Hike the Landscapes of Provence in Lavender Season
|Location||Verdon Gorge and Luberon Regions of France|
|Accommodations||Hotels, Small Inns|
|Dates||We will be scheduling dates for this trip soon. Please check back.|
|Single Supp Cost||
Jean Giono, the French author, famously said, “Lavender is the soul of Provence.” Lavender has long been recognized for its healing and aromatic qualities, and until recently, Provence has been one of the world’s leading producers. From the end of June to mid-July, when harvesting typically takes place, the landscapes of Haute Provence and the Luberon can be ablaze with this curiously vibrant blue and purple flower.
A variation of our Provence Inn-to-Inn itinerary, this 10-day trip revisits some of our favorite villages and trails at a more leisurely pace and with a special emphasis on hitting some lavender highlights. Starting in the medieval village of Annot, the gateway to the Verdon Gorge area, we’ll experience the rugged beauty of Haute Provence as we hike along trails scented by wild lavender. Our hikes will take us to Castellane, the tiny hamlet of Chasteuil, through the impressive gorge itself, and on to the wonderful village of Mousiter St. Maire, perched between the mountains and the fertile plateau of Valensole. From the lavender fields, fruit orchards and olive and oak groves of the Valensole, we’ll transition to the UNESCO-listed nature reserve of the Parc Naturel Régional du Lubéron. Defined by the high bluffs of the Luberon massifs to the south and the Plateau de Vaucluse to the north, this is a region of forested foothills, open farmland, hidden valleys, and charming medieval hilltop villages.
There is an ease and a peacefulness to the landscapes and villages of Provence that make them worth savoring again and again. Whether experiencing these areas for the first time or returning for another taste, you’ll discover a richness and sense of connection only traveling on foot can provide. Join us!
Day 1: Travel to Annot: Independent transfer by train from Nice to Annot. This scenic train trip takes about 2 hours.
Annot is a lively little village with a charming village center, set against the unique geological features of Les Gres d’Annot — huge sandstone boulders, and cliffs that formed some 40 million years ago. The village itself is a gem of narrow walkways, revealing 14th-century medieval buildings, intricately carved doors, covered passages, arcades, and babbling fountains. The cliffs and rock formations of Les Gres d’Annot have become a playground for rock climbers. For those interested in keeping their feet on the ground, there is a wonderful half-day hike, the “Chambre du Roi”, which loops around these formations. Welcome dinner at our simple country hotel in the center of the village.
Day 2: Annot to Castellane: From Annot, we transfer to St. Andre-les-Alpes, from where we will begin the hike. Starting at the very northern end of Lac de Castillon, our route climbs gently up to the isolated plateau of Courchons, offering expansive views of the surrounding countryside. From Courchons, our trail traverses high above Lac Castillon. Lined intermittently with patches of wild mountain lavender, we’ll get our first whiffs of warmly-scented provincial air! Descending to the tiny settlement of Blaron, we’ll be met for our 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. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 3: Castellane to Chasteuil and short transfer to Point Sublime: We’ll have the morning to explore Castellane, shop for lunch and perhaps walk up to the chapel Notre Dame du Roc before heading out on our hike to Chasteuil.
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. Along the way, as always, our route will be dotted with wild mountain lavender. Afternoon transfer to our Auberge, located at the entrance of the Gorge du Verdon. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 4: Point Sublime – Gorge du Verdon – Moustiers St. Marie: Our day will start with an early-morning transfer to Couloir Samson, the entrance to Gorge de Verdon. Today’s hike takes us into the dramatically beautiful Gorges du Verdon. Also referred to as the Grand Canyon of Verdon, at over 15 miles long and 2,300 feet deep in places, it is the second-largest gorge in the world. Descending under dramatic red and yellow striped limestone cliffs, we’ll arrive shortly at the riverbed and a newly-constructed set of cement stairs that leads to a set of tunnels constructed before WWII. Once through the tunnels, our route undulates pleasantly as it follows the river. We pass in and out of thin stands of oak forest with ever-changing views of the river and canyon walls. Several hours into the hike, the trail climbs steeply as we approach a long set of stair-like ladders with handrails and 240 steps. We descend again to the river where we can stop for a riverside picnic and a chance to cool our feet before our final climb out of the gorge. Ending our hike at Chalet de La Maline, we will have time for a cool drink before transferring to our hotel in Moustiers St. Marie. This is a dramatic, stunning hike. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 5: Free day in Moustiers St. Marie: Designated as one of France’s “Plus Beaux Villages” (Most Beautiful Villages), impressive Moustiers is nestled at the entrance of the Ravin de Notre Dame. A mountain stream cascades luxuriantly through the center of the village and welcoming shops and cafes line its sunny and pleasant walking streets. The chapel of Notre Dame de Beauvoir crowns the village, underneath a gold star that has been whimsically suspended between two towering outcroppings on either side of the ravine.
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 is on your own, breakfast only.
Day 6: Moustiers St. Marie to Riez – Plateau of Valensole – Transfer to Saignon: Today we’ll travel through one of the most important lavender-producing areas in France. The landscape changes dramatically as we hike out of the more mountainous part of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and begin to make our way across open plains. Whereas most of the lavender we have seen along the route so far has been wild, today we should be walking through a sea of cultivated fields. With the mountains serving as a backdrop, our route leads us by lavender, oak forests (which encourage the growth of truffles), and olive groves. Our hike will end in the Roman village of Riez, said to be the oldest town in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Four Corinthian columns, the remains of a Roman temple to Apollo, can still be seen in a small park bordering the town.
From Riez we will transfer by private van across the Plateau de Valensole, one of the largest lavender producing and distilling areas in the region, and then cross the Durance River and travel to the small village perche of Saignon, set within the Luberon Regional Park. Once a fortified village, Saignon sits on the west face of the Grand Luberon Mountain at an elevation of 1,560'. We will spend two nights in Saignon in a small, wonderful auberge. Dinner and breakfast.
Day 7: Tour of the Plateau de Claparedes: Between villages of Buoux to the west, Sivergues to the south, Saignon to the north and Auribeau to the east lies the lavender-carpeted Plateau de Claparèdes. Our day will begin with a short transfer to the ancient hamlet of Sivergues. Meaning “six virgins,” this tiny settlement was, according to legend, founded by six nuns and a monk. Following a cobbled mule path, part of a once-famous salt route connecting Marseille with the city of Apt during the Middle Ages, we’ll hike down into the Aigue Brun Gorge. This tiny, secluded valley etched by the Aigue Brunn River has been traveled since prehistoric times. Romans settled a strategic plateau above the valley that later became the site of the medieval Fort de Buoux, the ruins of which still remain. Climbing up out of the gorge, we’ll follow the GR Pays du Tour des Claparedes as it passes through the little hamlet of Buoux, skirts the plateau and returns us to Saignon. En route, we’ll have the opportunity to stop at a local, family-run lavender distillery, where we can see and learn how lavender oil is extracted. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 8: Saint Saturnin-les-Apt to Roussillon: Short transfer to Saint Saturnin. After time to visit the lovely and quiet village and fortress at Saint Saturnin we will walk to Roussillon. The way 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. Overnight in Roussillon. Dinner and breakfast.
Day 9: Roussillon to Senanque Abbey: From Roussillon, our walk will take us across the Cavaillon plain, a landscape of cherry orchards, vineyards and, of course, lavender, to the wonderfully-restored village perche of Gorde. Also designated has one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages, Gorde clings to the edge of the Plateau du Vaucluse. Whitestone houses climb the hillside to the top of the village, which is dominated by a Renaissance castle and church. From Gorde we’ll continue on to Cistercian Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, famous for its lush lavender fields. Founded in 1148, the Abbey’s fortunes have fluctuated throughout the centuries. A small community of monks still resides there. An afternoon transfer will bring us back to Roussillon for our farewell dinner.
Day 10: Transfer to Marseilles Airport: We’ll depart the hotel at about 8:30 am, arriving at the airport at about 10:30 am. If you plan to continue your travels in France there are frequent shuttle buses to the Aix-en-Provence TGV train station.
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 traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If there is no one with whom you can share, we will not charge you extra for this “forced” single.
Airfare, one dinner in Moustiers, 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 daypack with the clothing and extra items you will need for the day. 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 elevators. See our sample packing list.
While this trip includes luggage transfer, it is not vehicle supported. Participants should be in 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, others offer a high standard of amenities. 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 Marseilles. However, if your plans include travel to Paris, it is possible to take the train between Paris and the Aix-en-Provence TGV train, which is about 8 miles from the Marseille Provence Airport. Frequent shuttle buses run between the airport and TGV station.
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.
If you would like to receive more information, a more detailed itinerary (including elevation gains, loss, and distance), or to register, please contact us. We're also happy to supply you with a list of past participants willing to share their insights into this guided Colors of Provence Hike.
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