Summers are special in Provence. During this time, usually-sleepy hilltop villages are bustling with activity, the cicadas are singing, and the surrounding fields are bathed in a majestic purple (lavender) and gold (sunflowers). Yes, it’s hot (the temperatures during this time of the year can get up to 40°C!), but none of that seems to matter when you’re strolling around the French countryside with some lavender ice cream in hand.
Our 7-day road trip through Provence started in Les Baux de Provence and ended in Aix-de-Provence, and took us through some of the most charming French towns I’ve ever seen. Each town had its own distinct character and personality. We visited in early July with the hopes of seeing the iconic lavender fields of the area in full bloom, and we were not disappointed!
Let this Provence photo diary inspire your next trip to France. Just make sure to book your trip in the summer season to catch the lavender fields at their best!
Les Baux and Saint-Remy de Provence
Our first stop in Provence was the medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence. It’s a small town but worth visiting, as there’s a lot to see and do in the village. Towering over the village are the ruins of the Castle of Les Baux, which is built upon the hill and offers sweeping views of the countryside. The castle grounds are large, and we spent a few hour exploring them. At the foot of the town is the world-famous Carriere des Lumiere museum. This museum is unlike any other – it’s built within the mountain and paintings are projected onto the surrounding rock surfaces! The exhibits are an absolute feast for the eyes.
L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue Sunday Market and Gordes
Sunday is a large market day in Provence, and the village of L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue offers one of the largest Sunday markets in all of France. The food stalls at the L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue market are filled with local produce, huge wheels of cheese, freshly-baked breads and pastries, barrels of olives, and homemade jam and honey. The ‘flea market’ section is an antique-lovers dream, featuring all types of vintage furniture, porcelain, cutlery, clothing, and other unique finds.
We explored the market with a large straw basket in hand, picking up items along the way for a hearty picnic along the Sorgue River. I’ll admit, we did go a bit overboard with our picnic – which consisted of a full rotisserie chicken, a basket of nectarines and cherries, two baguettes, a jar of cassis jam, a wheel of camembert cheese, a bag of sun-dried tomatoes and olives, a slice of vegetable quiche, and two very-pretty patisserie (passion fruit cheesecake and a raspberry tart!) for dessert. When in Provence right?
After the market, we headed to the neighboring village of Gordes. Gordes is perched on a rocky and dramatic hillside (for the best views of the town, stop at the lookout point along the D15/D2 heading into the town), and it is absolutely beautiful! Here, we walked up and down every tiny alleyway (we needed a way to burn off all the calories we consumed on our picnic!), and enjoyed panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards.
A short 5-minute drive outside of town is the famous Senanque Abbey, which is an iconic place for pictures of perfectly-arranged lavender fields.
Lavender Fields of Valensole
There are lavender fields scattered all over the region of Provence, but the most famous of them are located on the Valensole plateau, specifically around the Lavandes Angelvin (a tiny lavender-focused shop located along the Route de Manosque). The lavender fields at Lavandes Angelvin are absolutely breathtaking – and the way the plants line the gentle slopes makes it seem like the lavender fields go on for forever! A word of warning though, the fields near Lavandes Angelvin are quite popular so if you want to avoid the crowds….go earlier or later in the day!
If you’re lucky, you might even find a neighboring sunflower field in the area. The only thing better than frolicking in a lavender field, is frolicking between a sunflower and lavender field!
Moustiers St. Marie and Gorges du Verdon
Moustiers St. Marie was my favorite village in Provence. Every street and corner oozed with charm – the town seriously looked like it came straight out of a fairytale! Looking over the village is the Notre Dame de Beauvoir, a religious site that features a tiny chapel tucked in the mountains. We made the 262-step climb to the chapel and enjoyed panoramic views of the village and terraced olive groves.
A short 10-minute drive from Moustiers St. Marie is the Lake of St. Croix and the Gorges du Verdon National Park. The Gorges du Verdon is a beautiful river canyon and the deepest gorge in France. We rented a kayak from a shack along the nearby beach, and kayaked through the gorge, admiring the electric blue waters and jaw-dropping cliff-side views. It was one of the highlights of our trip, and I couldn’t recommend it enough!
Rejuvenation and Relaxation in Provence
There are places you visit with a packed back-to-back itinerary. But there are also places where it’s okay to relax and ‘do nothing’, Provence being one of them. Although there are several attractions and sites to see in the region (a few of them already mentioned in this post), make sure to have time reserved for relaxation.
We woke up late. We enjoyed leisurely breakfasts of homemade jams and bread. We took naps. We strolled around quaint villages with no set itinerary, no specific agenda. We were lucky enough to stay in a rustic provencal farmhouse (complete with windows and doors painted a tres particular lavender blue) with a kitchen, so we took a night off of eating-out, and spent a few hours preparing and cooking a nice dinner for ourselves. There’s really nothing better than a home-cooked dinner and a chilled glass of wine in the garden, under the stars.