Provence Verte is a smallish area in the Var where deciduous forests are more present than in surrounding areas (hence the Green Provence moniker).
While the name Provence usually evokes cicadas and images of St Tropez, it is actually a very fragmented part of the South East corner of France. Its landscapes take multiple forms ranging from the salt pans of Camargue to the red hills of the Estérel, the vast Canyons of Verdon, the semi arid desert of the Crau, the craggy mountains of the Alpilles and many more.
Provence Verte is the colder, greener area close to the sacred Saint-Baume massif, that I call home.
In this leafy neck of the woods runs a small river that tourist guide don’t mention yet commands attention from hikers and photographers alike.
Running underground for most of the year, it occasionally swells up and into its limestone river bed when the rain falls heavy and long enough to fill the aquifers.
When that happens, the various deposits, bacteria and algae found on the bed floor colour the water in weird and wonderful ways.
So, a walk along the banks at the right period (hard to predict, but end of Spring and mid Autumn are usually good guesses) takes you through small-scale versions of Pamukkale, Jiuzhaigou and Orange River (except that’s not orange).
Note that I did write small-scale 😉 This part of the river, close to its source, is only a couple of mile long, although it does continue 30 miles to the Mediterranean via Marseilles. And each of the colourful stretches photographed here is only a few hundred meters long. But the fast change in flow means that no two days will produce identical images.
So if you’re traveling from Aix-en-Provence or Marseilles towards the Côte d’Azur or Italy and the general scenery looks fresh and green, you could do worse than bypass the main motorway system and drive through Saint-Zacharie and Saint-Maximin, in-between which you will find this hidden jewel (as well as stunning roads !)