var and high and low Provence (Haute-Provence, Basse-Provence). The famous canyons of the “Gorges du Verdon” provide a stunning spectacle of lakes, cliffs and magnificent geographical features.
A destination of choice for nature and sports lovers, the countryside abounds in natural resources, clean air, water and protected nature reserves. There are the summits of the Pre-Alps, lakes, waterfalls and deep canyons and the wide horizons of the cultivated high plains of Valensole with vibrant rolling fields of fragrant lavender.
The Verdon National park is also home to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of the most beautiful villages in France, featuring a church, old village walls, chapels and an aqueduct. Together, the pastel colours of the tiles and limestone create a living architectural whole, and fountains represent an alliance of water and stone.
To the west of Haut Verdon is the Val d'Allos nicknamed the "French Colorado" and the commune of Forcalquier which offers a more Provençal culture. Here the climate is milder and there are hills and vineyards. At its most southern point lies the Durance valley, a centre for fruit and vegetables, with Manosque at the end of the Luberon valley.
Forcalquier and the Val de Durance (Durance Valley)
The Durance Valley is located in the west of Haute-Provence, where the mountains take on the appearance of beautiful wooded hills with their rounded slopes. This majestic valley, unites a fabulous diversity of fauna and flora which is influenced by the Mediterranean climate.
West of Manosque to Sisteron, and passing through Forcalquier, it provides a major line of communication connecting the Alps with the Mediterranean Sea. Agricultural land, farms, orchards and olive groves flank the Durance river as it descends from the mountains. Amongst the mountains and the green valleys, small towns are interspersed between geological curiosities and the landscape abounds with the picturesque villages of Haute-Provence.
Val de Durance
Lower Verdon Gorge - Basses Verdon
Val de Durance
Located not far from Lure mountain and the Luberon, Forcalquier with its narrow streets and squares, Gothic fountain, mansions, cathedral and chapels, retains a rich past heritage and boasts the biggest market in the region.
All these villages are in fact typical of Haute-Provence with their narrow cobbled streets, their fountains and old washhouses at every street corner or their elongated steps that go up to the bell towers and chapels.
In these characterful perched villages on the borders of the Luberon National Park, Provencal culture is present everywhere; through architecture, local produce, arts and crafts, and the traditional celebrations of feast days.
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