The Alps de Haute Provence to the Luberon
|Location||Verdon Gorge and Luberon Regions of France|
|Accommodations||Hotels, Small Inns|
Sep 10, 2023 - Sep 19, 2023
|Single Supp Cost||
France is wonderfully crisscrossed with long-distance footpaths called Grande Randonnee. These routes are referred to as GR and are typically number. Starting in the Alps de Haute Provence, we follow the the GR 4 from the ancient village of Annot through the Gorge du Verdon, across the Durance River and into the Regional Parc of the Luberon, the Provence of Peter Mayle's Toujours Provence. North of the Luberon, our hike along the GR 6 and GR 97 is punctuated with charming villages perchés (perched villages) including Saignon, Roussillon, and the lovely Saint Saturnin-les-Apt.
During this 10-day inn-to-inn trip we will have the opportunity to experience the diversity of Provence. In the Verdon Region, the scenery is that of 1,500-ft limestone cliffs, high jagged mountains, and the deep Verdon River gorge. From Moustiers to Cereste, we will hike out of the Alps and cross the open plateau of the Valensole, through lavender fields, cherry orchards, vineyards, and poppy fields. Hiking up along the high bluff of the Grand Luberon, which offers expansive views of the entire area, we will descend down into the once-fortified village of Saignon. We will explore the picturesque village of Saint Saturnin-les-Apt with its ancient fortified chapel and end our trip in the village of Roussillon set atop dramatic ochre cliffs.
Traveling Provence on foot is one of the best ways to savor the region's many pleasures. To be enveloped in its warm breezes scented with hints of rosemary, thyme, and lavender, to wander the narrow streets of its ancient villages, feel the cool walls of its canyons, walk the length of cypress-lined vineyards and end each day in the comfort of a country inn, is to become at home in these peaceful and relaxing landscapes. We hope you'll join us!
Day 1: Independent transfer from Nice by the little train, Chemins de Fers de Provence, to the small, picturesque village of Annot. This scenic train trip takes about 2 hours. Annot not only has a long, rich history, dating back to 1084, but nearby are unique geological features, les gres of d’Annot – huge sandstone boulders and cliffs that were formed some 40 million years ago. If you arrive early, there is a wonderful half-day hike, the “Chambre du Roi,” which loops around these formations and through an amazing chestnut forest. Welcome dinner and area orientation.
Day 2: Annot to Castellane: From Annot, we transfer to St. Andre les Alpes, from where we will begin the hike to Castellane. This isolated trail follows paths high above the western side of the Lac de Castillon. Part of this hike will be on jeep roads, through forests, and on high overlooks. This is a varied day of hiking. We meet our van at the tiny hamlet of La Baume for transfer to Castellane.
Set alongside the northern end of the Verdon River, the village of Castellane is known as the gateway to the Verdon Gorge region. This strikingly picturesque village is nestled beneath a high rock promontory crowned by the chapel Notre Dame du Roc, Our Lady of the Rock. Shops, hotels, and appealing cafes border the leafy town square, where locals gather to play boules. Narrow lanes wind through the cozy village interior leading to fountains, tiny shops, boulangeries, and boucheries. Castellane has been inhabited since before Roman times and evidence of these early settlers is still visible.
Day 3: Castellane to Point Sublime: Departing Castellane, we hike through what some guidebooks refer to as “the most dramatic and natural scenery in all of France.” The scenery is impressive. The limestone and rock outcroppings rise up in pinnacles, while the Verdon River flows below. The trail takes us by picturesque gardens, abandoned farms and high plateaus. We end our day with a descent to the town of Rougon and then to our hotel in Point Sublime. Rougon, with its red-roofed houses perched along the hillside, is situated right on the edge of the Gorges of Verdon.
Day 4: Point Sublime to Moustiers St. Marie: Today’s hike takes us down into the Gorges du Verdon, through tunnels, up ladders, and along the river. This hike is more strenuous than the other days, as it involves steep ascents and descents, hiking through tunnels (some of which are dark, so bring your flashlights) and a long set of ladders with 240 steps to ascend. These ladders have handrails on either side and are more like steep stairs. Ending our hike at La Maline, we will then have a short transfer to our hotel in Moustiers St. Marie. This is a dramatic, stunning hike.
Day 5: Rest Day: Known as the village of “Faience” (pottery), Moustiers was an important center of pottery during the 17th and 18th centuries until the demand for English china and porcelain increased so much that the “pottery fires eventually died out.” Thanks to the influence of Marcel Provence in the late 1900s, the fires have been rekindled, and today there are numerous pottery workshops in Moustiers. Be sure to save some room in your pack for a few items! Dinner on your own.
Day 6: Moustiers St. Marie to Céreste: A shorter hiking day will take us from Moustiers to Riez. This will allow time for browsing around both interesting villages. On today’s hike, the landscape changes dramatically as we descend from the mountains and begin to hike across open plains. With the mountains serving as a backdrop, our trail leads us by oak forests, busy encouraging the growth of truffles, as well as through lavender and poppy fields. The Roman village of Riez is said to be the oldest town in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and is somewhat bypassed by tourism.
From Riez we will transfer by private van across the Plateau de Valensole and then the Durance River to the small village of Céreste, where we spend two nights.
Céreste is a Roman-era village on the very edge of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and just inside the Parc Naturel du Luberon. The village has an air of rustic authenticity with its main street shaded by ancient plane trees and lined with shops and cafes. While wandering its narrow interior streets remnants of medieval fortifications can still be seen as well as examples of various architectural styles dating back to the 13th century. Bordered by fields to the east and the Luberon mountain range to the south, Céreste remains a quiet village.
Day 7: Day hike around Céreste - Prieré de Carluc and Monjustin
Our hike today begins by following a section of the pilgrimage route, the Santiago de Compostela, to a Romanesque bridge spanning the little Encrême River and leading to the impressive ruins of the 11th-century Carluc Priory and its 12th-century Saint-Pierre church. Continuing from the priory, our hike leads up to the little hilltop fortified hamlet of Montjustin. Its 11th-century ramparts are still visible and offer a great picnic spot with a view. From the ridge, there are beautiful views of the Grand Lubéron to the south and to the north over the Aiguebelle and Encrême Valleys. Our day ends back at our gite in the village of Céreste.
Day 8: Grand Luberon to Roussillon: Short transfer to the trailhead for the Grand Luberon. Though not a high Alp, the hiking on the Grand Luberon is rewarding and a bit demanding hike as we gain steady elevation to reach the crest. As we hike along the crest-line of this grand mountain we’ll have 360-degree views. On a clear day, we can see as far as the Mediterranean. After reaching Le Mourre Nègre, the highest point of the Grand Luberon, we descend steeply to Saignon. From Saignon we'll transfer to the village of Roussillon.
Roussillon is a perfectly picturesque Provencal village, with its narrow streets and all the buildings painted in varying hues of the ochre. The ochre was once mined in the area, and is evidenced in the nearby cliffs beautifully striated in colors ranging from pale yellows, oranges to deep reds and everything in between. The inhabitants of the area began mining ochre in prehistoric times and by the 19th century export of the ochre dust was considerable. The onset of synthetic dyes put the ochre mines out of business. The effects of this mining have made for some very interesting rock formations. If there’s time, a walk through the “Sentier des Ocres”, the old mining area, and beneath these impressive cliffs is well worth it.
Day 9: Saint Saturnin-les-Apt to Roussillon: Short transfer to Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt for walk to Roussillon. This quiet and unassuming village is full of history dating back to Roman times. Its old church and fortress and quaint narrow streets are enjoyable to stroll. Time and crowds have left this town relatively untouched.
Today’s walk to Roussillon leads through vineyards, olive groves, almond trees, forests, open fields, and down grassy lanes. The view, across the Luberon valley and all the way to the rounded humps of the Grand Luberon, is lovely. The spectacular ochre cliffs greet us as we near Roussillon. It is a stunning hike.
Day 10: Transfer to Marseille Airport: Depart Roussillon after breakfast at about 8:30 am arriving at the Marseille Airport at about 10:30 am. There are frequent shuttle buses from the airport to the TGV station in Aix en Provence, where you can take a train to other parts of France. A direct train to Paris departs from the TGV station in Aix en Provence for those who plan to travel to Paris.
If you wish to have your own room, there is a single supplement charge. Please let us know if you would like a single at the time of registration.
If you are a solo traveler and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If there is no one with whom you can share, a "forced" single supplement fee of $325 will apply.
Airfare, travel to Annot (the starting location), one dinner in Moustiers, some lunches, optional/individual transfers or excursions, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to guides/leaders, items of a personal nature.
This hike includes luggage transfer each day. You will need to carry a small day pack with the clothing and extra items you will need for the day. Having said that, we recommend that you keep your luggage to a size that you can easily manage yourself, given that our accommodations may have narrow hallways and no elevator. See our sample packing list.
While this trip includes luggage transfer, it is not vehicle supported. Participants should be in a physical condition appropriate to the strenuousness of this hike. It is, however, possible to skip a day of hiking and take a taxi to the next hotel. This extra cost is not included in the price of the trip.
Hotels: The hotels on this route are very comfortable; some are simple but classic, and others are comfortable and charming. All reflect the local character and offer a warm Provencal welcome. Unless noted, all have private bathrooms. Three hotels have swimming pools.
Meals: Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels and lunches are picnic-style along the trail.
It is easiest to fly into Nice and out of Marseille. However, if your plans include travel to Paris, you can take the train from the TGV train station directly to Paris. Travel time from the Marseille airport is about 30 minutes by shuttle; travel from the TGV Station in Aix to Paris is about 3 hours.
The trip will begin at the hotel in Annot. Participants can take the scenic train from Nice to Annot – Chemins de Fers de Provence. The travel time is about 2 hours.
The trip will end with a morning transfer from Roussillon the Marseille Airport, arriving at about 10:30 am; please make travel plans accordingly.
This hike is a great combination of the Mediterranean climate, mountain views, varied hiking terrain, picturesque villages, remote hiking, and overnight stays in comfortable, relaxing inns. We grade this trip strenuous with some moderate. Though not as difficult or as challenging as our Alps hikes, participants should be prepared for a few long days on rugged terrain. You will be completely enchanted and impressed with the beauty and the fantastic hiking this area has to offer.
If you would like to register, or receive more information, including a detailed itinerary (including elevation gains, loss, and distance), please contact us. We're also happy to supply a list of past participants willing to share their insights into this guided Hiking Provence Inn-to-Inn experience.
A deposit of $500 along with your completed registration forms will reserve a space on your requested trip. We accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express card as well as personal checks. To make a deposit, you may either follow one of the “Reserve a Trip” links below, give us a call at 1-888-845-5781, or include your payment information in the area provided when completing your registration forms.
The balance is due 75 days prior to departure for most of our trips. When applying less than 75 days prior to departure, full payment is due. For final payments, we accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express, as well as personal checks.
As confirmation of receipt of your deposit, we will send you a comprehensive packet of information pertaining to your trip, an invoice for final payment and additional information including release agreement form, medical information form, travel information, and packing list. Upon receipt of final payment and no later than 30 days prior to your trip start, you will receive trip rendezvous information and a list of accommodations. Returning trip participants will receive a 5% discount on most trips.
Receipt of all forms will finalize your registration.
I liked your relationship with the people at the inns we visited – it was as though we were returning friends instead of American tourists. You were sensitive to them as well as to us.
Louise VanWinkle, ME
“I enjoyed everything about the trip. All of the pre-trip information was excellent and very thorough. I loved all the places we ended up, wonderful inns, great food and nice villages. Julie and Sarah were knowledgeable and fun, I would love to travel with them again. I thought it was a good value and would definitely recommend it.”