Distance: 55 kilometers
Time: About 3 hours depending on your pace
Difficulty: Moderate (a fair amount of climbing, though not too steep)
Gourdon is one of the official “Most Beautiful Villages In France” and a real favorite of mine. It’s the closest one to us here in Vence, about 26 kilometers (or 16 miles). By car, it’s about a 45 minute drive due to the winding mountain roads that you take to get up to it. It is indeed a beautiful village, very small and perched atop a towering rocky cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Whenever we have visitors I always take them up to Gourdon. It’s also one of my favorite regular bike rides. [more info after photo gallery]
From Vence I ride west on the D2210, through Tourrettes-sur-Loup (another wonderful French village) and down to Pont-du-Loup. It’s a short, easy 5 kilometer climb to Tourrettes-sur-Loup from Vence and then all downhill to Pont-du-Loup. From there I turn right on the D6 and begin the climb up through the beautiful Gorges du Loup. The river cuts its way through the rocky cliffs here as the road winds back and forth over it. There’s a very cool waterfall about half way up, the Cascade de Courmes. Just past that is another interesting place to stop if you are inclined, the waterfalls at Saut du Loup. You can pay 1€ to go through the gate and see the waterfalls. They can be quite spectacular in the winter and spring, but you’ll find less water in the summer and fall. At a tiny little place called Bramafan I make a hard left and continue the climb up to Gourdon on the D3. It usually takes me about an hour and a half to get there from Vence on bike. There’s a very steep little road that leads right up into the village. I usually spend a few minutes at the top, take in some food and water and then head back down.
It’s a beautiful village to explore and there is a nice little Office de Tourisme with lots of information about Gourdon and the surrounding areas. It’s a very small village with a population of under 400. You’ll find some nice shops and a few restaurants. The church is worth seeing and there is a nice castle, but it’s never been open when I’ve been there.
If you want you can go back the same way but I usually prefer to make a little loop out of this part of the ride. From Gourdon you can continue on the D3 down to Pré du Lac where you’ll find a very nice patisserie, La Tour de Delices, if you need a snack and a drink. Then follow the D2210 back through Le Bar-sur-Loup, Pont-du-Loup and Tourrettes-sur-Loup. It’s downhill for part of the ride and uphill for part of it, but the last 5 kilometers into Vence are all downhill, which makes for a nice way to end the ride.
There are plenty of places to stop along this route to take in the scenery. You’ll also find numerous places to get water and/or food.