the picturesque village of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, known as the “Venice of Provence”
the medieval Abbaye de Sénanque surrounded by fragrant lavender fields
the spectacular Fontaine de Vaucluse and the source of the Sorgue river
the picture-perfect perched villages of Gordes and Bonnieux
the off-the-beaten-track charm of the Auberge des Seguins guesthouse in Buoux
Hiking in the Luberon: self-guided walking holiday in Provence
Walking in the Luberon Mountains offers a new discovery at every turn: this is a region of impossibly pretty 1000-year-old perched villages rising spectacularly from the valleys below; of vast fields of poppies and wildflowers; of centuries’ old stone huts which serve as the most intimate of picnic spots.
Beginning in the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, with its antiques and Venice-like canals, your walking routes will take you through the mysterious springs of Fontaine de Vaucluse, as well as famed villages such as Gordes and Bonnieux and the spectacular Aiguebrun river, all linked by some of France’s most beautiful walking trails.
In this predominantly rural region, almost every village hosts its own weekly market with stalls selling local specialities, including olive oil, honey and lavender. We recommend starting your trip on a Saturday so that you can stroll around the famous Sunday morning market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – the ideal place to buy a delicious picnic lunch for your walk!
|7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS||From €799 per person sharing*
*A high season supplement will apply during peak booking periods.
|ACCOMMODATION||In charming hotels/guesthouses on a bed & breakfast basis. All rooms are en-suite.
The standard hotels of this trip are listed below. If a hotel is fully booked, then we will book a similar one for you and inform you about the alternative booked. It is also possible to upgrade to a higher standard of accommodation. Please enquire for info and prices.You can also book additional nights at any of the hotels along the way.
|AVAILABILITY||You can start your trip on any day of the week (subject to availability) from March 1 to June 30, and from August 27th to November 15th.
This trip is not available in July & August, because of path restrictions ( fire risk).
|DIFFICULTY||This trip is suitable for people who are used to regular and sustained exercise (whether walking, cycling, aerobics, etc.) and who can handle walking uphill (slowly) for up to 2 hours at a time. Walks are generally under 5 hours, on various types of terrain – though nothing technically difficult – with up to 600 m of climbing per day.|
Day 1: Isle sur la Sorgue
➢ Easy access: Direct train from Marseille Airport (station named “Vitrolles”), or from Avignon central station.
Arrive in the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a veritable island of a village, surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Sorgue river. The town’s Sunday market is among the most colourful in Provence, while its canals are bordered by quaint cafés, restaurants, and antique shops. Lose yourself among a labyrinth of narrow streets and in the town’s warm, Provençal charm.
Overnight: Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Market on Thursday & Sunday (big and famous one on Sunday)
Day 2: Fontaine de Vaucluse – Gordes
Distance: 13 km | Ascent: 450 m | Descent: 200 m | 4 hrs approx.
A short transfer this morning takes you to Fontaine de Vaucluse, the mysterious and spectacular spring that is the source of the Sorgue River. Through cedar forests you will follow a 300-year-old mur de la peste: a stone wall built in 1720 to protect Provence from the great plague. Your path takes you through the village of Cabrières before finally arriving into Gordes, a spectacular tiered village which rises dramatically out of the valley and is crowned by its majestic Renaissance castle.
If you prefer a shorter walk today, there is also the option of starting from Cabrières instead. More details will be provided in your road book.
Overnight: Gordes. Small market on Tuesday mornings
Day 3: Loop Walk: Gordes > Sénanque Abbey > Gordes
Distance: 10 km | Ascent: 250 m | Descent: 250 m | 3 hrs approx.
Today’s circular walk takes you through thyme-laden fields dotted with old stone huts, and down into the Sénancole valley. Soon you will be greeted by the iconic view of the medieval Sénanque Abbey, surrounded by a sea of fragrant lavender. Built in 1148 (and still in use), the abbey is one of the best conserved Romanesque buildings in France, and certainly one of its most magnificent. You will have time to explore the abbey before returning to Gordes via a cobbled path.
Day 4: Goult > Bonnieux
Distance: 11 km | Ascent: 320 m | Descent: 250 m | 3½ hrs approx.
Short morning transfer to the village of Goult, which has a morning market on Thursdays from June to September.
Crossing the Calavon valley, you will pass the ruins of ancient stone farmhouses before reaching the town of Lacoste. Crowned by the ruins of the castle of the Marquis de Sade, Lacoste offers a stunning ensemble of old village gates and cobbled streets, not to mention the haunting allure of the castle and its Marquis… A great place to have picnic, or a lunch in the very nice restaurant “Café de France”. You continue after lunch to the hilltop village of Bonnieux, another gem of the Luberon which was immortalized in Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Visit its beautiful town squares and the old cobbled steps leading to its 12th century church.
Overnight: Bonnieux. Market on Friday morning
Day 5: Bonnieux > Cedar forest > Bonnieux
Distance: 14 km | Ascent: 400 m | Descent: 400 m | 4 hrs approx.
> Optional cedar forest loop: add 2.5km | +100m | – 100m | 45 mins approx.
Climbing to the highest reaches of the Luberon mountains you reach its cedar forest; its dark green canopy providing the perfect shade and shelter for a picnic lunch, with awe-inspiring views extending from the Alps all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.. if you are lucky!
Day 6: Bonnieux > Buoux
Distance: 14 km | Ascent: 250 m | Descent: 150 m | 4 hrs approx.
The first half of this walk is leisurely, along quiet country roads. Remember to look back from time to time before the village of Bonnieux disappears from view.
Your walk on the plateaus takes you through truffle oak plantations and past exquisite stone villas. After the Col du Pointu pass you’ve reached the Grand Luberon. A quaint path through the oak forests leads to the Château de Buoux, then up to the 12th century Chapelle de Ste. Marie. Passing the tiny village of Buoux, you walk alongside imposing cliffs (not too close through…), before descending along a magical cobbled mule track with hairpin bends all the way to the base of the Aiguebrun Valley, where you’ll find the charming and surprising Auberge des Seguins.
Overnight at Auberge des Seguins with dinner included.
Hidden at the base of the Aiguebrun gorge, beside the only river in the mountain, and at the very end of the road, Les Seguins is both storybook scenic and peaceful. And with no television, Wifi, or cell phone reception, we’re taken back in time, blissfully. All that’s left is watching the swifts dance atop the soaring limestone cliffs, or relaxing in a lounge chair in the open field, facing the centuries-old golden stone buildings. We’re taken back in time, too, by the restaurant and hotel signs, written not only in French but also in Provençal: a language that your three young hosts speak fluently. Dinner is family-style, with home-cooked Provençal specialties – like lamb shoulder braised with olive purée – served in a large casserole for the whole table, near the huge roaring fireplace. Breakfast is also “communal”: eaten on large farm tables, with no bells and whistles but with the freshest breads and tasty homemade jams. We’re in an age where the hotel and restaurant business moves farther toward all that is modern and sophisto-chic, towards sterile monotony, towards overly-fancy restaurant concoctions unrecognizable by name and taste, and towards pamper-me-and-embrace-my-posterior service. The Auberge des Seguins is none of that, for better or worse. We think (we’re convinced) for the better.
Day 7: Buoux > Isle-sur-la-Sorgue & departure
Your trip comes to an end today after breakfast. A transfer is arranged to take you back to Isle-sur-la Sorgue, where you can take an onward train to Avignon or Marseille.
Getting to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Departure from Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
|/||From Isle-sur-la-Sorgue you can take a train or bus to Avignon. The train runs every hour and takes about 30 mins to reach Avignon. There are a few bus companies operating this service, such as Lignes Express Régional.
It is also possible to take a train from Isle sur la Sorgue to Marseilles Airport (journey time 1 hr approx.)
Check train timetables on the SNCF website.