Let’s embark on a journey to discover the secret and unusual side of Provence, where dense forests, caves, and waterfalls abound
While Provence is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and popular regions in France, often associated with lavender fields, rhythmic song of cicadas, charming villages nestled among olive trees, and mouthwatering cuisine, there is another side of Provence that remains shrouded in mystery. This is a lesser-known corner of Provence where legend and history intertwine, boasting stunning landscapes that defy the stereotypical image. It is a region off the beaten path but equally captivating.
Must-See Destinations in this hidden and secret corner of Provence
Nature reigns supreme in this part of Provence, with verdant greenery that’s especially breathtaking in late spring, inviting hikers and explorers to discover the awakening beauty of nature. Let me tell you of hidden villages, centuries-old legends that have inspired novels and films, as well as rivers and waterfalls with cool, crystal-clear waters.
Highlights of the Journey
- SILLANS LA CASCADE
Sillans la Cascade: Discovering a Majestic Waterfall in a Verdant Setting
As you may have guessed, the highlight of Sillans la Cascade, a small village with just over 600 inhabitants, is its stunning 42-meter-high waterfall (in fact, there are two waterfalls, although few people are aware of the second).
Two Waterfalls, Two Trails
The largest and most well-known waterfall can be reached on foot in around twenty minutes from the Sillans municipal school car park on the left bank (rive gauche) of the Bresque River.
The path is clearly signposted and follows a fenced route (an unfortunate but necessary measure for environmental protection) as it winds through the forest, ultimately leading to a viewpoint with a breathtaking view of the waterfall.
Now, in front of such a beautiful sight, you might feel tempted to take a dip in the emerald waters below or to get a closer look at the watercourse that feeds the waterfall. Well, the good news is that you can do just that. Simply retrace your steps back to the starting point for route number two
The second route takes you to the right bank of the Bresque River.
Allow around 1 hour and a half for the round trip to the second waterfall, where you can take a dip in one of the many natural emerald-colored pools of the Bresque River.
You can park your car at the paid and rather expensive parking lot called La Cascade at the village entrance. The trail leads through olive groves and pastures used for grazing (dogs must be leashed), before entering the dense oak and pine forest.
After reaching the viewpoint with a distant view of the waterfall, the path descends steeply (I strongly recommend wearing sneakers). In about ten minutes, you’ll come across the first natural pools. If you follow the path along the course of the Bresque, you’ll soon reach the second waterfall (be mindful that the path can be bumpy). It’s a perfect spot to take a refreshing dip.
On your way back, a stop at the quaint Provençal village of Sillans la Cascade is a must.
The place, although little known to foreign tourists, is a very popular destination for French ones. For this reason, if you want to appreciate all its charm and mystery, I advise you to avoid visiting Sillans la Cascade on weekends in July and August.
If you visit Sillans la Cascade out of season, however, don’t assume that bars and restaurants will be open. It is recommended to pack a lunch if you don’t want to take any chances.
But what would a trip to the hidden and secret corners of Provence be without a visit to a troglodyte village? So,
Head to Cotignac!
Located amidst the vineyards that produce some of the finest rosé wines, the village of Cotignac never fails to intrigue visitors approaching it from Route Départementale 13.
Built at the base of an impressive limestone cliff, the village boasts two watchtowers that stand out prominently atop the cliff. However, the cliff’s unique feature lies in its numerous cavities, which seem to reveal a few glimpses of windows. Let’s take a closer look.
As soon as I parked the car at the entrance to the village and took a few steps towards the centre, my attention was immediately drawn to the lively streets of the village. It was market day, and the main street was filled with the colours and flavours of Provence, all shaded by sycamore trees. And the smell was just amazing!
After just a few minutes, we reach the foot of the cliff, and the mystery of those distant buildings begins to unravel: they are real houses built into the rock, ancient troglodytic dwellings!
The cliff is truly impressive, and upon closer inspection, I realize that it’s covered in stalactites. Stalactites? Yes, that’s right!
Reading an explanatory panel at the foot of the road that leads to the cliff, which is 80 metres high and 400 metres long, I discovered that it is nothing more than the place where the river Cassole plunged into the valley, creating an immense waterfall, caves and ravines. It was not until the 11th century that the river was gradually diverted to follow the cliff.
The first nucleus of the village, however, did not originate in the valley, but rather on the heights of the cliff, as evidenced by the two so-called “Saracen” towers that still stand. Moreover, over the centuries, the caves and hollows carved out by the force of the water were used by the villagers themselves as shelters during wars, raids, and sieges.
From April to October, it is possible to visit some of them along a dizzying path inside the cliff. Sneakers are recommended.
The hidden and secret gems of Provence are undoubtedly one of the most captivating destinations for a long weekend or holiday in the South of France.
Here You can explore more ideas for your Provence trip Three Unmissable places in Provence
For further travel inspiration, check out Meraviglieuropa on:
No responses yet