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GR 653D Via Domitia: Arles to Montgenèvre [updated 2018]

Santiago Photo Book


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
[edited + updated 2018]

Bonjour mes amis. Greetings from along the Way. I am currently resting in Les Hautes-Alpes, France planning the next stage of my pèlerinage to Jerusalem...(Forum post, June 28, 2013)

In April, 2013 I set off from a little village in Le-Lot-et-Garonne départment, France. Following various trails and canals I eventually arrived in the ancient city of Arles with it's roman ruins and romanesque cathedral. After a few days of music making I continued along the GR 653D to Montgenèvre. I hiked the trail without a gps or telephone relying on a guide book, friendly encounters and information gleaned along the way. I walked without a tent or sleeping gear trusting that at the end of each day I would find somewhere inside to sleep.

The trail : The GR 653D trail is one of scenic splendour passing as it does by the remains of former civilisations; through the grand geological formations of Les Apilles and Sisteron ; onto the alpine fortresses constructed by Vauban at Mont Dauphin and Briançon in Les Haute-Alpes. Whilst the initial stages from Arles are flat to moderate, as one ascends to Les Haute-Alpes the trails become strenuous, the paths may narrow and are sometimes vertigionous.

Here are some notes from along the way.


Mountainsmith Lumbar Pack
Hiking garb: Leki poles; boots, 1x soxs; hat; longsleeve blouse; cycling gloves; trousers; 2 x buffs; unmentionables
Not much else

French maps (online) :
Geoportail https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/

Grand Randonnée (GR) routes are marked in pink. The EU scallop shell symbol indicates the St Jacques pilgrimage trail.

Guide book

TopoGuides. FFRandonnée. Sentier vers Saint-Jacques de-Compostelle: Via Arles-Montgenèvre-Arles [Broché]. 2009


Comment: An excellent resource: maps for each stage 1:50000 (1 cm = 500m); practical resources; village by village commentary with distances and estimated walking times; historical and cultural information; accommodation suggestions (camping, gites, chamber d’hotes, hotels).

Negatives: there are no profiles. The GR653D ascends from Arles to Montgénevre passing via Les Apilles to Les Alpes du Haute Provence then through Les Hautes Alpes to the Italian border. After Apt the ascents and descents become increasingly difficult. Accommodation suggestions do not include les Paroisses (Parishes/Presbyteres) or alternatives for the financially challenged.


La Providence, friendly locals, 'angels' at la mairie, le presbytere et la gendarmerie

Xacobea list (2009) http://www.xacobeo.fr/ZE1.10.PACA_Mon-Arl_h.htm

Montgenèvre to Arles (edited 2018):

resources (edited 2018)

Les Haute Alpes du Provence: brochure with map, profiles + gîtes d’étape

My journey

1 Arles to St-Etienne-du-Grès

2 St-Etienne-du-Grès to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

3 Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to Eygalières
From Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to Eygalières the GR653D passes by le Site Antique de Glanum, an archeological wonderland filled with Roman ruins. It also passes directly by the hospital at St Paul de Mausole where Vincent Van Gogh once resided. The trail is flat running along the base of Les Apilles. There is a signed detour which climbs into Les Apilles.

Detour GR6: via La plateau de La Caume and Les Apilles to Aerodrome Le Mazet ( before Eygaliers)

Time: 4 hours 30
Signposted: 1 km after St-Paul de Mausole where the GR653D and the GR6 cross
Scenery: Panoramic. Awesome views as one traverses the ridges atop Les Apilles.
Signs: GR6 red + white balises
Difficulty: High. Not for those given to vertigo or carrying packs heavier than 5 kgs. I would not attempt this trail when visibility is poor, when it is raining or windy.

The initial ascent to the Plateau de la Caume is easy. It is on a dirt trail then tarmac. Just before the Telecom Tower the trail is signed left. The Plateau has magnificent views.

From Pas l’Aigle to Col de Valongue the trail becomes difficult. This stretch involves rock climbing, difficult stony ascents and descents ; narrow trails ; scrabbling for footholds and hand holds ; slithering ; removing ones pack and lifting it overhead.

After managing the first 2 or 3 ascents and descents I quit the GR6, descending by an unsigned stony trail (right) to the valley below (it might be the black dotted line marked on the Geoporteil map which runs between the numbers 318 to 252).

For the next kilometer or so I walked a metal road running parallel to Les Apilles. I returned to the GR6 by turning left onto an unsigned trail just before an Interdit sign + rope barrier.

4 Eygalières to Cavaillon
From Chapelle St-Sixte, 1 ½ kms after Eygalières, Le Chemin is a flat easy trail on dirt roads passing through vineyards, olive groves, and forests with some tarmac. The views of Les Apilles from the Chapelle St-Sixte porch are superb.

From Orgon to Cavaillon the TopoGuide map differs from the signed route on tarmac which, after a stretch by a canal and a walk to the right of the autoroute, turns left over a bridge crossing the auroroute to a minor lane, then on to the D99.

The Alternative : The TopoGuide route continues on a camino beside the autoroute eventually turning right and passing under the TGV railway lines to the flood plain beside La Durance. There are danger signs overhead. When the snows melt and water levels are high it is impossible to walk this route. When dry there are masses of flowering vegetation along the plain and the route is passable. After awhile one arrives at a barrier. The trail turns left and climbs up onto the stony embankment supporting the TGV lines. Following this one arrives at a quarry with trucks and workmen beavering away. [At which point the foremen staggered up an incline to greet me and have a chat. He had no idea that the GR653D passed through the site. He let me pass but said it was dangerous to walk there.] I eventually found my way to a bridge and crossed over into Cavaillon.

5 Cavaillon to Notre Dame de Lumières [I am now following the Via Domitia.]
Cavaillon is a place of outstanding natural beauty. High on a rocky colline is La Chapelle de St Jacques. Yesterday I climbed the roman stairs to the plateau on top and played flute in an ancient porch, just me and the trees. Stunning scenery. Afterwards I descended and spent an hour visiting the synagogue, a rococo bonbonnière in pink and blue.

Somehow I have arrived in the land of dreams. All about are the remains of former civilisations. One could die from bliss : Arles ; St Rémy de Provence where Vincent Van Gogh painted irises and olive trees ; the the extrordinary rock formations of Les Apilles, arround Eygalliers and Cavaillon. Roman ruins lay every where.

...and I have stumbled into the loving hospitality of folk along the way: a religious community; an orchard farmer; the owner of an historic monument, and a widow devoted to hospitality. She has extended her home in order to welcome people in need.

Between Arles and Cavaillon there are no gîtes de pèlerins.

6 Notre Dame de Lumières to Apt

7 Apt to Céreste

8 Céreste to Lincel

9 Lincel to Forcalquier

10 Forcalquier to Monastère de Ganagobie

11 Monastère de Ganagobie to Peipin

12 Peipin to Sisteron

13 Sisteron to Saint-Geniez

14 Saint-Geniez to La-Motte-du-Caire
I am now climbing up into the Alpes de Haute Provence. The scenery is superb, the route arduous. Alpine splendour, breathtakingly awesome. The people are kind.

15 La-Motte-du-Caire to Venterol

16 Venterol to Gap
The descent from Venterol to Tallard has awesome views to Les Hautes Alpes. The trail is steep and on slate, rubble and scree narrowing to less than a body width. I found it difficult. At one point I sent my pack and poles ahead then slid on the seat of my pants. I was too unsure of my balance to try the ledge. In my opinion this stretch would be treacherous in rain.

After Tallard the trail climbs up to Ville-Vielle. At which point it makes a dramatic descent down a steep slope on a very narrow path with a terrifying drop to the right. There was no red + white balisage, rather pinned to a tree I saw a red danger triangle beside an orange-yellow route 3/5 sign. Opposite was an old wooden signpost indicating a broad trail to Châteauvieux. I chose that.

Apart from one dicey moment when I dropped my water bottle and lost my nerve it was a lovely alternative, climbing through unusual scree/slate? formations with fantastic views down the valley. The GR653D may be regained after Châteauroux by turning right at the sign to Bel Air. I was too tired by then and needing security so I stuck to the roads until Villar where D45 and the GR653D coincide.

17 Gap to Chorges

18 Chorges to L’Abbaye du Boscodon

19 L’Abbaye du Boscodon to Châteauroux-Les-Alpes

The hike down to Embrun is beautiful. Forest trails in the early morning sunlight. Bird song and meadow flowers.

20 Châteauroux-Les-Alpes to Mont-Dauphin
...a glorious hike, nearly always on mountain trails crossing several torrents, one using a rickety bridge with sagging planks and half the handrail replaced by logs....

21 Mont-Dauphin to Les Rousses
..the hike was magnificent. Alpine splendour all about. Flower meadows full of blazing poppies, yellows, purples, pinks and whites...and serenity. In St-Crepin a fellow invited me for coffee. His family has lived in that village for at least 800 years. In the 18th or 19th century two of his forbears went to China as missionaries leaving from the very house where we met. After a few lazy hours together I played a little music by the fountain. Children came out to play and all was sweet.

22 Les Rousses to Les Vigneaux
...and the trail increases in difficulty day by day. Narrow ledges with steep drops to the side....scary....exhilirating. Alpine views, snow capped Alpes. Flowers + birds.

23 Les Vigneaux to Briançon
...as I played music beneath the vaulted arches of la Porte de Pignole three little girls spun and twirled a minuet as others looked on and laughed and smiled as silvery emotions weaved an intricate polyphony with golden tones. Joy bounced off ancient walls into the heart and mind of a desolate man whose son had once played violin but then died. Later an elegant man gifted me a rose as a posse of big bellied fellows passed by in tyrolean hats adorned with feathers....

24 Briançon to Montgenèvre

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Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
Keep us posted. I've had my eye on that route for some time. It has a fair bit of original Roman road I believe.


New Member
Camino(s) past & future
June (2013)
Is this also called the Via Domitian? Going from Montegenevre to Arles through the Alps? I am thinking of doing this route next June/July


no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
  • Montgenèvre-Arles
kmcumul km
L'Argentiere-Mont Dauphin20.1255.26
Mont Dauphin-Emblun29.4084.66
Gap-La Motte du Caire40.77186.48
La Motte du Caire-Sisteron33.54220.02
Cavaillon-St Remy28.40395.58
St Remy-Fontvieille21.94417.52


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Four and a half years on....

I have edited and updated the original post and put together a simple resource including the stages walked; shelter and assistance found along the way and interesting places to see:


Whilst time has passed since I hiked the GR 653d the wonder of it remains. The magnificent scenery is still there and most of the people with whom I passed a happy moment continue to welcome pilgrims.

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