Self-drive walking holiday in Provence: Highlights
Strolling through the lavender fields blooming from mid-June to late July
Walks off the beaten-track, far from the tourist crowds
Scale the legendary Mont Ventoux, the ‘roof of Provence’
The beautiful hilltop villages of the Luberon and the famous Sénanque Abbey
Choose your walk every morning according to the local markets around!
Self-drive through Provence, based at the charming Chateau de la Gabelle in Ferrassieres, with a selection of self-guided walks to choose from and including entrances to a local spa to unwind after your walks.
Le Chateau de Gabelle has been owned and run by the same family for generations, cultivating lavender. Tucked away behind Mont Ventoux, in the Toulourenc valley, you’re assured of peace and tranquility in a region that sees few tourists. During the days you can choose from one of several walks in the region, whether in the deep Toulourenc canyon, among the lavender fields of Sault, or on the upper slopes of Mont Ventoux, the roof of Provence.
We’ve included 3 afternoon entrance fees to Montbrun les Bains’ celebrated thermal spa (only 10mins drive from your accommodation), to unwind and relax after your walks.
*Please note that you will need a car for this trip. We have selected the very best walks in the region, some of which are in remote corners of Provence that tourists rarely reach and which are inacessible by public transport. You will mostly drive on quiet country roads and our advice is to treat the driving as part of the adventure and to choose your daily walks according to local village markets (details of which will be provided).
|5 DAY TOUR||From €399 per person sharing*
*A high season supplement will apply during peak booking periods.
|ACCOMMODATION||4 nights at Le Chateau de la Gabelle in Ferrassières
Set in a 13th-century fortified farmhouse, this charming guesthouse surrounded by lavender fields features quaint, cozy rooms with Wi-Fi access and en suite bathrooms.
You can also book additional nights, just let us know at the time of booking.
|AVAILABILITY||You can start your trip on any day of the week (subject to availability) from March 15th to November 15th*
*Please note that there is a possibility of path restrictions during July and August ( fire risk). Access to forest paths may be forbidden or partially restricted (access until 11:00am) if the risk of forest fire is high. Walks may vary due to weather conditions and dry season (lack of rain = forest fires).
This trip is graded easy to moderate overall. The majority of walk options are suitable for anyone who likes to walk for exercise and enjoys strolls in the countryside, with walks from 2 – 4 hours on easy terrain, with some climbing up to the hilltop villages. For those looking for something a little more strenuous, the Savoillan and Mont Ventoux walk options offer more challenging but incredibly rewarding hiking with spectacular views from the roof of Provence!
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN PROVENCE
- Car rental is not included. Let us know if you would like us to arrange it for you.
- Car rental can easily be arranged from Paris, Nice, Marseille airports.
A drive through the countryside takes you to the lost villages of the lavender region of Provence, in the shadow of the famous Mont Ventoux.
Day 2-5: CHOICE OF 8 WALKS
You have a choice of 8 different walks, all meticulously detailed in our Roadbook. You will find our selection of the regional markets which are close to your accommodation: you will then have the freedom and the pleasure to choose your day walk according to them, just like locals!
1 – A STROLL THROUGH THE LAVANDER FIELDS
Loop walk from Aurel – Sault
Distance: 7.5 km | Ascent: 170 m | Descent: 170 m | 2½ hrs approx.
Loop walk from Aurel, with a longer walk option to Sault. Sault is praised all over the world for its cultivation of lavender, and is especially famous for its lavender festival on August 15th. It’s an old fortified village perched along the top of a high ridge overlooking a wide valley, with large lavender fields spread out below to the south and west. This easy, themed walk meanders through farmers’ fields, among an endless sea of lavender, complete with explanatory signs about planting, harvesting, and distilling the precious purple flower. Take the time to discover the village of Sault; its charming central square overlooking the vast plantations. Don’t miss the irresistible nougat shop, where the Boyer family has been making this delicious honey and almond treat for four generations.
- Market on Wednesday morning in Sault
2 – MONTBRUN LOOP WALK
Distance: 7 km | Ascent: 230 m | Descent: 230 m | 3 hrs approx.
Your walk begins and ends at the hotel OUSTAU DE LA FONT in Reillanette. You take seldom used paths behind the village, in a setting of oak and broom. Your loop reaches Monbrun les Bains, listed among the most beautiful villages in France, its tall stone houses set in rows and perched above the Toulourenc valley. You can have lunch in a local restaurant before your return.
3 – SAVOILLAN AND BRANTES
Distance: 10 km | Ascent: 370 m | Descent: 370 m | 4 hrs approx.
The walk begins in the pretty village of Savoillans. Pick up a baguette at the century-old bakery before climbing atop a ridge behind the village. The views of Mont Ventoux and of the deeply encased Toulourenc are stunning. A descent through the oak forest leads to the hilltop village of Brantes, where only 25 people live year-round, its narrow-cobbled streets picture-perfect postcards with each turn. A well-reputed café/restaurant in town is the perfect place for lunch before a return along the Toulourenc valley.
4 – MONT VENTOUX: THE ROOF OF PROVENCE
Distance: 15 km | Ascent: 600 m | Descent: 600 m | 5½ hrs approx.
Leisurely zigzags lead you above the ski resort. You trade fir and beech for larch, and then a little higher only sparse mountain pine remains, and finally nothing at all: the echo of your feet walking on the scree towards the summit. A final push takes you to the 1912m summit, the highest point in Provence. Once at the top you have a 360° view, Alps to the north and the plains of the Rhône to the south, the Rhône River snaking its way down to the Med Sea.
Once you’ve soaked in the ambiance of the summit, of its café, its endless stream of cyclists exhausted but having reached their goal, you head eastward along the barren ridge.
The upper ridge is carpeted with sparse bunches of arctic flowers (including the arctic poppy, which grows only on the Spitzberg islands just shy of the North Pole, and on Mont Ventoux). After about 1 hour on the ridge you return to Mont Serein via the vast slopes of scree that seem to descend towards infinity.
5 – THE QUAINT VILLAGE OF FERRASSIÈRES
Loop walk from Ferrassières
Distance: 7 km | Ascent: 150 m | Descent: 150 m | 2½ hrs approx.
Set a bit higher in altitude, the sleepy village of Ferrassières is the capital of fine lavender – Lavandula angustifolia – one of over a hundred varieties of lavender, but by far the one that’s most prized: not only for its delicate smell, but also for its many medicinal virtues. This easy walk will take you through a mix of forest and cultivated lavender fields, and this is about as far off the beaten tourist path as you can get, with some wonderful views of Mont Ventoux to the west.
After your walk we recommend a visit to the village of Montbrun les Bains, listed among the most beautiful villages in France.
- Market on Wednesday morning in Sault
- Market on Saturday morning in Montbrun les Bains
6 – LAGARDE D’APT & THE PERCHED VILLAGES OF THE LUBERON
Two walking options in the Luberon mountains, sprinkled with stunning hilltop villages, many worth visiting. Just to name a few: Gordes perched vertiginously over the Calavon valley, Roussillon and its houses painted in a veritable palette of colours, and Lacoste crowned by the ruins of the Marquis de Sade’s castle.
Walk option 1: Loop walk from Lagarde d’Apt
Distance: 7 km | Ascent: 150 m | Descent: 150 m | 2½ hrs approx.
This walk begins high atop the plateaus, in the tiny hamlet of Lagarde d’Apt, through a rolling countryside carpeted with fine lavender fields, with views extending to the Alps.
Walk option 2: Loop walk from Gordes > Senanque Abbey
Distance: 10 km | Ascent: 150 m | Descent: 150 m | 3½ hrs approx.
Beginning in the stunning village of Gordes, you walk through a garrigue vegetation of aromatic herbs and brush, to the much-postcarded 12th century Sénanque Abbey, surrounded by its lavender field.
7 – SAINT MICHEL L’OBSERVATOIRE
Loop walk from Saint Michel l’Observatoire
Distance: 8 km | Ascent: 200 m | Descent: 200 m | 2 hrs 45 mins approx.
Just west of Forcalquier is the sleepy village of Saint Michel l’Observatoire. The “observatoire” in question was built in the 1920s, a few kilometers from the village, taking advantage of some of the clearest skies in the country. The walk enters the heart of the garrigue vegetation, with stunning views of the Alps. You reach a goat farm, lost in the brush, a small family-run outfit awarded for their Banon cheeses, carefully wrapped in a chestnut leaf, creamy and bursting with flavour. An inviting picnic table makes for the perfect lunch stop before finishing your loop.
- Great & famous market on Monday morning in Forcalquier
- Market on Sunday morning in St Michel L’Observatoire
8 – VALENSOLE: A SEA OF LAVANDER
Loop walk from Valensole
Distance: 11 km | Ascent: 100 m | Descent: 100 m | 3½ hrs approx.
It’s THE big lavender day. Forget the small plots of lavender sprinkled in the countryside where most of the tourists go: today you’ll be swimming in a veritable sea of lavender, on the Valensole plateau. It’s a common misconception that lavender is prevalent in all of Provence. In reality, lavender is not a Mediterranean plant, does not grow in the Provence that most tourists venture to. Lavender grows up on the plateaus, in altitude, nestled between Provence and the Alps. you’ll be in the very heart of it. Nothing but purple into the horizon, the intense Provençal sun concentrating the heavy lavender perfumes in the air. you’ll frolic through the fields, taking all the time you need, meandering along the tracks between the lavender fields. You can visit a family-run lavender distillery along the way, in the heart of the fields, and learn everything about the plant and its origins, its uses, its medicinal properties.
- Market on Saturday morning in Valensole