Just the mention of a holiday in Provence conjures up vivid images in our minds: the Mediterranean sea, rolling fields of lavender, bustling food markets, and a glass of rosé, of course!
Haute-Provence—haute meaning high, because it's further north and closer to the Alps—is the home of the Verdon Gorge. This beautiful river canyon starts in the Alps and flows all the way down to the Durance river. Before it reaches its destination, its turquoise waters go through canyons up to 700m high as well as several lakes.
Sainte-Croix is the largest of these lakes and also the busiest in the summer. Tourism here is popular, authentic and down to earth. No fancy hotels or restaurants here, but cute villages, quaint inns, or auberges, and campsites. That being said, we are not big on camping in our family. Which is why our favourite Verdon lake is Esparron.
Our family has been coming to Esparron almost every summer for generations. It's the wildest of the Verdon lakes but only an hour's drive from Aix-en-Provence, or 90 minutes from the Luberon valley where we live (likewise to Marseille airport).
I spent many a childhood day at Esparron. I loved taking a pedalo out onto the lake with my friends or trout fishing there in spring. There are some specimen trouts in the Verdon river, but they aren't easy to catch. As I grew up, picnics and pedalo rides weren't so exciting anymore, and I gradually saw less and less of Esparron, preferring mountain biking in the Luberon instead.
But after moving to the UK in my twenties and going back to spend time in Provence in the summer, I was drawn to Esparron once more. It's comforting to see that 20 years on, nothing much had changed. The lake is still beautiful and unspoilt. I have found a new activity though: renting an electric boat to cruise around the lake for the day, our picnic and rosé in the cool box.
The lake is turquoise, the water is clear and mornings are extremely peaceful. The water is usually warm from June until September. Access to the lake, whether it's to Saint-Julien or Esparron-sur-Verdon, is a winding but rewarding car drive. The lake is incredibly wild and well preserved. No houses have been built on the lakeside, which makes it perfect to explore by boat as you can stop at countless hidden beaches or little rock coves.
Most people like to explore the gorges upstream of the lake, and while they're beautiful, I'd recommend trying to explore the other parts of the lake too. Head to the south and find the perfect spot for your swim and your picnic. The ban on petrol and diesel engines is not only great for the environment, but it keeps it so quiet and peaceful.
The electric boats aren't fast and it will take you a couple of hours to get from one end of the lake to the other. But they are well equipped to enjoy the journey! With a canopy, some storage, space for easily 5 people on board, alongside being simple to pilot, there's no better way to explore.
Come prepared and stop at Greoux-les-bains or at your local market to fill your coolbox with local fresh produce and wine, because there aren't any shops here! Arrive early and leave after lunch if you are planning to come here in July and August, as it gets easily well over 35 degrees in the afternoon and there's rarely much wind. There's also a nudist section on the lake if that's your thing!
The coast on the Med gets really crowded in the summer. Why not try Esparron on your next trip to Provence instead? It's different, authentic and unique. These are things we look for when we spend our time in Provence, as well as when we source our products for Tariette. Keep it a secret and enjoy some the pictures of our previous trips there. If you have any questions about Provence or if you're planning a trip there, don't hesitate to email us.