Castellane is a dreamy commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in southeastern France, roughly 100km west of Nice and 160km north east of Marseille. Perched on the stunning Gorges Du Verdon; Castellane is awash with adventure tourism catering to summer crowds looking to kayak, raft and otherwise float down the Verdon river. The river has drawn people to Castellane since the Neolithic era, with traces of tribes dating back to 6000 BC, and is the reason a town remains there today.
We were there for two nights based on the strength of one picture, lured with the promise of swims in the turquoise water and walks through the Gorge and we found a stunning town. We wished we could have stayed longer.
We arrived on the Nice to Castellane bus courtesy of Phoceens, who run the LER 31 route. A one way ticket cost us €16.40 each and the stunning journey through the French countryside took just over two hours. Check out the Castellane tourism site for more info, the service departs only twice daily at 07:20 and 14:10 from Nice Gare Routière (bus station).
The only other real option from Nice to Castellane is to rent a car and drive, or try your luck hitchiking. There is a Nice to Digne train but Digne is 53km on the opposite side of Castellane so you’re better off on the bus.
From Marseille you can catch the LER 27 bus at 08:45 but check in advance if you plan to travel on a Sunday as there might not be a direct Sunday service and you might need to go via Digne. From Marseille to Digne ride-sharing is also a good option.
The closest airport to Castellane is the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport. The bus does stop there on its way, but you will need to time it just right or spend the night nearby.
Hint – Use Uber in Nice to get to the bus station early. Local taxis are renowned for being excessively expensive.
We booked an apartment with Airbnb, about a 10 minute walk to the town centre. In fact, any accommodation in Castellane will be no more than 10 minutes walk to the town centre; it’s just not that big. Our apartment cost €41 per night, had a good kitchen and we were very happy.
Camping is massive in Castellane; the town offers four campsites and a camper-van area within reasonable walking distance. Prices vary but expect to pay between €5 and €20 per night depending on your transport method and accommodation type.
L’Oustaou hostel is the only hostel in Castellane that I could find. Beds appear to be perpetually sold out online, but from what I can gather a dorm bed here might cost around €19. Proceed with caution to L’Oustaou as the facilities look basic and the reviews are very mixed.
Despite the internet’s best efforts bnb’s in Castellane do exist and prices start from €41 per night for the apartment we stayed in. On average you should expect to pay between €50 and €70 per night for somewhere good.
Hotels in Castellane often aren’t in Castellane itself so look out for that when you book, as you might find yourself 15km out of town. In town you can find a double room in a hotel for somewhere between €55 and €95 per night.
For a great guide to local accommodation options, check out Castellane Tourism. For this area it was much more reliable than most booking sites.
Hint – If you have a car, consider staying in a village nearby. You will likely find there’s more accommodation available outside Castellane itself, which is often booked well in advance.
The main attractions in Castellane are the Gorges Du Verdon and the Verdon river, and when in town it’s likely that you plan to take advantage of those things by getting carried quickly down it. You will quickly notice that Castellane has a disproportionate amount of businesses offering kayaking, rafting and canyoning trips, and you probably can’t go too wrong if you just go with whichever one you like the look of; they will all be relatively on-par. We went with Aqua Verdon because they were playing cool music and the guide looked like a family member, so there you go. Our 2.5 hour kayak trip down the gorge cost €43 each and was well worth every cent. Our guide Quentin provided everything we needed, including wetsuits, and made sure each of the eight people in our group had a fantastic time. The water was pretty cold even in June, but you soon adjust and will find yourself jumping in voluntarily towards the end. Watch this space for a video…
We actually set out to walk the gorge, but soon discovered that the ‘good bit’ was about a 10km walk from Castellane. We didn’t have a car and couldn’t figure out the shuttle bus service (if it does exist) so we decided on the kayak trip instead, which we thought a good choice. If you are looking to walk the Gorges Du Verdon check out the Walkopedia page for more info; the round-trip can take anywhere from one to seven days
The Rock (Du Roc) is the giant monolith that dominates the city skyline and provides the seat for Our Lady of The Rock (Notre-Dame Du Roc); the 15th century chapel that overlooks Castellane. Walking up The Rock takes about 25 minutes and is a fairly easy climb, just take good shoes. There are plenty of spots for breaks at the religious relics that tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion all the way up the path. Take a picnic to the top as the chapel grounds are lovely, and check out the statues and ruins, some of which apparently date back to the late middle ages. You can also go inside the chapel, just remember to be respectful.
We self-catered both nights so I can’t comment on the restaurants, but if you find Le Restaurant De Verdon there’s a boulangerie/patisseire/snack bar attached which is top, top quality. Buy all the sweet things and take them to the river bank to eat. Bliss.
Another thing Castellane (and France) does well is wine and beer. There’s a great wine shop just off the main square that sells local wines and craft beer from Castellane and the surrounding areas.
Hint – Saturday is market day! Go down before 1pm to catch the stalls before they close, and in summer there are concerts in the main square.
Castellane for two nights;
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