Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04120) Population: 1,539 Altitude: 724 m
Castellane is a small town in the Provencal Alps on the Route Napoléon, within an easy drive from the Mediterranean coast and near lakes, gorges and villages of the back country. With a large market square, medieval old town and café-restaurants, it's a great stopping point. Market day Sat, Wed.
Castellane is tucked into the Verdon river valley between mountains, but is visible from a distance because of its landmark Roc. Also called the Roc de Notre-Dame, this rocky pinnacle towers 184 meters above the village.
At the top is the Nôtre-Dame-du-Rock Chapel, built in 1703, on the site of a Roman fort and the ancient Roman town of Petra Castellana. If you have the energy, there is a hiking trail you can take from the town center to the top.
Most of the Castellane town center is the medieval part, with a few narrow streets and some small squares. There are café-restaurants at diffferent parts of the old town, and out around the edge of the main square, Place Marel Sauvaire, at the front (south side) of the town.
Castellane isn't a great shopping town, but there are a fair number of small shops of various kinds scattered around, including outfitters shops for hiking, climbing and sports gear.
The Romanesque Eglise St-Victor dating back to the 11th century, was built by the monks of the Abbey of St-Victor of Marseilles. The aisles of this parish church were built in the 16th and 17th centuries.
It wasn't until the 14th century that the inhabitants of Castellane moved completely down off the rock and into the lower town.
Castellane is a crossroads town, the place is often filled with bicyclists or motorcyclists, as well as hikers and motoring tourists of all kinds. It is pretty much a Summertime Town, though, with its 1500 plus population expanding to about 20'000 during July and August. During the winter, there is life here, but much more subdued, and with many fewer restaurants open.
Hats of Yesteryear
There was a "Modes" hat shop in Castellane, where they were serious about their hats, and had been for a very, very long time. The lady who looked after the shop sometimes to help out her friend was 87 years old when we first met her in 1995. The proprietor was responsible for the design or purchase of everything she sold, and was knowledgeable and proud of her wares; she was 102 years old in 1995.
We stop in Castellane often, and checked on hat-shop ladies in 1999. The proprietor was then 105 years old and had slowed down a bit. She relaxed her work to only half-days, attending her shop only in the afternoons, and stopped making her own hats. She did stll, however, personally select all wares offered for sale (a great selection, including some for hiking and strolling). During the mornings, her granddaughter looked after the shop, maintaining the family's friendly service.
We lost touch a bit with the town (having moved to another part of Provence), but by 2017 the "Modes" shop was no longer in business and an ancient trade has now faded away.
St André-les-Alpes is only 20 km north of Castellane, and the road is alongside the beautiful Lac de Castillon most of the way.
History of Castellane
First record, 965: Petra Castellana; earlier called Salinae because of two salt-water springs.
Celto-Ligurian: The ancient Ligurian village of the Suetrii tribe, then a Gallo-Roman town.
Gallo-Roman: Vestiges remain of the Roman town, including tombs, funerary stela and medals. A knowledgeable friend has shown us the route of the Roman road west of the town, and we've hiked part of it in the hills down towards the Gorges du Verdon, just a few km away.
Market day: Sat, Wed.
Aug - Festival d'arts traditionnels "folklore"
• GPS: 43.847781, 6.511688
IGN (1/25,000) #3542 OT "Castellane, Lac de Castillon"
There are many hiking trails in and around Castellane well marked by wooden sign posts at the starting points and junctions, as well as the standard paint marks along the trails.
• The GR4 Hiking Trail goes through Castellane, with Entrevaux to the northeast and the Grand Canyon du Verdon to the southwest. The hike through the Grand Canyon du Verdon is famous, and beautiful.
• Northwest out of town you can hike up to the Col des Leques, or you can pick up trails out of town or at the Col itself. From the Col des Leques, the N85 winds down through the Clue de Taulanne, a really gorgeous gorge.
• South of the town, several loop hikes go to and around the Montagne de Robion (1660 m) and Destourbes (1543 m), or to the little villages in the next valley.
There are many sports and leisure activities available in and around Castellane, including: horseback riding and kayaking. Kayaking and canoeing can be done on the Verdon river flowing past Castellane, but mostly in the Spring. During the summer, the level of the river here can be too low for river boating activities.
Castellane has a public swimming pool located on the Verdon river, and many nearby camp sites, some with pools.
Stage 17 of the 2015 cycling Tour de France passed through Castellane.
- Art et Traditions Populaires
- Association Petra Castellana
- Ancienne Sous-Préfecture
- 34, rue Nationale
- tel: (33) 492 83 71 80; or 92 83 61 14 (Office de Tourisme)
- Ancienne Sous-Préfecture
Maison des Sirènes et Siréniens
Location: Place Marcel-Sauvaire
Open: 9-12h, 14-18h
May-Sept: 7 days; Oct-Apr: closed weekends and holidays
Tel: 0492 831 923; Fax: 0492 83 19 27
The House of Mermaids and Sirenians, and the Valley of Fossil sirens is about the myth of mermaids, with many "supporting" fossils.
Bus service is provided once a day, every day (including Sundays) between Castellane, Grasse and Nice. The schedule is subject to change; verify the times with the Office de Tourisme.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. One bus a week (Saturday) connects Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
From Nice, take the A8 autoroute west (direction "Aix/Pce") and exit at Cannes. From the Cannes-exit roundabout, follow the signs for Grasse, taking the limited-access road. From Grasse, take the N85 Route Napoleon. It's a nice drive with some great scenery, and a bit twisty in places.
Department 04, Alpes-de-Haute Provence Buses
- See Beyond's Alpes-de-Haute Provence (04) Bus Schedules for downloading Alpes-de-Haute Provence bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
Marseille - Gréoux - Riez - Castellane Bus FH-27
- LER line 27 (part A): 3 buses/day, between Marseille and Riez, trip time 2 hrs. Stops: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Venelles, Meyrargues, Peyrolles, Pont Mirabeau, St Paul-lez-Durance, Vinon, Gréoux-les-Bains, St Martin-de-Bromes, Allemagne-en-Provence, Riez.
LER line 27 (part B): 1 bus a day between Riez and Castellane (via the Gorges-de-Verdon), trip time 1h30. Stops: Riez, Roumoules, Moustiers-Ste-Marie, Lapalud, Rougon, Pont de Soleil, Castellane.
On the LER website (http://www.info-ler.fr/fr/lignes-horaires/carte-et-fiches-horaires-n287. , select Ligne 27: Marseille / Greoux / Castellane to display the bus schedule PDF.