Luberon, Provence

Hillside villages, rural architecture and peaceful olive groves in the heart of Provence

Overview

Aaah the ‘Art de Vivre’, the art of living, the French know what it’s all about. Although the term originally implied luxury and elegance, it’s really more about enjoying life’s simple indulgences – wandering timeless cobbled streets, savouring a pungent piece of local goat’s cheese or taking time to converse with neighbours in the market. After all, why hurry? Indeed nowhere is this way of life embraced more enthusiastically than in the beautiful Luberon region, a protected area lying in the French south between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. Long a well-kept secret, Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” put a stop to that, as visitors arrived to enjoy the long hot summers, stunning purple lavender fields, medieval churches and simple village life of the Luberon and Vaucluse ranges.

To really experience the region’s idyllic lifestyle head this way in low season. Winters can be harsh and the locals baton down their hatches. Instead try spring when days are warmer and wild flowers bloom, or autumn when golden colours light up the countryside cliff faces. Explore these, the most beautiful of Provençale villages, unchanged for a thousand years – Gordes, Roussillon, Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Lacoste, and more wait for you to discover them. During these low season periods, prices are lower, producers and restaurant owners have more time to relax and chat and you’ll find the peace you came for.

Markets

Love to shop? Well there is a Luberon market for every day of the week, selling local bread, olives, honey, cheese, pottery, and handicrafts. These are a fun place to mingle and do some outstanding people watching. They vary from tiny affairs with a handful of stalls, up to 300 sellers in the case of the Saturday market in Apt. Most start early and are packing up by lunch, although some, like the one at Velleron, are evening events.  Many function year round and you’ll find better prices in the low season, especially in the markets of Lourmarin and l’Isle sur la Sorgue.

Hiking & Biking

A network of beautiful routes is accessible for walkers of all abilities. Whether you opt for a week long serious trek or gentle strolls, you’ll come across hidden caves, Roman ruins, old mills, abandoned villages and stunning views. Make use of the well signed paths between villages. Take morning coffee in Bonnieux, then wader the 45 minute trail to enjoy lunch in Lacoste. Cycling is also popular, with a number of circuits taking in all the best sites. To avoid hills try the Calavon River route which follows an old rail line.

Castles in the Air

Each village was built around its own castle, so there are many to explore. In low season, you may even find you have the place to yourself.  Some Luberon castles date back as far as the 10th century and are in various states of repair. The well-preserved example at Gordes lies in the very centre of the village, while Lourmarin Castle is surrounded by olive trees and is used for exhibitions and concerts. The Marquis de Sade fled to the castle at Lacoste to escape his riotous Parisian reputation, and it’s now owned by fashion designer Pierre Cardin. Others, such as Oppede and Merindol, are in ruins but are worth visiting for their great views.


Low Season Saving

From 35% versus Peak Season


Major Airport

Marseille Provence Airport MRS

Low Season Months

Jan Feb Mar
11°C
25mm
7hrs
Apr
13°C
48mm
7hrs
May
18°C
46mm
8hrs
Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
16°C
60mm
5hrs
Nov Dec

Hotels

Top Experiences

Vintage Car Road Trip

Put roof down and travel in a classic 2CV, old Beetle cabriolet, or an Austin Healey. With the wind in your hair, take a journey to remember, discovering all the perched villages, markets, castles and foodie havens.

Hot Air Balloon Flight

A perfect bird’s eye view of Luberon’s picturesque landscape. Early morning flights offer a unique perspective as the sun lights up the idyllic scene with changing shades of green and ochre as you float silently above.

Spa Day

Relax and rejuvenate with a full day of pampering in a tranquil setting. Many luxury spas offer an indulgent gastronomic menu for lunch or dinner, such as the 5 star charming dry-stone building at Hôtel Le Phébus in Gordes.

Insider Tips

  • Some of the world’s best artists have been inspired by the glorious landscape. Cézanne is the most famous resident of the area, Picasso bought a local castle, and Van Gogh moved from Paris in a vain attempt to cure his depression.
  • Luberon residents take their olive oil production as seriously as their wine making. See the fine processes that the olives go through and attend a tasting at Moulin du Clos des Jeannons in Gordes or Bastide du Laval in Cadenet.
  • Forget ‘Antiques Roadshow’, grab a second hand trinket at the International Fair in l’Isle sur Sorgue. After London, it’s the second largest collectors’ fair in Europe, hosting hundreds of exhibitors, experts, collectors and bargain-hunters.

Good To Know

  • Public transportation is scant at the best of times, and worse in low season, so it is highly recommended to rent a car. Make sure you choose a small one as village streets weren’t designed for much larger than a horse and cart.
  • Most restaurants in France do not serve after 2pm and it’s even truer during low seasons. So, lunch is served from 12 to 2pm, and dinner 7 to 9pm. A substantial siesta is enjoyed between the two during which many shops close.
  • Lavender season may be over, but never fear, you’ll find plenty of local products infused with the fragrant product. Lavender bread, tea, ice cream and honey are all popular, while Agnels Distillery in Apt offers guided tours year round.

Food & Drink

La Vie en Rose, Coustellet

£££

Very delicate pastries and a great tearoom. Try their hot chocolate especially when the wind is blowing outside. The fruit tarts are an absolute work of art.

Le 9, Lourmarin

£££

Lovely staff serving excellent French dishes from seasonal produce in a delightful atmosphere and exquisitely decorated stone building, steps from the Chateau.

Le Bistro Les Poulivets, Oppède

££££

Chef Patrick Piquet and his wife Sandrine use 100% local only products creating such tasty delights. It’s a real Provence experience in the heart of the old village.

Reviews

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