The Alpilles countryside that Vincent Van Gogh made famous

France’s Provence owes its popularity to the density of its cultural attractions, rich history, and natural beauty. A relatively small area reveals a thousand charms. Whether you love great food, the outdoors, history, or art, there’s always something amazing around the next corner. Explore colorful markets and eat at Michelin-star restaurants. Kayak through the gorgeous Gorges du Verdon or horseback ride in the Camargue river delta. Follow in the Popes’ footsteps in Avignon. Visit fine museums and galleries and take in the scenery that inspired generations of artists. 

Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889 – Vincent van Gogh

With so much to do, take care not to overlook the rolling Alpilles. It is quintessential Provence. Located across the Durance River from the spectacular Lubéron Massif, these compact, low-lying mountains boast a deep connection to the painter Vincent Van Gogh. 


The area’s spectacular light drew the artist. He settled in lively Arles before recovering at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole monastery in Saint-Remy. The Starry Night, one of the artist’s most recognizable paintings, is the view from his room there. Visitors to the monastery and his room will immediately recognize the landscapes. A visit to the Alpilles reveals truths about and the inspiration for Van Gogh’s work. His characteristic paint swirls and bending cypress trees are more than just an artistic flourish. They are acute renditions of the sensations of being in Provence’s sun-drenched, windy landscapes.

The Starry Night, 1889 – Vincent van Gogh

Take care not to overlook the rolling Alpilles. It is quintessential Provence.

An Impressive Medieval Village

A short drive from Saint-Remy drops you into the Vallée de Baux-Alpilles. This valley is home to Les Baux-de-Provence, one of the country’s most attractive villages. Climbing its narrow medieval streets is rewarded with expansive 10th-century castle ruins and panorama dominated by olive groves, vineyards, and the mountains. 

The village is also home to the Carrières des Lumières. This former bauxite quarry today hosts immersive music and light art shows. The carved white walls are a brilliantly white, textured surface for the projections. You’ll feel as if you’re walking through your favorite paintings. 2021’s shows are Cézanne, the Master of Provence and Kandinsky, the Odyssey of Abstraction. Previously shows highlighted work by masters including Van Gogh, Dali, Picasso, Chagall, and Klimt. 

The music and light art shows give the feeling of walk through your favorite paintings.

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Van Gogh, Starry Night at the Carrières des Lumières, 2019

Tasting Olives in Les Baux-de-Provence

As you leave town, the Valley of Baux-de-Provence olive orchards are striking. They hold an appellation d’origine contrôlée or controlled designation of origin. This protected status recognizes their quality and unique terroir. This isn’t the olive oil from your supermarket back home. It’s vibrantly colorful, a touch cloudy, and fragrant.

Passionate foodies and cooks won’t want to miss out on an oil tasting. There’s great variety from one oil to another, and careful tasting reveals nuance and artistry. Try oils made from both green or black fruits. You can find notes that include artichoke, pepper, green apple, almonds, cacao, and truffle notes. It’s a delight. 

Olives on their branch in Provence

Anne and Magali Sourdon’s Moulin Saint Jean makes for a nice stop. Their olive mill has been family-owned and run for generations. The orchards contain more than 5,000 trees in four distinct varieties. The property and the neighboring chapel date to the 12th and 11th centuries respectively. 

The markets in the Alpilles town are another opportunity to pick up a nice oil or local olives to snack on too. Our travel designers will help you find a great one. There are nice markets in Provence everyday.

This beautiful area of Provence is well worth a couple of days. It’s easy to access by car, from Marseille’s airport, or by high-speed TGV train from Avignon or Aix-en-Provence. Combine your visit here with a city-stay or wine tasting in the Côtes-du-Rhône. 


Need a place to unwind?

Les Baux-de-Provence’s Baumanière is highly recommended. The 5-star hotel exudes Provençal charm. Its five buildings are surrounded by gardens, orchards, and jagged limestone formations. This is the Mediterranean at its best.

The property is quite literally fit for a queen. Queen Elizabeth II and celebrities Hugh Grant, Johnny Depp, and Bono are counted among its famous guests.

Onsite dining is highlighted by the Oustau de Baumanière. The restaurant is an institution, having first earned a rare 3 Michelin stars in 1954. In 2020 it was again awarded 3 Michelin stars under Chef Glenn Viel. With the award it also received a distinction for sustainability, thanks, in part, to the kitchen’s impressive vegetable and herb garden. The wine cellar features more than 50,000 bottles of fine French vintages. This puts it among France’s largest private cellars. La Cabro d’Or offers another onsite dining option featuring refined, but authentic Provençal cuisine.


A spa, cooking classes, and wine appreciation classes round out what makes the Baumanière special.

The Lubéron Massif, the Provence of Dreams…

The Lubéron massif is one of the can’t-miss attractions of any trip to Southern France. Tucked between low-lying mountains east of Avignon and north of Aix-en-Provence, this is the France you dream about. Think long, summer days, brilliant sunshine, medieval villages crowning hilltops, and rolling olive, apricot, and almond orchards. Did we mention the seas of purple lavender waving in the mistral winds? If you’ve ever read Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence or seen Ridley Scott’s film A Good Year starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, you might well have had your eyes on this region for a while. 

Long, summer days, brilliant sunshine, medieval villages crowning hilltops, and rolling olive, apricot, and almond orchards… seas of purple lavender…

Locally-grown strawberries in the market

While compact, this region has so much to see and do. Arrange a call with our local experts. They’d love to help. To get you started planning, here are a few the Lubéron’s iconic sites:

Favorite stops in the lovely Provence countryside

Roussillon

This charming town is best known for its vibrant yellow, orange, and red ochre pigments. Here and in neighboring Gargas, Rustrel, and the Provençal Coloradoochres were mined on an industry scale starting in the late 18th century. They were exported worldwide for use in artists’ paints, stucco, cosmetics, and occasionally food! Give the material’s abundance here, it’s no surprise that the town’s buildings are also flamboyantly colorful. Those eye-catching buildings make Rousillon one of the most strikingly unique and beautiful stops in the region. Don’t miss the Sentier des Ocres trail. On the 30 or 60-minute circuit you’ll get you up close to the sandy red and yellow cliffs and through a shaded oak and pine trees forest. Just wear shoes that are ok getting red and dusty!

red alleys in luberon village
Roussillon’s red alleys
red and orange ochres in the luberon
The ochre trail

Gordes and Senanque Abbey

Gordes and its neighboring abbey are two more iconic Lubéron sites. The ancient village perché, or perched hilltop village, has a flair for the dramatic. It stands on a steep slope descending from the Plateau de Vaucluse into the Coulon Valley. The location provided protection from invaders during the Middle Ages. The castle dominates while winding streets and homes spilling town the hill around it. At the center of town, the Place du Château de Gordes is a lively town square with cafés, restaurants, art galleries, and souvenir shops.

Gordes, perches village luberon
Gordes, one of the Lubéron’s prettiest perched villages

Just down a narrow country road is the 12th-century Abbeye Notre-Dame de SénanqueIt’s still home to an active community of Cistercian monks. This fine example of Cistercian architecture is made all the more impressive when its sprawling lavender fields are in bloom (from mid-June to mid-July). Seeing the inside of the abbey is possible, but plan ahead! Visiting hours are limited. 

The Abbey of Sénanque, lavender in bloom

L’Isle-Sur-la-Sorgue

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue lays at the foot of the Vaucluse plateau. It is famous for its winding canals and narrow streets. You might even feel like you’ve wandered into a little Provençal Venice. All along the Sorgue River, you’ll cross small bridges and pass by large, moss-covered water wheels. Today the town has become known as a hub for antiques, boasting numerous shops and an active brocante market along the canals on Sunday mornings. Looking for a unique souvenir? This just might be your spot.

If you love the canals, head to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a few minutes’ drive upstream. There’s a short footpath up to the source of the river, among the world’s largest. This is the almost mythical fountain for which the village was name.

Waterwheel in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

The Markets

The farmers’ markets are a must-see. Every day there’s an open-air market somewhere in the Lubéron. See here for a list. Don’t miss out on a morning wandering around one for your dose of the local culture and flavor. Try regional specialties including olives, goat cheeses, and excellent fresh fruits. For an authentic experience grab a spot on a terrace, sip on a café or limonade, and watch the world pass. These markets reveal their charms over time. Take in scenes of the vendors shouting the virtues of their products to passerby or the locals laborious picking the freshest produce. No market would be complete without the retirees playfully their squabbling, cigarettes and pastis at hand. 

Local olives at a market stand

Planning my trip

Do as the Provençal do. Take it slow!

While there’s plenty to see and do here, a leisurely pace is best. Do as the Provençal do. Take it slow! Particularly in the summer, midday can be hot here. Wander through the markets, sunbathe by the pool, take a long lunch, and linger over a glass or two of rosé on a café terrace. The lackadaisical pace and gorgeous landscapes are a huge part of the charm, so try to schedule a few days here. Our team can help you to book a rental car or a chauffeur and guided tours.


Looking for a place to stay?

One of our favorite bases in this region is La Bastide de Marie, just outside of lovely Ménerbes. Heading out of town the road is lined with vineyards and cypress trees, while the Petit Lubéron mountains and bright blue sky dominate the backdrop. Stay in the restored 18th-century bastide country house or the 5-bedroom Villa Grenache lost in the estate’s vineyards and complete with a private heated pool. Whichever you stay in, you’ll enjoy traditional Provençal charm: stonework, exposed wood beams, fine antique furniture, and views on the gardens or vineyards. Fine dining and spa treatments are available. Pamper yourself after a day out exploring. 

The town of Ménerbes itself is worth a stop. Like many other towns in the region, it’s on the top of a hill, complete with medieval ramparts and a castle dating back to the 16th-century French Wars of Religion between Catholics and Huguenots. Along with the the towns Bonnieux, Goult, Lacoste, and the aforementioned Gordes, this area makes up the Luberon’s famed triangle d’or or golden triangle.  

Need a souvenir idea?

Good souvenirs that won’t take up too much space in your luggage are honey, olive oil, traditional soaps made in nearby Marseille, and lavender sachets (to keep your closet and dresser drawers smelling great).

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