Vence – Gourdon Loop

September 17, 2019

Distance: 58 kilometers (36 miles)
Time: About 2 1/2 to 3 hours depending on your pace
Departure: Vence
Difficulty: Moderate (a fair amount of climbing, though not too steep)
Elevation: 936 meters (3071 feet)
73 Villages by Bike Challenge: 2 Villages

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 (16 miles) away. 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 try take them up to Gourdon. It’s also one of my favorite regular bike rides and one of the 73 Villages by Bike challenge that I am currently doing.

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Vence > Tourrettes-sur-Loup > Pont- du-Loup > Gourdon

From Vence I ride west on the D2210, through Tourrettes-sur-Loup, a village many consider to be one of the prettiest in the area, something I certainly don’t disagree with. It’s a short, easy 5km (3 mile) climb to Tourrettes-sur-Loup from Vence. The road passes right through the town, but if you really want to see more turn left at the car park in the center of town and walk down into the heart of the village.


Tourrettes-sur-Loup is known as an “artisan’s” village and within the picturesque “old town,” you’ll find a delightful maze of streets with lots of workshops, stores, boutiques and restaurants. Today the town is also famous for the cultivation of violet flowers and there is even a Violet Festival every year. Weaving, painting, pottery, jewelery and sculpture are just some of the arts and crafts you’ll find here. Most are created by residents of the village. The town is also known for its confectionery (crystallized flowers, candied fruits and more), organic cheese and beekeeping. Featuring medieval and Romanesque buildings, the village is mentioned as early as 1024 when it was known as Castrum de Torretis. Of particular interest are the Castle of Cairo, the Church of St. Gregory, the Saint-Jean chapel and the Bastide aux Violettes (a museum dedicated to the violet flower).

Back on the road be sure not to miss the spectacular view of the village after you pass by it. Tourrettes-sur-Loup will be on your left and it’s really quite a site to see, perched on the side of the hill, the exterior houses forming a natural rampart.

Then it’s all downhill as you continue on the D2210 down to Pont-du-Loup. Just before you get into town you will 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 are three small tunnels on the way, but they are fairly short and very well lit. Just be careful because they can be quite wet inside, especially after a storm. 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 in total to get to Gourdon 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.


Gourdon is perched high on a rocky peak overlooking the Loup valley. Because of this location it is often known as “Eagle’s Nest.” Because of this strategic positioning it has been used for millennia as a defensive outpost. The Romans certainly used it and evidence exists suggesting habitation much farther back. When you arrive in the village make your way down to the overlook and you will have a spectacular view of the coastline and the valley below. 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. Because of its status as one of the official “Most Beautiful Villages of France,” Gourdon can become quite busy during the high season with tourists coming up from the coast. Even so, it’s worth spending some time walking around the little village.

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Prè-du-Lac > Le Bar-sur-Loup > Pont-du-Loup > Tourrettes-sur-Loup > Vence

If you want you can go back the same way you can, but I 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. You’ll get some nice views of Gourdon from the southern side but be careful, as it’s a steep winding road and there can be a lot of traffic at certain times of the year. In Pré du Lac you’ll find a very nice pâtisserie, La Tour de Delices, if you need a snack and a drink. There’s really not much else there, Pré du Lac seems to really be just a little suburb of Châteauneuf. Follow the D2210 back through Le Bar-sur-Loup and Pont-du-Loup, it’s still all downhill.

You can stop in Le Bar-sur-Loup, it’s a beautiful little village, very small and quaint, but it’s a bit of an uphill ride to get into the village from the main road. You won’t find much to see in Pont-du-Loup but it’s worth a stop on the bridge over the river to watch the rushing water. There’s also a great little candy store here, Confiserie Florian, so if you’re in the mood for some sweets, by all means stop in. 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.

Steve and Carole in Vence - Vence - Gourdon Loop
The route from Vence to Gourdon and back.

Important Notes: There is some climbing on various parts of this route. There can also be some traffic on certain portions of the route at certain times of the day. If there is any sign of rain I would suggest leaving the ride for another time. As always you’ll want to make sure you have a good bike and plenty of water. The best time to make this ride in the summer is early in the morning when it’s the coolest, the best time in the winter is early in the afternoon when things have warmed up a bit. You’ll want a helmet and sunscreen no matter what time of the year you go. You’ll be able to find food and drink all along the route. If you are riding alone make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you should be back. I always wear an identification bracelet that I got from Road ID.

Juste les Faits:
What: Bike Ride from Vence to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Gourdon and back
Where: Gourdon (Google Maps)
When: All year round
Phone: Office de Toursime – 04 89 87 73 31
Facebook: Gourdon-Village

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