After spending time on the French Riviera, we made our way north to the Provence region of France to experience the lavender fields in full bloom. Typically, the perfect time to visit and see lavender is mid-July. Our days were long, with the sun rising early in the morning and setting around 10pm each night. It’s hot this time of year (around 95 F, 35 C), and we often slept in late throughout this part of the trip, spending the middle of the day lounging at the pool before heading out in the late afternoon. For this trip we opted for taking day trips to smaller, less crowded villages in Provence and I’m so glad we did!
PRESET COLLECTIONS USED IN THIS BLOG POST: INDIA COLLECTION, EUROPE COLLECTION
Photos: Lavender in Oppède; sunflower fields en route to Saint-Remy-de-Provence; more lavender in Oppède; the villa at Chateau Constantin; La Pointe Noire restaurant in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse; wine and cheese at our hotel Le Galinier de Lourmarin (photos edited with our India Collection and Europe Collection presets. View all presets here).
Best time to visit – June through August, early to mid-July if you also want to see lavender fields
Getting around – rental car
Currency – euros
Where We Stayed:
The first half of our stay in Provence was in Oppède, and it turned out to be a great home base to explore the places below. Funny enough, I chose Oppède because it was close by a famous lavender field at Senanque Abbey, but we ended up skipping it after hearing it was filled with tour buses! Instead we opted to visit all the nearby hilltop towns and local lavender fields, which were relatively quiet. I loved staying here since the houses and hotels tend to be more affordable, and many have pools. I have my eye on this property for my next visit, but I’m also tempted to splurge so I can sleep on the grounds of this 18th century farmhouse! More of my favorites below:
Houses in Provence
La Bastide de Songes – $$ – a quaint French guesthouse perfect for 2, run by a husband-and-wife duo.
Le Clos de Gordes – $$ – a sunny and bright Provençal home featuring suites and a pool, located nearby the famous hilltop town of Gordes.
Les Cabanes de la Fontaine – $$$ – unique, contemporary 2 to 4 person cabins which boast incredible views over Provence. Located in one of my favorite towns of Lacoste.
Domaine Les Roulets – $$$ – a picture-perfect romantic b&b set in lush gardens, complete with a heated pool, electric bikes for exploring Oppède, and homemade rosé.
Mas des Cèdres – $$$ – a gorgeous stone house surrounded by olive trees that sleeps up to 6.
Mas en Luberon – $$$$ – a 3-bedroom stone farmhouse perfect for groups, set amidst greenery in Gordes.
Le Galinier de Lourmarin – $$$$ – a beautiful Provençal country house with a pool, within walking distance of Lourmarin’s downtown. We loved our stay here.
La Bastide de Marie – $$$$ – an immaculate 18th-century hotel set amongst the vineyards, with 2 pools and a spa.
At the end of the trip we stayed in Lourmarin at Le Galinier de Lourmarin (pictured below), which I’d highly recommend if you’re traveling as a couple or with friends. Many of the properties in this area are on the expensive side, but we booked early for more affordable rates. This top-rated hotel was the best of both worlds: only a two minute walk from the town center and local market, and set in French gardens that felt like a fairytale. Lourmarin was my favorite town of the entire trip, a must-visit!
More from this trip in our South of France: French Riviera Guide
You can’t visit this French region without seeing (and smelling!) the lavender fields. There were local fields nearby Oppède where we stayed, and plenty along different routes to nearby towns. The lavender is known for blooming from the end of June through the beginning of August, and we visited in peak bloom the first two weeks of July.
Lavender Field Highlights (all spots labeled on the map below):
- Local lavender fields in Oppède.
- The beautiful Senanque Abbey with lavender fields in front.
- Sprawling vineyards, wheat fields and lavender fields driving north to Sault.
- Sunflower fields en route to Saint-Remy-de-Provence.
- The famous photo of rolling hills of lavender with a lone tree in Valensole.
Oppède is very convenient to one of the most famous lavender fields in the region, located at Senanque Abbey. It’s also a great starting point to explore different lavender fields routes. As a town, it’s quite small and sleepy with a couple local restaurants and vineyards nearby. It’s also great for accommodation, since many rental homes are budget-friendly for groups. What I loved about staying here was barely running into other tourists — most of the people we met were locals or French families vacationing in Provence!
- Lavender fields and low key family-run restaurants in Oppède.
- Picking up delicious fresh macarons and pastries from the local bakery, Boulangerie Patisserie Lyse.
- Dinner overlooking the hills at La Bergerie, a local spot just outside downtown Oppède.
- Spending the day lounging at the pool, exploring the olive groves and local vineyards from our house in Oppède (pictured below, listing here).
Gordes is one of the most famous hilltop towns in the region. There’s a beautiful lookout of the town itself from the road as you drive in. It has a number of restaurants and winding streets, great for exploring and for views of the valley below. The only downside is that it tends to get crowded midday as there are a number of tour buses that include it on their Provence route. I’d suggest going early or late in the day if you want to maximize your time here.
- One of our favorite spots for dinner of the trip, sitting outside in the evening at L’Artegal.
- This picturesque photo spot of Gordes, looking out over the town and the surrounding vineyards as seen below.
- Strolling the winding cobblestone streets, shopping and stopping for gelato in the town square.
I absolutely loved Lourmarin. The town is beautiful and very photogenic, with cobblestone streets, shops, and plenty of cafes with outdoor seating. There are a a handful of trendy bars and restaurants, plus a great outdoor market in the city center. Lourmarin is also ranked as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France. In my opinion, a must-visit!
- Le Galiner de Lourmarin, our favorite place we stayed of our entire South of France trip. A boutique hotel surrounded by gardens, less than a 5 minute walk to Lourmarin town center.
- Locally sourced, modern and delicious cuisine at Numero 9. Order the scallops!
- Drinks at Maison Café, a hidden gem tucked away with a rooftop bar, ivy covered walls, and live music.
- Wine tasting at Chateau Constantin, a local family-run vineyard set next to a charming French villa.
- The outdoor market on Friday mornings — I took home a French linen dress for 40 euro.
This charming little town is filled with little boutiques, local cheese shops, and cafés. We spent an afternoon exploring the main square and the little side streets, popping into stores along the way. I loved the main street leading into the city, which was bustling but not overcrowded. If you’re driving to Saint-Remy-de-Provence, there’s also a beautiful sunflower field on the way located here.
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is a picturesque town set along the local Sorgue River and surrounded by cliffs. It’s a bit different than the neighboring towns as it’s tucked away rather than perched on a hilltop. The town center is a roundabout with a handful of cafés, some of which are on the water. From this area you can also walk along a paved path to visit the mouth of a nearby cave (about a 15 minute walk from the center).
- I love the façade of La Pointe Noire restaurant, right in the town center. You can’t miss it.
- Strolling along the water and enjoying cooler temps on the walk to the cave.
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a small town technically located on an island, as it’s completely surrounded by the River Sorgue. It’s known for its many antique shops and an antique market that takes place on Sundays. It’s a great stop for lunch or dinner since it features a variety of waterside cafés and restaurants.
Apt is known for having one of the best outdoor markets in all of France. We visited during the market day (Saturdays in summer). Apt is a fairly large town with lots of boutiques and restaurant options. It’s great for mid-afternoon when you want a variety of choices to eat and explore. The rooftop terrace at Le Platane is beautiful and such a treat hidden away in ivy (below).
A neighboring town to Bonnieux, Ménerbes is perched on a hilltop and features old villas and narrow winding streets. The center of town has a historic old square surrounded by shops and restaurants, including a Michelin restaurant and a more casual cafe perched on the hillside. I recommend visiting both Menerbes and Bonnieux in the same afternoon.
Bonnieux has beautiful views of the surrounding region and is less touristy than the neighboring village of Gordes. It’s a great town to wander, with sloping streets, old churches, and fountains. A short walk from the center is the Jardin de Louve, a contemporary French garden created by Nicole de Vésian (the previous textile designer for Hermès) that is open to the public.
We arrived at Sault after the sun went down, mainly because the drive to get here is so beautiful we couldn’t resist pulling over! Driving north to Sault, you’ll get incredible views over the vineyards, wheat fields, and lavender fields — all of which were free of other tourists during our visit. Sault is small but charming, with a few restaurants and a soap factory you can visit during the day.
Lacoste is very small, but a worthwhile visit if you’re in the region. I loved it because of its one main cobblestone road that winds up to the top of the hill, with beautiful facades and stone buildings along the way. You can also walk up to the castle at the very top. Not great for food options, but the neighboring towns of Bonnieux and Menerbes are nearby and have plenty of restaurants.
At this point in the trip we left Oppède and headed to Cotignac to spend time in the Gorges du Verdon area. En route, we spent the afternoon at one of the most famous lavender fields in France: Valensole.
Valensole is most commonly known for its rolling lavender fields and sunflower fields, and is the location seen in the famous photo featuring one olive tree with lavender in the foreground. The village itself is often overlooked but has a number of restaurants and old winding streets. We drove through Valensole en route to Cotignac and stopped to see the lavender fields, but it was incredibly crowded in summer so it was a quick visit for us. The famous lavender field in Valensole is marked in purple on our map here.
Gorges du Verdon
I highly recommend visiting the Gorges du Verdon if you’re headed to the Provence region. It’s a body of water known for its bright turquoise hue that comes from glacial runoff. It’s perfect as a day trip but you could easily visit a couple times. From the main bridge there are boats for rent, and you can also swim nearby.
Cotignac is most well-known for its location up against a rock face with old troglodyte cave dwellings. Some of the houses are built into the bottom of the rock and you can even stay some of the ‘cave dwellings’! We chose to make this our home base while visiting the Gorges du Verdon here since it’s one of the closest towns within driving distance (about 30-40 minutes away) and features a picturesque town square with a number of restaurants and daily markets. It’s a great size for a few days of exploring as everything is within walking distance and it’s not crowded with tourists.
- Our favorite dinner in Cotignac at Hotel Restaurant du Cours.
- Taking a day trip to the beautiful Gorges du Verdon.
- Visiting the caves for a complete view of the city. The entrance is located behind the town square with the clock tower.
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