The most beautiful places in the Luberon - Provence, France
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Lavender fields as far as the eye can see, dramatic sunsets, romantic mountain villages - the Luberon is without a doubt one of the most beautiful corners of Europe. And after we visited the region for a short trip in the summer of 2018, it was time to return. This time in autumn and with plenty of time to really not miss any highlights.
- Useful information and tips
- The most beautiful villages in the Luberon
- Hiking in the Luberon
- With a dog in the Luberon
Luberon: Good to know
The Luberon in the Vaucluse is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Provence and has not been declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO for nothing. Because while most people associate this region with lavender and picturesque medieval villages, there is much more to admire in the region southeast of Avignon. Wild gorges and rocky landscapes, mountains and fragrant pine forests, for example. By the way: The region is named after the 60-kilometer-long mountain range of the same name. The Luberon has the highest point with the Mourre Nègre at 1,124 meters.
Tips for your Luberon trip
- Best travel time: summer (lavender blossom), autumn (much calmer, still warm)
- Recommended Duration: A week is ideal to see the highlights without having to rush. You can get a first impression within two days.
- Restaurants close between 2pm and 7pm. During this time there are at most drinks. In villages even supermarkets are closed.
- Apartment with a kitchen saves a lot of money, eating out is comparatively expensive. Breakfast is the best value for money. At lunchtime there are specials (plat du jour).
- Gain basic knowledge of French: French people often do not speak English. In addition, it is considered more polite to at least try.
- A car is recommended, sufficient parking spaces are available everywhere. Buses run little to infrequently.
- Don't just visit the most famous villages, the lesser known ones are just as charming and quiet.
Accommodation in Luberon
Before I reveal which places have particularly impressed me, I would like to give you tips for the perfect accommodation. The small cabanons are particularly popular, i.e. restored, small stone houses that originally served the farmers and can be found almost everywhere, especially in quiet, natural locations. Some are kept simple, others offer upscale amenities and pool. Our cabanon was right in a lavender field. Of course, there are also bed and breakfasts, (luxury) hotels and holiday apartments in every price category.
Best travel time for the Luberon - Lavender blossom, temperatures, tourism.
We have visited the Luberon in summer and autumn. In summer, of course, the lavender, which blooms from mid-June to the end of July, is THE argument for a visit. And I have to say, the endless purple fields are really more than worth seeing. Nevertheless, the fall convinced us more in the end. The summer is not only extremely hot, there are also really many tourists on the move. In autumn it is still warm (20-25 degrees a day) and sunny, but it is much more relaxed. Even the most popular villages are never overcrowded. In addition, accommodation costs significantly less. Spring is certainly a wonderful time to visit the Luberon. Here, too, you have mild temperatures and yet plenty of sun. And if it doesn't bother you that it can rain more often and that the daytime temperatures rarely climb above 20 degrees, then there's nothing wrong with a winter trip to the Luberon.
The most beautiful villages in the Luberon (Provence)
It's time to talk about the highlights of the Luberon and those are indeed the hilltop villages. I would like to start with one that really doesn't deserve the name insider tip (I'll get to that one, I promise). Gordes.
The best way to admire Gordes is from the panoramic platform, which is opposite the town on the D15. Because Gordes is enthroned dramatically on a rocky outcrop. A little insider tip is the sunrise. Because the sun rises (seen from the platform) at the foot of the city. Splendid. There are large parking lots just before the town. Gordes is surprisingly quick to explore on foot. The old village square is particularly pretty. You might even recognize him from the film A Good Year, which was filmed here. Incidentally, you can enjoy a small breakfast with a fantastic view at Le Cercle Republican, which has a hidden terrace overlooking the landscape.
By the way: The Abbaye Notre Dame Senanque is only a few minutes' drive from Gordes. Especially worth seeing when the lavender blossoms, even if it is often overcrowded.
Bonnieux is almost as iconic as Gordes. However - and this was the biggest surprise for us - this place felt completely different. On the one hand, it is embedded in a much greener landscape. On the other hand, the alleys are more intricate and invite you to take longer exploratory walks. From the outside, few towns can outperform Gordes, but I found Bonnieux's town center to be much prettier and more diverse. In my opinion, a visit is one of the highlights in the Luberon.
Like Bonnieux and Gordes, Lourmarin is one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. This place is relatively flat behind a prominent gorge and at first glance it seemed less picturesque than we had expected. But if you first stroll through the alleys, Lourmarin also quickly shows its pretty face. In a direct comparison, we liked Bonnieux a little better. By the way: The market that takes place every Friday is said to be the most beautiful in the Luberon.
Roussillon and its ocher cliffs
You may have heard that the Luberon is famous for its ocher cliffs. If you want to combine nature reminiscent of Colorado with a visit to a village, then you should go to Roussillon. At the gates of the city there is a hiking area worth seeing (attention, there is a charge), where you can take a tour through a red desert and rocky landscape. Then you can visit the pretty place, which will shine ocher in the distance.
Now we come to the first insider tip. Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt is one of the mountain villages, so it makes quite an impression from afar. And even if the town center is comparatively small, you can linger for a long time thanks to the nice cafés. If you like, you can also visit the castle that towers over the city.
My second insider tip is a place that I would prefer not to mention here. The picturesque mountain village of Saignon lies directly behind Apt and is perched spectacularly on a rock. Narrow streets, a village square that is more beautiful than any film set, nice cafes and a relaxed atmosphere make the place special. There are also two viewpoints from which Saignon itself and the surrounding area can be admired. Due to the fact that Saignon is still often overlooked (especially in the off-season), Saignon seems a bit sleepier but also more authentic than other villages in the Luberon.
Lacoste, Menerbes, Ansouis
Ansouis is known for its castle, which is considered to be the most beautiful in the area. You can already admire Lacoste from afar from Bonnieux, as the towns are directly across from each other. Incidentally, Lacoste is particularly striking because of its castle. And then there's Ménerbes, which also boasts a castle, stunning views of the region and stately mansions.
The small town of Apt, which is centrally located in the Luberon, exudes a bit of a city feeling. Here you will find a colourful, historic town center with numerous restaurants and shops. All around there are also a few larger supermarkets, gas stations or hardware stores.
Nature and hiking in the Luberon: Fort Buoux and Colorado Provencial
For me, a holiday is only perfect when I can explore new surroundings on a hike. And here, too, you get your money's worth in the Luberon. I would like to highlight two hikes.
The first is the hike to Fort Buoux (click here for Komoot), a ruined fortress on the territory of the southern French municipality of Buoux between the towns of Bonnieux and Apt. The special feature: Fort Buoux occupies a molasse base surrounded by rocky peaks and offers spectacular views of the mountains and gorges. A landscape that I would not have expected in the Luberon. The shortest hike is a three-kilometer circular route that leads up the slope to the mountaintop to the fortress and via a hidden staircase back to the valley. Important: Fort Buoux is chargeable (4 euros per person), but I can really recommend it. There is also a network of hiking trails in the region, which also allow for longer tours.
We did the second hike in the Colorado Provençal in Rustrel. The almost five kilometer long circular route is not particularly demanding, but it leads past rocks, through forests and even desert-like sections. Incidentally, admission is also required here (billing is per car).
Other highlights of the Luberon
- The towns of Simiane-la-Rotonde and Oppede le Vieux
- The natural highlights Gorge du Oppedette, Gorges de Véroncle, Lioux Quartier Maugras and Le Combe de Vaumale
- The Abbaye Notre Dame Senanque
- The market of Apt
- The Lavender Museum
With a dog in the Luberon
Of course, our dog was also part of this trip. We found the Luberon to be an ideal travel destination with a dog, especially in the mild autumn. If you visit in summer, make sure you always have enough water with you. We consistently found the restaurants and accommodations to be very dog-friendly.
You should know that throughout the Mediterranean there is an increased risk of your dog contracting a disease transmitted by sandflies. Get advice from your veterinarian before every trip, he can give you preventive medicine and the necessary deworming.
Attention hunt: What you should always consider when vacationing in France with a dog
Hunting season in France runs from September to March. And since hunters and hikers (especially with dogs) often cross paths, a few safety instructions should be considered. From my own experience I can say: the hunt is really present in Provence.
- Avoid twilight - this is the time when hunters are particularly active.
- Identify dogs, for example with colorful scarves or high-visibility vests, so that they cannot be mistaken for wild animals (this is how hunters do it, by the way).
- Do not leave the hiking trails, for example to look for mushrooms.
- Keep dog close to you.
- Look out for signs saying "chasse/battue en cours". Translated means hunting/driven hunt in progress.
Also read: Haute Provence with a dog: Southern France insider tips
Not far from the Luberon, Haute Provence offers everything you could want for a vacation in France: dramatic gorges, fields of lavender, waterfalls and of course romantic mountain villages.
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