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The Vaucluse in 10 stages , for a dream Provencal holiday

Posted by Michel on May 3, 2022

There’s nothing like the sound of cicadas to make you feel on holiday ! Although they are a wonderful accompaniment to the evening aperitif, they do not tell you about all the wonders offered by this beautiful region of Provence. Zoom in on 10 not-to-be-missed discoveries in the Vaucluse, rich in thousand-year-old cities, unique landscapes and activities to make your stay perfectly unforgettable.

#1 On the Bridge of Avignon

Avignon has so many treasure that it would take several days to simply touch them all. Let’s first mention the Pont Saint-Bénézet, which you probably know better as the Pont d’Avignon and which was unfortunately largely destroyed due to lack of maintenance in the 17th century. Although it no longer needs traffic standards, don’t miss the four arches that still exist !

Continue with a visit to some of the city’s most important builidings : the Pope’s Palace, the Notre-Dame-des-Doms Cathédral, the Petit Palais Museum, the Calvet Museum and the Saint-André Fort.

Finally, if your stay is in July, you will have the pleasure of participating in the Avignon Festival, created by Jean Villar in 1947 and which remains to this day one of the most important international events for contemporary performing arts.

#2 La Belle Orange

Let’s continue our escapade in the Vaucluse with the pretty town of Orange, nicknamed “City of Princes” and endowed with an inescapable historical heritage. Starting with its fabulous ancient theatre dating from the first century AD, where you can still attend concerts and other shows today. The Arc de Triomphe, from the same period, is located a little further north and, like the ancient theatre , is protected by Unesco.

There are also many majestic buildings to be admired from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when the city was the capital of the principality of Orange, ruled by the Nassau dynasty, whose descendants still rule the Netherlands.

Of course, you will aslo find in Orange all that makes the charm of the Provençal towns : the market , local specialities , good wines, and the pleasure of living there !

#3 Many charming villages

The Vaucluse has the disadvantage that you will certainly not be able to discover all its wonders in a single stay. Many villages and small towns are worth spending a few hours in, such as :

  • Gordes, home to Senanque Abbey and the fabulous village of bories
  • L’Isle sur la Sorgue and its flowery canals
  • Lourmarin, one the most beautiful villages in France
  • Pernes-les-Fontaines and its fortifications
  • Ménerbes on its rocky outcrop
  • La Tour d’Aigues, whose plans are inspired by great castles

And so many others …

#4 Mont Ventoux

Once your urban escapades are over, we suggest you set off to conquer the natural wonders of the Vaucluse, which are no less numerous. The Mont Ventoux, culmintaing at 1,912m in altitude and visible froma hundred kilometres arround, offers an incomparable panorama over the valley. A stage in the Tour de France, its acsent is popular with cyclists, but can be done by car or on foot.

The later option is preferable if you wish to discover the biosphere reserve on its slopes : birds, birds of prey, chamois and even wolves can be observed here , as well as many interesting plant species. Beware of the Mistral wind when you are on the summit, and the drop in temperature, sometimes 10 degrees lower than in the valley.

#5 The Colorado of Rustrel

Also know as the Colorado Provençal, it is a former ochre quarry classified as a Historic Monument, of which a few traces remain : old wagons or pipes. The last ochre worker having retired in 1002, only tourists now visit the place.

The warm colours of the area leave no visitor indifferent, and several circuits allow access to beautiful viewpoints. You can admire the famous fairy chimneys, splendid columns of sedimentary rock topped by a mound of hard stone giving the whole a mushroom-like appearance.

#6 Caves of Thouzon

The caves of Thouzon were discovered in 19020 and allow you to walk through the bed of a fossilized underground river. The cold ( 13 degrees ) and mysterious atmosphere inherent to any cave inspires respectful contemplation, but the wonderment reaches its peak when the gold-coloured fistulas are discovered, earning the place the nickname of the fairy cave.

As a good tourist spot, you will find a shop, a snack bar and a picnic area. A diversion that is well worth it, as it is the only natural underground site developed for tourism in the Vaucluse.

#7 A lavender bouquet

Emblematic of south-eastern France and in particular of Provence, lavender in flower from mid-June to the end of August is a beauty to be admired without reserve throughout the Vaucluse. From the Abbaye de Senanque in Gordes where the Cistercian monks cultivate it, to the lavender festival held each year in mid-August in Sault, you will find lavender all along your itinerary.

There is even a museum dedicated to lavender in Cabrières-d’Avignon, allowing you to discover all aspects of its culture and tradition, its place in our world and the many applications that arise from it. If you are unable to distinguish fine lavender from real lavender, a visit is a must !

#8 Gorges de la Nesque

Between Monieux and Villes-sur-Auzon, you can meander along a picturesque road that offers a glimpse of some of the most beautiful scenery in the region. A stop at the belvedere of Castellaras will allow you to admire the panorama and the Rocher du Cire, so named because the bees like to take refuge there.

Classified as a biosphere reserve, the preserved nature of the Nesque gorges will also delight hikers, who can go down to the bottom of the gorges and discover the discreet Nesque, well camouflaged by its green setting. Don’t miss the small troglodyte chapel, dating from the 12th century and only accessible on foot.

#9 Les Dentelles de Montmirail

These rocky spurs cut into the Provencal landscape like an impregnable natural fortress. If the massif looks impressive from below, it is certainly even more so for the intrepid who have the audacity to climb it ! With a 360-degree view of the entire surrounding region, the scenery is sublime and the satisfaction, guaranteed.

Several climbing routes are offered according to the level of the visitor and a guide can secure the adventure, for an initiation or a “big route” outing for the most experienced climbers.

#10 Buoux Fort and Mornas Fortress

Geographically distant from each other, these two relics from another age are both worth a visit, for history buffs as well as for tourists simply eager to see beautiful stones and landscapes.

The fortress of Mornas stands at an attitude of 137 metres north of Orange, on a rocky spur on the left bank of the Rhône. Although the French Revolution has caused it to lose the strategic importance it had since antiquity, the view and the medieval entertainment will be well worth the effort it will take to reach it.

The Buoux fort also sits on a rocky spur, this time in the Luberon Regional Park. This ancient Celto-Ligurian oppidum is the first rocky site in Provence. The ramparts, the hidden staircase, the clever defences and the remains of the medieval village will not fall to attract anyone : don’t hesitate to take the time to visit it.

Let’s finish by telling you a secret only known to the people of Vaucluse : the Marquis de Sade owned a castle in Saumane-de-Vaucluse!

If your stay leaves you time for other discoveries, take the 14 foutains circuit in Pernes-les-Fontaines, hike in the Cedar forest in Bonnieux or refresh yourself at the Bonde pond. In short, let yourself be carried away by the tranquillity of Provence…

Before leaving, you should not miss the charming village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, to admire its castle but also to enrich your cellar!

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