Provence Discovery Tour

7 Days | History & Culture, Self-Drive Trips & Tours

Spend a week discovering the very best that Provence has to offer.

Liberty | From $1,699 pp

This tour will give you a wonderful overview of the Provence region. You'll discover the charming Avignon, impressive Les Baux de Provence, and stunning Luberon villages. Stop in Aix-en-Provence for a gourmet market experience before moving on to Marseille along the coast. You'll be able to cover a lot of ground at your own pace!

Day by day

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Day 1: Marseille Airport - Avignon

Pick Up Rental Car

Upon your arrival, a rental car will be at your disposal for the length of your stay. Thus, you can move freely and comfortably. On the day of departure, you will drop off the vehicle.

Overnight Stay with Breakfast in a Charming 4-star Hotel in Central Avignon

avignon city in France

Day 2: Avignon

Small-Group Morning Walking Tour of Avignon and the Pope’s Palace

Join your guide for a walk to discover the rich historical center of Avignon. Climb up to the top of the fortified medieval city walls for a view of the city below and the beautiful Rhône river valley.

With a guide, you’ll benefit from skip-the-line access to the Pope’s Palace. It’s one of the largest Gothic buildings in Europe and was the residence of successive popes from 1309 to 1377. You will be mesmerized by this medieval maze of galleries, chambers, and chapels.

Next, walk through the cobblestone streets to the Place de l’Horloge.

Your tour finished up with a glass of Côtes du Rhône wine served in a nearby restaurant.

Overnight Stay with Breakfast in a Charming 4-star Hotel in Central Avignon

Palace de Popes in Avignon, France

Day 3: Les Baux de Provence - Avignon

Suggestion: Visit Les Baux-de-Provence

Clinging to an ancient limestone, Les Baux-de-Provence is a typical Provencal fortified hilltop village situated in the Regional Natural Park of the Alpilles. It was mainly built between the 15th-16th centuries and is listed among the “most beautiful villages of France.”

Nestled in the Alpilles mountains, it offers great views of the plains, the Mediterranean Sea, and the stunning rocky landscape of the Alpilles. Narrow cobbled streets wind car-free past ancient houses, up to splendid castle ruins sitting on top of a rocky outcrop above the village. The small chapel was built in the 12th century.

The Carrières de Lumières is an ancient quarry now used for regular exhibitions with artworks projected against the quarry walls – a real spectacle of light and sound! The theme of the spectacle changes every year.

Entrance to the Carrières de Lumières

Launched in 2012, Les Baux-de-Provence’s Carrières de Lumières has become a perennial favorite. Set in a former bauxite quarry, the carved white walls make for a spectacular, if unexpected, surface for illuminated art shows. These Art & Music Immersive Experiences (AMIEX®) give your favorite paintings a monumental scale. Expertly-crafted music and animations mean experiencing art like you never have before.

The 2021 exhibitions are Cézanne, the Master of Provence, and Kandinsky, the Odyssey of Abstraction.

Overnight Stay with Breakfast in a Charming 4-star Hotel in Central Avignon

Day 4: Gordes - Aix-en-Provence

Suggestion: Visit the Charming Villages in the Luberon Regional Nature Park

An idyllic piece of the rural landscape, the Luberon Regional Nature Park is an off-the-beaten-track area in the Vaucluse department (Provence). This UNESCO-listed nature reserve is based around the rugged mountainous area of the Montagne du Lubéron. The 120,000-hectare reserve encompasses limestone mountains, rolling hills, serene valleys, orchards, and farms. The picturesque villages of the Luberon are some of Provence’s most charming, unspoiled tourist destinations. Exploring this area requires a driving itinerary, but it’s worth it.

The town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has become the capital of antiques in recent years, with many antique dealer groupings as well as galleries and shops. This “island city” lies at the foot of the Vaucluse plateau. Its colors are nature’s green and the bright reflection of the water shining from the several canals running through its center. The river Sorgue surrounds the city as if to hug it. Walking along the canals you will notice how they run between the narrow ancient streets. There are little bridges to cross and great wheels to look at with mossy blades turning in the river.

Gordes is listed as one of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” (Most Beautiful Villages of France). This lovely little hilltop village looks like the scene of a postcard or painting. An ancient “village perché” (perched village), Gordes has a dramatic setting. The village stands on a steep slope descending from the Plateau de Vaucluse to the Coulon Valley. The perched location provided protection from invasions during the Middle Ages. Dominating Gordes is the 16th-century Château de Gordes, a fortified castle with medieval corner towers and a grand doorway. At the center of Gordes, the Place du Château de Gordes is a lively town square with many cafés, restaurants, art galleries, and souvenir shops.

Luberon Gordes town in Southern France

One of the most scenic abbeys in France, the peaceful Abbaye de Sénanque sits in a picturesque valley (five kilometers from the historic village of Gordes) on the southern edge of the Vaucluse plateau. Surrounded by fields of lavender flowers, the scene is a profusion of vibrant purple when in full bloom from July through the beginning of August. The Abbey of Sénanque was founded in 1148 by the Cistercian monastery at Mazan, near Carpentras, and became one of the most important Cistercian monasteries in Provence. The abbey is still a working monastery and requires visitors to respect the silent ambiance of the place. To see the cloister and other rooms of the monastery, visitors must take a guided tour (reservations are recommended).

Roussillon is the capital of ochre. This small village, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, blends into the surrounding cliffs. As you walk through the narrow streets and enjoy the small squares, you see and feel the color that is an inherent part of its history. It all goes back to the sea which once covered the area. When the sea dried up several million years ago, pouring rain slowly transformed the accumulated layers of limestone into ochre-bearing sands. Ochre was first used as a natural paint in the painted caves that prehistoric man embellished. It was later rediscovered at the time of the French Revolution and was sold throughout the world for over a century. Ochre is a natural pigment with indelible color.

One of the famous ‘perched villages’ of Provence, Menerbes is a medieval village spread out along a hilltop in the center of the Luberon region. Typical of the ancient Luberon villages, you will find narrow streets passing carefully restored medieval houses as you climb up the hill. Most of the houses in Menerbes date from the 16th and 17th centuries, and a large number have been beautifully renovated in recent years. The village of Menerbes has long attracted artists – Nicolas de Stael and Picasso lived here. But the village is better known for a more recent resident, Peter Mayle, who wrote his ‘Year in Provence’ books while living in the village. These books undoubtedly brought fame and repute to the villages of the Luberon and Menerbes in particular, and deservedly so.

The village of Lourmarin came into being with the building of a castle here: it was constructed in the 12th century, subsequently replaced in the 15th century, and improved in the 16th century. Lourmarin village itself is very attractive, with lots of narrow winding Provençal streets, many too narrow or too steep for cars to ever pass, meandering past centuries-old houses. Allow yourself time to explore some of the art galleries and shops in the village and there are a couple of small squares where you will be pleased to stop for a while and enjoy a refreshing drink while reflecting on the history that positively oozes from the town.

Entry to the Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Visit one of Provence’s emblematic sites, the 12th-century Cistercian Abbaye de Sénanque.

Your visit includes a HistoPad, a tablet that lets you turn back time with augmented reality and experience the site as it once was.

The abbey, deep in its Provençal valley, is one of the finest examples of early Cistercian architecture. Today the site is still home to a community of practicing monks.

Seven times per day, the community prays together in the abbey church to pray. During the visit, you can admire the abbey church, the ancient dormitory, the cloister, the warming room, and the chapter house, built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The abbey is particularly stunning when it is surrounded by blooming lavender fields in June and July.

Overnight Stay with Breakfast in a 4-star Boutique Hotel in Central Aix-en-Provence

Day 5: Aix-en-Provence

Small-Group Gourmet Walking Tour

Meet your guide in front of Aix-en-Provence Tourist Information Center and discover the charming Provençal town with a diverse range of locally-made products. The open-air markets are very popular with the locals. You’ll become one of them strolling through the colorful stalls.

Taste the famous Calisson, the sweet nougat, toasts with green and black tapenade, and of course some cheeses paired with a glass of wine.

Let your senses be seduced by the scents, colors, and flavors. You’ll appreciate what the Provençal way of life means!

Overnight Stay with Breakfast in a 4-star Boutique hotel in Central Aix-en-Provence

 

Day 6: Marseille

Suggestion: Explore Marseille, the City of a Thousand Faces

Nestled between the turquoise Mediterranean Sea, rocky inlets, and scenic hills, the Southern French metropolis is overhung and protected by the impressive Basilica “Bonne Mère” (the “Good Mother”). France’s oldest and second biggest city was founded by Greek traders 2,600 years ago and is full of surprises ever since. As in other troubled port cities, Marseille had a reputation of crime and defiant bombast, but the city has polished its image.

Today it skillfully combines tradition with modernity. New or refurbished trams, designer hotels, galleries, museums, cultural centers, sights, and chic restaurants make the Mediterranean city a fascinating attraction. Not to be missed are the museum MUCEM (about history and culture of the Mediterranean Region) and the MAC, exhibiting contemporary art. Marseille life still focuses on the Vieux Port, the Old Port with its vibrant nightlife and many restaurants. A must-try is the delicious Bouillabaisse, the local fish soup.

Worth visiting is the Château d’If, an old fort converted into a prison whose most famous prisoner was immortalized by Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Count of Monte-Cristo, or the off the coast Frioul Islands where you can admire original protected plant life. And if you fancy taking a break, find your own hidden little bay, the typical Calanques where you can swim, relax and sunbathe!

Fort Saint Jean in Marseille

Visit of the Château d’If and Frioul Island

A crucial fortress: Francis I of France wanted the Château d’If to fulfill three functions: protect the coast from invasion; provide cover for the new royal fleet of galleys, and keep watch over Marseille, annexed to France in 1480.

A state prison: Anyone opposing official authority was imprisoned here from 1580 until 1871, especially Protestants and Republicans.

The stuff of legends, renowned worldwide: Alexandre Dumas published The Count of Monte Cristo in 1844. Its main protagonist Edmond Dantès is imprisoned at If. Hugely popular, the novel has been translated into most languages and has inspired twenty-three films.

The Frioul island is composed of two islands (Ratonneau and Pomègues) connected by a dike forming a port.

Theater of exceptional fauna and flora, the islands of Friuli are an ideal destination for nature lovers, history, unusual walks, swimming and nautical activity.

Discover the Château d’If in Marseille

A crucial fortress: Francis I of France wanted the Château d’If to fulfill three functions: protect the coast from invasion; provide cover for the new royal fleet of galleys, and keep watch over Marseille, annexed to France in 1480.

A state prison: Anyone opposing official authority was imprisoned here from 1580 until 1871, especially Protestants and Republicans.

The stuff of legend, renowned worldwide: Alexandre Dumas published The Count of Monte Cristo in 1844. Its main protagonist Edmond Dantès is imprisoned at If. Hugely popular, the novel has been translated into most languages and has inspired twenty-three films.

Overnight Stay with Breakfast in a 4-star hotel with a view over Marseille’s Old Port

Day 7: Marseille Airport

Private transfer from your accommodation

A chauffeur will meet you for a private transfer between your lodging and the airport.

marseille city in France

Map

About This Trip:

    • Enjoy 24/7 English-spoken telephone assistance while traveling
    • This itinerary includes transport, activities, guides, accommodations with breakfasts, and other listed services
    • Price is in USD per person, assuming double occupancy. Note that prices and availability are subject to change.

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Our Favorite Hotels in the Provence

Le Galinier
Maison Montgrand
Le Pigonnet
Vallon de Valrugues

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