The delicate scent of lavender is characteristic of Haute Provence and superb fields of lavender can be seen all over the plateau of Valensole and further to the North and West. The harvest takes place between July and August and from early June the landscape of purple fields is simply stunning. Lavender products can be purchased direct from the local farms and shops.
Truffles, known as the black gold of Haute Provence are grown in the local area. They are harvested between mid October and mid-March in the truffieres, fields of the small stunted oak trees know locally as the white oak. The main Provence market towns for truffles are Apt and Aups which are only a few kms away.
The Gorges du Verdon are one of the major tourist attractions of the region. They have been formed over many thousands of years by the Verdon river and are Europes largest canyons with the walls rising up to a spectacular 700 m from the river below. The deep canyon carved into the limestone cliffs lasts for about 21 km (13 miles) with the most impressive part lying between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie where it then flows into Lac St Croix (giving it its magnificent turquoise colours). From here the lower Gorges then take the Verdon into further lakes in Quinson and Esparron.
The architecture is almost completely medieval in origin and any new building is strictly controlled. The picturesque villages of Cotignac, Salernes, Tourtour, Moustiers St-Marie and Valensole are dotted within magnificent scenery and infinite unspoiled landscapes.
Nearby towns and villages such as Riez, Aups, and Forcalquier still thrive on their traditional industries of making honey, cheese, cultivating truffles and pressing olive oil.
Riez, only 10 min from St Croix has a wonderful street market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, two supermarkets and many lovely cafes, shops and restaurants.
The roads cling to the hillside and cliffs on the sides of the canyons and there are numerous viewpoints on the circular route where the spectacular scenery can be witnessed and the River can be seen snaking its way through the bottom of the gorge hundreds of metres below.
You can hire sailing boats on the lake and canoes, kayaks, pedallos and electric boats to explore the gorges, perhaps stopping off to enjoy a picnic or a swim.
The area is criss-crossed with public footpaths, offering fantastic walking and of course the gorges are know internationally as a climbers' paradise.
St Croix Du Verdon is in the unspoilt heart of Provence which is characterised by deep valleys and snow capped mountains to the north and gentle undulating fields of lavender, vines and sunflowers in the south and west.
It is where the Haut Var meets the Alpes-d'Haute Provence and is known as 'Green Provence'. This area offers a very different pace of life to the more bustling south coast and it is characterised by forested mountains, vineyards, lavender fields and olive groves between beautiful ancient hilltop villages and small towns.
Olive groves are another characteristic of this area and together the Alpes d'Haute Provence and the Luberon to the west provide more than two thirds of the country's output.
This museum is the largest of its type in Europe and was designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster. It is close to the site where so many ancient remains were found. A series of rooms tell the story of early man in chronological order, from the earliest known inhabitants of half a million years ago, through the paleolithic, neolithic, stone, iron and bronze ages. You can see how our early ancestors evolved physically and in the development of skills, social life and habitats. There is a wonderful reproduction of a pre-historic village and it is possible to visit some of the ancient caves.
While you are here do not miss the lavender honey, local to St Croix and many delicious goats cheeses.
There are a number of interesting potteries to visit, especially in Moustiers St-Marie which is famous for Faience, but in the other nearby towns are working potters and artists with galleries that are worth seeking out
Moustiers St Marie