Provence is celebrated for its clear light and cobblestoned villages, its historic palaces and its abbeys set amid lavender fields. Yet the Provence you discover when exploring on foot is even more magical: it’s a land of tumultuous geology where colors take on a new depth and brilliance. Pastel-colored hamlets dazzle against an impossibly blue sky and golden-stone farmhouses are tucked into orchards and vineyards ripe with plump fruit. Set off through gnarled olive trees, fields of poppies, and hillsides fragrant with wild thyme to discover the true spirit of Provence. Walk through wine country, hike under the jagged ridge of Les Dentelles de Montmirail, and climb to fortresses and medieval villages deep in the Lubéron.
Approach some of France’s most
beautiful villages on foot, enjoying a
unique perspective and time to explore.
Hike the Van Gogh trail around
St.-Rémy-de-Provence, walking through
landscapes the artist rendered in paint.
Meander through an abandoned ochre
quarry near Roussillon, where the red
glow of the rock creates an
Sample world-renowned wines in
Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas,
and sit down to a farm-to-table meal at
a local herb farm.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Avignon, France
Meet at the train station in Avignon and transfer to our hotel in the historic city center. Nestled on the Rhône and crowned by the immense Papal Palace, Avignon is as rich in history as it is in contemporary arts. Delve into this enchanting town on foot and walk below the legendary Pont d’Avignon, originally built in the 12th century. Then gather for a welcome dinner.
Cloître Saint-Louis (D)
Day 2 — Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Travel north to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where famous wines have been produced for more than a thousand years. Hike up to the castle and then into the endless vineyards that surround the village.
Stop for a picnic amid the vines and end the walk at a wine estate where we sample excellent local vintages. A short drive brings us to Vaison-la-Romaine, a gem of Roman and medieval art and architecture. Examine Roman mosaics and marble ruins before dinner at our hotel. (6 miles hiking, 3–4 hours) Hostellerie Le Beffroi or La Fete en Provence (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Dentelles de Montmirail
Just south of Vaison-la-Romaine, a fringe of jagged rock known as the Dentelles (or lace) de Montmirail rises abruptly above the hills. Our hike weaves among oak forests and hidden vineyards, following the ridge of the Dentelles to the beautiful town of
Gigondas. Enjoy a wine tasting and visit the village’s 11th-century church and Romanesque chapel. From here, walk through the hills to ninth-century village of Sablet. (6 miles hiking, 3 hours) Hostellerie Le Beffroi or La Fete en Provence (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Lacoste/Lourmarin
Starting in Bonnieux, dip down into the Calavon valley, walking through cherry orchards and past truffle-oak plantations. Our destination is Lacoste, a tight labyrinth of centuries-old homes winding up to the ruins of the castle of the Marquis de Sade. Stroll through the village and enjoy a pastis while overlooking the valley. Then visit a farm where herbes de Provence are grown. Learn about the many properties of rosemary, thyme, and lavender on a walk through the fields, and then sit down to a private farm-to-table meal. Cross the Luberon mountains to reach the picturesque village of Lourmarin (5 miles hiking, 3 hours) Le Mas de Guilles in Lourmarin (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Lubéron/Gordes
Artists and writers have long flocked to the Luberon, a string of mountains dotted with age-old villages, castles, and ancient beehive huts called bories. Our trail takes us toward the 12th century abbey Notre-Dame de Sénanque, one of the purest remaining examples of Cistercian architecture, where monks still cultivate lavender and honey. From mid-June to late-August, you may have the chance to see the monastery's lavender fields in bloom. Set out through the garrigue (scrub filled with wild herbs) on our way to the hilltop village of Gordes. (6 miles hiking, 3–4 hours) Le Mas de Guilles in Lourmarin (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Roussillon/St-Rémy-de-Provence
Follow the lush trail of the Aiguebrun river into the heart of the Lubéron. Climb up to the stunning 3,000 year-old Buoux Fort, set dizzyingly above sheer cliffs, and explore its secret passageways.
Then travel to Roussillon for lunch. Radiant ochre cliffs and pinnacles buttress this hilltop town, and its houses are painted with ochre sands in a palette ranging from pale yellow to crimson. Take a stroll through the brilliant sands of an abandoned ochre
quarry, and then travel west to St-Rémy-de-Provence, a historic market town. (4 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Hotel Gounod (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Alpilles
Set out on the Van Gogh trail, examining reproductions of his works as you walk through the very landscapes they depict. From the Saint-Paul asylum where he painted “Starry Night” and “Irises,” a winding track leads us to the crest of the dramatic Alpilles mountains, where the 360° view stretches from Mont Ventoux all the way to the Mediterranean. Spend the afternoon exploring St-Rémy, from the Roman ruins of Glanum to the labyrinth of cobbled lanes filled with artists’ shops and cafés at its center. (5 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Hotel Gounod (B,L)
Days 8 & 9 — Les Baux-de-Provence/Avignon
Hike from our hotel to Les Baux-de-Provence, a medieval hamlet set high on a rocky outcrop in the Alpilles. We’ll pass intimate squares and lovely terraces on our way up to the gates of the citadel. If you wish, explore the ruins of the citadel, see a collection of medieval war machines, and take in expansive views of the plains below. Return to Avignon in time for a farewell dinner. Depart the next day. (5–6 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Cloître Saint-Louis (B,L,D;B)
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.