Few tourists know them, these French cliffs are worthy of Colorado

This geological oddity stands somewhere in France and few people know about it.

Few tourists know them, these French cliffs are worthy of Colorado

This geological oddity stands somewhere in France and few people know about it.

France is full of sublime sites worthy of Colorado. Who hasn't already heard of Colorado Provençal, an exceptional 30-hectare site located in the Luberon massif which offers the opportunity to admire an old ocher quarry with a thousand orange hues and majestic cliffs? Everyone has already heard of the Sentier des Ocres in Roussillon or the Canyon de Rustrel... Did you think you'd done the trick? And yet, there is another site in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region which looks like a very exotic desert.

A spectacular alignment of millennia-old cliffs can be discovered in the Durance valley. By taking the A51 motorway between Manosque and Sisteron in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, motorists can delight in an unexpected spectacle: a very impressive mass of stones stands proudly towards the sky a hundred meters high, overlooking a pretty little village. Little known to holidaymakers, Les Pénitents, this mass of sedimentary rocks sculpted by erosion that scientists call puddingue, extends over nearly 2.5 kilometers above the village of Mées, surrounded by nearly 80,000 olive trees.

The story of the Pénitents des Mées is associated with a legend more than 1,000 years old. In the olive-growing commune of Les Mées, it is said that these conical cliffs represent a line of hooded monks from the Montagne de Lure, who were said to have been petrified by Saint Donat because they would have succumbed to the charms of young Moorish women at the time of the Saracen invasions around the year 800. The French writer Jean Giono, originally from Manosque, wrote that "their legend crystallized in rock whispers strangely with the wind".

The Pénitents des Mées site is very popular with hikers who, leaving the village of Les Mées, will take the 4-kilometer Pénitents circuit (allow 2 hours of walking), which takes you to the Saint-Roch chapel and its belvedere and allows the discovery, on the cliffside, of these curious geological formations with a breathtaking view of the Durance river.

The Chemin de la colle, a 14 kilometer route (allow nearly 4 hours of walking), allows you to discover the geographical particularities of the “Haute Montagne”, places like the Plateau de Valensole, agricultural activities and exceptional panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges of Ecrins, Lubéron, Sainte-Victoire and even Mont Ventoux. We will obviously not miss the visit to the village of Mées with its pretty streets and old stone houses, which houses the Saint-Roch chapel, the Notre-Dame de l'Olivier church and the Republic fountain and offers a route marked 3.6 kilometers, the Chemin de l'Olivier, to discover these centuries-old olive trees, dotted with numerous oil mills. Good visit !

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