Cézanne, Van Gogh, Renoir and even Picasso were fascinated by the beauty and variety of Provence. It’s famous for its diverse landscape with beyond beautiful lavender fields, olive groves, pine forests and of course, the sound of cicadas everywhere you go. After spending our holidays in Provence last year, we’re totally mesmerized by this place. So if you’d like to visit one of the most fascinating destinations I know, this guide will give you an idea of what you can expect and shouldn’t miss. By the end you’ll find all informations regarding lavender fields.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES
I could write more than one post dedicated to the villages of Provence – only because there’s so many and a lot of them are officially some of the most beautiful villages of France. This is also one of the huge benefits of travelling to Provence. All tourists can split up in all the different places rather than crowding in one spot only. But it’s also very hard to decide on a few villages for your vacation because there’s plenty of choice. I decided to focus on villages we actually visited, which luckily had to offer a large variety of architecture, culture and landscape – perhaps this will help you choose. During summer months there’s also a lot of village festivals where locals meet, drink some wine and dance to live music. You shouldn’t miss that because it’s really cozy and a nice atmosphere.
In Eygalières you can find a lot of beautifully restored residences sourrounded by olive groves here and there. It’s a very charming and authentic village with small stone houses on the main street. Here you can find restaurant Chez Paulette and gourmet cheese store Chez Emily that I can highly recommend. We haven’t checked out Bistrot L’Aubergine but it looked very nice too. You also shouldn’t miss the provençale market every friday morning. Our hotel recommendation: Hôtel La Bastide d’Eygalières. A small but super charming, eco-responsable 4-star hotel with a nice pool area and authentic rooms for reasonable prices. The only thing I didn’t like was the hotel’s restaurant, but there’s so many nearby therefore I was totally fine with that.
I’d also like to mention Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, which is only a 15-minute drive away from Eygalières. Even though we haven’t seen much of the village itself, we had a mesmerizing and probably one of the most romantic dinner we ever had at Château des Alpilles. The food was extra delicious, the owners welcomed every single table and the outside terrace is a beyond idyllic setting. So I can highly recommend making a reservation at this wonderful place, it’s definitely worth a little ride.
The city centre of Aix-En-Provence looks like south of France and Paris made a baby. You should definitely check out the local farmer’s market Richelme and grab some fresh fruits or vegetables, goat cheese and olives or at least a little snack that you should enjoy in the park of Pavillon de Vendôme nearby. Hôtel de Caumont is a beautiful art museum with a super cute but a bit expensive café and inside garden which should definetly be included in your trip to Aix. The beautiful and picturesque marché aux fleurs shouldn’t be missed as well and maybe you find a unique souvenir at marché d’artistes d’arts et création du sud.
In the heart of Vaucluse, you’ll find Roussillon which is – again – a very unique village and famous for it’s stunning ochre colored houses thanks to the ochre trail nearby. Make sure to check out both and don’t wear your best clothes and shoes when walking the ochre trail, chances are good to get them really dirty. Extra tip: get here early if you want to go by car, it’s one of the few very touristy places and parking slots will be packed very quickly.
If you had French lessons in school or elsewhere, you’ll most likely know the famous song “Sur le pont d’Avignon”. Pont Saint-Bénézet a.k.a. Pont d’Avignon can still be visited for a nice view over Rhône and Palais des Papes (pope’s palace). The latter is a stunning architectural highlight from the late middle age and is worth a visit. Don’t forget to take a walk in the palace’s garden and enjoy the view over the city. If you get hungry whilst walking through old town, make a stop at Les Halles d’Avignon (food halls). In that case it’s better to be an early bird as they’re only open until 2 pm.
PONT DU GARD
About 35 Minutes away from Avignon, Pont du Gard is something that shouldn’t be missed since it’s one of the best preserved Roman aqueducts in France. It’s quite fascinating and impressive to walk over this monumental ancient conduit and if you’re lucky with weather conditions, you can also take a dip in the river. This is a little exception in my list considering that we haven’t seen much of the location Vers-Pont-du-Gard, but it’s not an option to not include Pont du Gard in my Provence guide.
With only 355 inhabitants, Les Baux-de-Provence is a very tiny village and can only be reached by foot. It’s dominated by a huge castle ruin and full of nooks and crannies. You’ll get beautiful views whilst strolling through local shops and slender alleys. If you get a little thirsty or hungry after all the walking, Les Baux Jus is a nice place and sunny oasis for resting and getting healthy juices and food.
Last but definitely not least, I’d like to introduce you to our final stay. Gordes is officially classified as one of the prettiest villages in France and I can totally agree with that. The scenery is completely different to other villages we visited since it’s located higher up, just like Roussillon which is right next to Gordes. It’s a great place for hiking, especially to Sénanque, a Romanic abbey nearby with their very own lavender fields. If you fancy a little Italian food, La Bastide de Pierres is a good address. For lunch I can recommend Le Renaissance, which has some bad valuations online but we liked it and the outside terrace is just perfect. Don’t forget to check out marché provençal on tuesdays from 8 am to 1 pm.
Lavender is Provence’s purple gold. That’s no suprise as it’s beautiful, heavenly smelling and a real health miracle. Of course most people want to see the famous lavender fields when booking a trip to Provence. So if you’re one of them, you should keep in mind that they’re in full bloom during June and July, sometimes even until August depending on the weather and area. But please don’t pick any lavender from the fields, buy lavender bouquets at markets or souvenir shops – you can literally find them anywhere.
Here’s a little list of areas with the most beautiful fields that are also great for taking photos:
Valensole (full bloom by the end of June, very touristy)
Sénanque (the Abbaye de Sénanque, the field was closed when we were there)
Sault, Ferrassières, Aurel (late bloomers in higher elevations)
Drôme (Montbrun-les-Bains: late bloomers, Nyons: early bloomers, Venterol: ancient olive trees)
Ardèche (not part of historic Provence, but still full of lavender)