• Lac d'Allos, Provence, France

    Lac d'Allos, Provence, France

    © shutterstock

  • Lac de Serre-Ponçon, Provence, France

    Lac de Serre-Ponçon, Provence, France

    © shutterstock

Alpes-de-Haute-Provence digne-les-bains fr

Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is one of the most scenic departments in Provence, with the dramatic Gorges du Verdon (France’s own Grand Canyon) to the south, the more eastern of the Luberon hill villages to the south-west and the beautiful Lac de Serre-Ponçon in the north that offers a large number of water activities. It’s a department of contrasts with its high plains and mountains, fields of lavender and ski trails, marrying Provence and the Alps. In summer, the Ubaye river, upstream of the Lac de Serre-Ponçon, is ideal for rafting, kayaking and hydro-speeding. Come winter, Barcelonnette is full of visitors who come to enjoy the snow-covered slopes of the Sauze and linked resorts of Pra Loup and Val d’Allos.

The capital is Digne-les-Bains, a town with a medieval heart and an even older history. A lunch stop for Napoléon in the 19th century, today Digne is popular with French and foreign visitors, with only one of its attractions being the thermal baths.

One unexpected attraction in the Digne area is the Refuge d'Art, a work by British artist Andy Goldsworthy that can be visited on a 10-day hike. Created by Goldsworthy in partnership with the Musée Gassendi and the Réserve Géologique de Haute-Provence, it involves an itinerary of 150km that traverses the stunning landscape, bringing together hiking and contemporary art and highlighting both nature and culture. The circuit follows ancient paths punctuated by ‘refuges’ in the form of disused buildings including chapels, farms and sheepfolds – these have now been restored and a specially-designed sculpture has been incorporated into each one. They provide shelter for a pause along the route or, in some cases, overnight accommodation. It’s the world's largest collection of works by Andy Goldsworthy in a public space.