We recently had the pleasure of staying in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region of France, and even though we saw a lot of villages during our stay, we barely scratched the surface! There are so many small towns and villages in Provence, especially in the Luberon. What is the Luberon you ask? Essentially it is the Tuscany of France. Rolling hills, hilltops villages, vineyards, orchards, lavender fields make this one of the most coveted areas to visit in France.
One thing to note is that we visited Provence in the winter, so a lot of shops and restaurants were closed, the lavender was not blooming, and the weather was less than ideal at times, however, we still enjoyed ourselves. If you are thinking about a trip to Provence and are trying to figure out the best time to visit, consider what is most important to you. If you MUST see the lavender fields in bloom, then go in late June or July. If you want to avoid massive crowds but still would like nice weather, go in spring or early autumn. If you really want to avoid people and don’t care too much about the weather and do most of your cooking in a vacation rental, then winter is right up your alley, and you could save a lot of money.
The four towns we list below are kind of spread out all over the place. None of them are actually in the Luberon, and most of them are small and less touristy than most of the other villages we visited. Since we are big on non-touristy places, these are the ones we wanted to share first.
This article is part one of three about villages we think are worth visiting in Provence.
Les Baux, France - A Crown on the Rocks
This village is the most touristed of those listed in this article, but since it is outside the Luberon and close to Avignon, we thought we would talk about this one first. Perched atop a rocky outcrop in the Alpilles mountains, Les Baux-de-Provence is possibly the most interesting village we visited.
Approaching the town, it is obvious where the money used to come from. All around the village, there are huge limestone quarries, one of which has been turned into an art-based multimedia and light show called Carrières de Lumières.
We actually had to make two attempts to visit Les Baux because the first day we tried to go, the infamous Mistral winds were blowing so hard it would have been impossible to enjoy it. We were almost blown off the cliff while taking the picture below!
A medieval fortress looms over the town (Chateau des Baux) which you can visit for a fee. Tourism is now the main source of income for the town, and it is obvious why.
Boulbon, France - Easy Hikes Outside Avignon
Boulbon is by far the least touristed town we visited in Provence, but we visited it twice! It is a short 20-minute drive from Avignon and is at the base of La Montagnette, a small mountain that is a paradise for both hikers and mushroom hunters.
From here you can hike up to the chateau on one end of town, or up to the old windmill, Moulin Bonnet on the other side of town. Each is a fairly easy hike that rewards you with stunning views of the town and the plains below.
Sault, France - Lavender Fields Forever
While it is not actually in the Luberon, Sault is one of the main stops on lavender tours in the summer and it is easy to see why. Everywhere you look in the valley below, there are endless fields of lavender. All the shutters and doors on the buildings are lovely coordinated pastel colours that blend in perfectly with the purple hues of June.
We visited Sault on a Wednesday, which happened to be market day. Even though it was winter, farmers and merchants were still selling what was in season.
Cassis, France - Little Gem on the Mediterranean
The one and only village on the French Riviera we visited on our trip was Cassis, and it was worth it. The main attraction in Cassis is, of course, the Mediterranean and the cliffs and Calanques (sheltered inlets) directly on either side of the town. This was one of the few small towns that actually had restaurants open when we visited, so of course we had to enjoy a leisurely lunch with a view of the water.
Although we didn't get to visit the Calanques to the west of Cassis due to lack of time and the winter season, we did enjoy the view of the massive cliffs to the west of the town.
Overall, Cassis had a very pleasant feel to it. Big enough to have businesses open in the winter, but still fairly small and relaxed. The smell of the sea air, the sound of crashing waves, and the sunshine on our faces was enough to make this one of the highlights of our trip.
Head on over to part two of our time in Provence, where we will share some of our favourite villages in the Luberon. Let us know what you think in the comments!
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