Welcome to our compendium of very Provencal Places to help build your Best of Provence Travel Itinerary

Provence France Tour
Jamie Ivey signing copies of his books about Provence

The internet is full of 3 day, 5 day, and 7 day Provence Travel Itineraries. They are all very much alike and rehearse the same big sights: The Palais des Papes in Avignon, The Arena in Arles, The Musee Granet in Aix en Provence etc…This Provence travel itinerary is very different.

The places that merit inclusion are not museums or cultural sights. Instead they are locations that to me have a particularly Provencal feel. It may be a restaurant next to a fountain under a plane tree or it could be a vineyard with a sensational view over the Provencal countryside or an artist’s gallery or even a bar with a particularly Provencal vibe. The important thing is that if you choose to include these places in your Provence Travel Itinerary, you will really feel that you are in Provence.

Provencal Place no.1 for your Provence Travel Itinerary:

  1. Place Saint Didier, Great for any Avignon Travel Itinerary

Place Saint Didier Provence Itinerary



Avignon, to the east of Rue de La Republique


Because there is nothing quite like a shady church square. Place Saint Didier is off the beaten tourist track and has recently been pedestrianised. There’s a gorgeous old plane tree, a micocoulier (hackberry tree) and the gothic Eglise Saint Didier famed for its renaissance art. No self-respecting square would be complete without a café. The Place Saint Didier boasts the Grand Café Barretta one of the best spots to stop, and watch the world go by. Several niches in the buildings of the Place Saint Didier are home to statues of the Virgin Mary. Avignon is famed for these small statuettes – there are some 250 in all, completed by the stone masons (for which the city was well known up until the 20th century).

2. The Belvedere of Courthezon – A great stop in wine country

View from the Belvedere


The town of Courthezon just north of Avignon.


For the amazing view of the Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux, a little history, and a pleasing stroll through the little visited town of Courthezon. Way back in the 17th century Courthezon was part of the principality of Orange. Louis XIV claimed the territory for the French throne and knocked down the Chateau and most of the ramparts of the town. He left 600 m or so which have recently been restored. Climb up and admire the view of the Dentelles and then stroll through the public gardens next to the Marie. It’s an off the beaten track delight.

3. The Moulin de Jerusalem – Add to any Luberon Travel Itinerary



At the top of the village of Goult in the Northern Luberon.


The view of the Luberon Hills from adjacent to the 17th century windmill is hard to beat. The summer sun creates a rippling heat haze within which the colours of the lavender fields, olive groves and lush vines merge in and out of each other. It’s the Luberon’s version of the Northern Lights. The Moulin is supposed to take its name from the nobility in the Goult area who headed off to the holy lands to join the Crusades. As enjoyable as the view is the gentle meander back through the village streets of Goult.


4. The village of Vaugines – A southern Luberon Gem perfect for a village tour itinerary


5km from Lourmarin in the Southern Luberon, about 30 minutes drive north from Aix en Provence.


Provence Travel ItineraryVaugines is often overlooked by tourists. The main road sweeps by beneath the village and most people never even consider stopping. They don’t know what they are missing. For a truly Provencal 30 minutes, park in the parking beneath the church. A small road takes you up towards the hills. Keep the picturesque church, framed by centuries old plane trees on your right, and continue out into the countryside towards the Luberon hills. After 1km take a left turn (signposted to the center of the village) and meander through the picturesque streets, arriving at the central fountain. There stop and order a pastis from Café de La Fontaine. Drink slowly in the sleepy shade listening to the trickling waters of the fountain. Nothing could be more Provencal.


5.The table for two at La Trinquette Gordes

Provence Travel ItineraryWhere?

Rue des Tracapelles, 84220 Gordes, Tel : Tel: 04 90 72 11 62


The table with perhaps the best view in Provence, sits on a Romeo and Juliet balcony, looking out in a grand sweep from the vertiginous heights of Gordes across the Luberon. In the summer at sunset, the blazing sunshine fades to orange, to purple, to blue, to darkness. Cypress trees spear the sky, cicadas chirp in the garrigue, in short there’s no doubting you are in Provence. Oh and the food is excellent. Be warned you need to book well in advance – there’s only the one table on the terrace and its extremely popular particularly with honeymooners!

6. Domaines des Masques – a must for a Provencal Wine Tour

Best Provence Travel Itinerary

Domaine des Masques


Clinging to the side of a cliff half-way up Mont Saint Victoire! But for your GPS: Chemin Maurely, 13100 Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon, Tel: 06 70 19 54 67



Best of Provence Travel ItineraryIf you only schedule one wine tasting on your South of France vacation make it a trip to Domaine des Masques. The wine of course is great, with multiple whites, reds and rosés to sample, but the real reason to visit is the overall experience. Firstly, phone in advance to check the domaine is open. Visiting takes commitment.

First you locate the small road heading south from St Antonin Sur Bayon near Aix en Provence. The road quickly turns into a bumpy track. Ignore the signs saying access for fire fighters only and jolt out into the wild (a robust suspension is recommended).

Domaine des Masques is located on the plateau of rock which runs around the base of Mont Saint Victoire. It’s one of the most dramatic locations for a vineyard imaginable. The vines run right up to the cliff face and the vineyard buildings are framed by the immensity of the mountain behind. Add in the quality of the wines and the sensational views on the way up and down and this is a vineyard visit not to be missed.  Schedule a visit in July when the lavender field in front of the vineyard is in bloom and there are great photo opportunities. What could be more Provencal – sipping rosé in a purple haze of lavender admiring the view of Mont Saint Victoire?

7. The Mange Tout Restaurant – A great lunch stop near Marseille airport


Calanque Mejeans, 8 Chemin du Tire Cul, 13820 Ensuès-la-Redonne, approx. 25 minutes drive from Marseille Marignane airport.


Enjoy a magical Mediterranean moment a short hop from the airport. There is something delightfully ramshackle about this restaurant: plastic chairs, basic tables and a makeshift covering for the terrace. The vibe is small Greek island rather than oh so chic South of France.

The back to basics attitude extends to the food. There’s fish, fish, fish and the odd salad for those who don’t like fish. The Calamares are some of the best I have ever had. The grilled catch of the day arrives each morning in the adjacent harbour.

Then there is the view, as you can see from the photo it is absolutely sensational. This is Provence at its best, far from the crowds, a real local secret where you can truly soak up the atmosphere of a small fishing community.

An added bonus is a boule pitch a stone’s throw from the restaurant. Perfect for a pastis at sundown overlooking the Med. Build this place into any Provencal itinerary. It’s only 30 minutes drive from Marseille Marignane airport so it’s the perfect restaurant to visit at the start or end of any vacation.

8. Tuesday Morning at the Etang du Cucuron – A must for any Provencal Market Tour

Provence Small Group Tours


The Southern Luberon Village of Cucuron, about 30 minutes north of Aix en Provence.


A list of Provencal places would not be complete without including at least one market. Every Tuesday the village of Cucuron hosts my favourite in Provence. The combination of the etang, the centuries old plane trees and the multicoloured parasols of the traders combine to create one of the most alluring sights in Provence.

On sunny days the reflection of the trees and the market stalls in the water is something to behold. What I like most about this market is the peaceful atmosphere. Outside the summer season there is a sense of tranquillity. Lulled by the generous shadows and the lapping water, people shop slowly and convivially. Enjoying a coffee on the terrace of the local café and watching the world pass by is a  pleasure.

If you have any suggestions for inclusion add a comment below or email jamie@provenceguru.com

Interested in touring Provence, join us on one of our great tours.

Alternatively if you want to plan your own schedule then the following website is helpful: Your Travel Itinerary

How to get the best from a South of France (Provence) vacation

The South of France (Provence) is one of the top vacation destinations in the world. It boasts some of the best beaches, and most dramatic countryside in the whole of France. In addition, the South of France has a rich artistic and literary heritage. Cezanne, Picasso and Van Gogh are all inextricably linked with the area. Writers such as Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Albert Camus wrote some of their greatest works here. History buffs love the plentiful Roman sites and the world famous, Gothic, Palais des Papes in Avignon. Add in one of the best climates in the world and it is not hard to see why tourists come flocking.

This article (by Jamie Ivey, author of the Moon Guide to Provence) is intended to help those in the planning stage of a South of France vacation. It sets out the need to know basics of for choosing the south of France for a vacation destination and includes a list of the top 10 places to visit.

South of France vacation, geography

First a little geography. The south of France refers to France’s Mediterranean coast and extensive hinterland stretching roughly from Perpignan near the Spanish border to Nice near the Italian border. The main areas tourists will visit are – the Cote d’Azur, commonly referred to as the Riviera, the inland Provencal heartland centered around the three cities of Aix en Provence, Arles and Avignon; and finally Nimes and the surrounding countryside.

When to visit the South of France and what to expect

Holiday in the Cote D’Azur

The Cote d’Azur is dominated by big name cities and resorts: Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, Antibes, and Cap Ferrat to name just a few. The coastline deserves its stella reputation. The play of light on water around the pine fringed coves is a delight to experience. Less pleasing are the traffic jams and small public beaches where people are jammed in like sardines.

More than any other region of the South of France it is important to plan your vacation at the right time of year. Winter is short and the vacation season begins in February with the blooming of the Mimosa and shortly afterwards the Fete du Citron in Menton. By June July and August the coast is overcrowded and to avoid the ceaseless traffic you need to take the coastal train line (or splurge on a helicopter!). Calm returns in September, and there are plenty of tourists up until the end of October.

Holiday in Inland Provence

Inland Provence is a much calmer place to visit. The lifestyle here was popularised by the English author Peter Mayle with his best selling “A Year in Provence.” Although Mayle indulged in a little dramatic licence, the portrait he painted of a rural sleepy society bathed in golden sunshine is still true today. Like the Cote d’Azur the summer months are the busiest, but out of this peak season the countryside remains quiet and the villages pleasantly animated. Focus on nature parks like the Luberon and Les Alpilles which are filled with the most dramatic countryside and the cities of Arles, Avignon and Aix en Provence.

Holiday in the Languedoc

Finally to the west of the Rhone is the Languedoc. Lured by the Pont du Gard and the Roman Arena, most tourists head to Nimes and its hinterland. This is the least wealthy region in the South of France. Tourism, although an important contributor to the economy is not the dominant force it is elsewhere in the South of France. Although not as picturesque as some of the more famous areas of the South of France, the Languedoc is still an appealing region to visit. The relaxed southern French lifestyle epitomised by games of boule and glasses of pastis in the shade of a café is as strong here as in Provence. And because it is less busy, the Languedoc is my pick for a July/August visit to the South of France.

South of France Provence vacation, accommodation options

The big choice is between staying in a hotel / guest house or renting a villa.

Villa Rentals for a Provence South of France vacation

There are thousands of villas to rent in the south of France and a range of prices to suit all budgets. Large families and groups often favor villa rental. For those nervous about the shopping and cleaning involved when renting a villa, note that concierge services are available.  Also note that a month in a villa in the Languedoc can be had for the price of one week in a villa in the trendier areas of inland Provence and the Cote d’Azur. My preferred villa rental company is Only Provence.

Best Hotels for a South of France vacation

Provence is filled with hotels. Here’s a small list of 5 of my favourites.

  1. Mas de Senancole, a simple three star hotel with a picturesque swimming pool and garden which is a great base to explore the Luberon.
  2. Chateau des Alpilles, just outside Saint Remy de Provence, a dreamy experience just outside the town of Saint Remy.
  3. Domaine de Fontenille, in Lauris, a vineyard come hotel, which offers a great location for touring the Southern Luberon.
  4. Les Roches Blanches, located right at the entrance to Les Calanques in Cassis, with stunning views of the highest cliff in Europe.
  5. The Bellerives in Juan Les Pins. The hotel oozes old school glamour and in the glittering bar overlooking the Med, it’s possible to close your eyes and feel the presence of past guests such as Scott Fitzgerland and Hemmingway.

Transport links in the South of France

The main hub airports for a South of France vacation are Marseille and Nice. The TGV train runs from Paris and Lille south to Avignon, Aix en Provence, Marseille, Cannes and Nice. A separate service runs to Nimes. In the summer it is also possible to get a direct train from London to the South of France (Avignon TGV).

Once in the south of France hiring a car is the best way to get around. The road network is excellent and the scenery as you drive is exceptionally beautiful. Be aware that the autoroutes (freeways) get very busy in the summer months and particularly at the weekend.

The one exception to the hire a car rule is the Cote D’Azur where a good alternative is the local train line which runs along the coast and connects all the big name cities and resorts.  The trains run through Monaco all the way to Italy.

Major Provence sights and cities for a South of France Vacation:

When planning your South of France vacation, there are some must see sights to build into to your itinerary. In no particular order here are 10 not to miss south of France sights.

  1. Jardin de Villa de Rothschild

These gardens located on the Cap Ferrat Peninsula are a joy to wander around. Filled with verdant and exotic plants there are plentiful places to stop and stare out to sea. The tour gives a real insight into the decadent lifestyle of the Riviera during its early 20th century heyday.


  1. Aix en Provence


Aix en Provence, Place AlbertasA dream of a city to visit, Aix has it all: fountain-filled squares, grand avenues, a daily fruit, vegetable and flower market, quirky boutiques, big brands, and a café filled lifestyle. It’s a city that feels like a small town and the place is a joy to spend time in. Culture vultures will love the Musee Granet and Cezanne’s atelier.


  1. The Gorge du Verdon


This 800m deep limestone gorge is a jaw dropping experience and not for the faint hearted. The nearby man-made Lac Saint Croix offers plentiful beaches with electric boats and pedalos for hire. Hikers love dropping down into the gorge. Some of the trails include Indiana Jones style rope bridges and rickety ladders plus the opportunity to spot wildlife such as vultures and golden eagles.



  1. The village of Lourmarin


Lourmarin villageLourmarin is the epitome of a Provencal village. Framed by the soft folded hills of the Luberon mountains it’s as picturesque from the inside as the outside. The heart of the village is the terraces of three cafes: the Ourmeau, the Fontaine and the Gaby, that line the central street. The shopping lures the Provencal from as far as Marseille thanks to an eclectic mix of art galleries and clothes and jewellery boutiques. If you visit only one Provencal village during your time in the South of France, make it Lourmarin.


  1. The Roman Arena Arles


Roman Arena Arles - Top Places to see in ProvenceYou have to hand it to the Romans, they really knew how to build a stadium. The sharply rising stands are still in great condition today and its easy to imagine the crowd baying for blood as the gladiators fought to the death below. Visiting the arena is an evocative experience and a must for history lovers.


  1. Carrieres des Lumieres, Les Baux


The old bauxite mines of Les Baux de Provence now host spectacular art shows. Works by masters such as Picasso and Gaudi are projected onto the expansive walls of the quarry. Visitors feels as if they are actually walking through an artistic universe.


  1. Camargue Safari


Visitors planning a south of France vacation often ignore The Camargue. Formed at the delta of the Rhone river it is one of the largest wetland areas of Europe. The Camargue is famed for its flamingo colonies, the  white horses of the Camargue gardiens and herds of bulls. Hikes crisscross this nature reserve which is a must for lovers of wildlife.


  1. Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is simply the most magnificent example of Roman Engineering you are ever likely to see. My favourite way to visit is to hire a canoe and paddle downstream. Looking up at its arched glory from the river, you really appreciate the scale of the endeavour.



  1. Cote du Rhone Wine Tasting


The Cote du Rhone region just north of Avignon makes the best wine in Provence (apologies to Bandol). Take yourself on a day trip to villages such as Gigondas, Beaumes de Venise, and Seguret. Taste the sumptuous reds on offer at any of the plentiful local vineyards.


  1. Palais des Papes, Avignon


 Palais des Papes AvignonBuilt in just 30 years at the beginning of the 14th century by Pope Benedict X11 and Pope Clement VI, the Palais is an awe inspiring Gothic monument. Technology brings the visit alive with the Histopad tablet projecting 3 dimensional images of the Palais in its heyday.





If you have any questions about a visit to Provence post a query below. I will reply as soon as possible. And if you like the idea of a South of France vacation but find planning the logistics daunting, you might want to consider a Provence Small Group Tour with Provence Guru. We do the hard work of organising everything and you sit back and enjoy. You might also like our recent post on choosing the right tour for you – Provence France Tours

For more tips try our Best of Provence Travel Itinerary

How to choose the right Provence France Tour for you.

We’ve compared the offerings of the main small group tour operators for you, to ensure you choose the right Provence France Tour.

We’ve also put together a comprehensive list of things to consider before booking a tour of Provence, in the South of France.

At the end of the article you will find our info-graphic which compares the offerings and prices of the main group tour operators. You’ll also find links to all their websites. We hope once you have considered all the options you’ll choose us.


Visitors frequently refer to the whole of the South of France as Provence. In many foreigners’ heads Provence stretches from Nice near the Italian border all the way to Nimes, a couple of hours from the Spanish border.

However, Provence is much smaller than many tourists imagine. The French government does not recognise an administrative area called Provence. Instead the Provencal have roughly defined their own boundaries. The consensus is that Provence is made up of the following French departements – The Vaucluse, The Bouches du Rhone and the Var (as far east as Saint Maximin La Sainte Baume and Toulon on the coast).

When searching for a Provence tour it therefore pays to be careful about geography. Are you interested in visiting cities such as Nice, and Cannes, and resorts such as Antibes and Juan Les Pins. If yes be sure to include the keywords “Riviera” and “Cote d’Azur”  in your search terms. If Roman monuments are your area of interest, then make sure the tour crosses the Rhone and visits the Languedoc for monuments such as the Pont du Gard and the Nimes Roman Arena.

Provence Small Group Tours
Spring in the Luberon

Time of Year

Spring and Autumn are great times of year to tour Provence, France.

From April onwards Provencal towns and villages wake up from their winter slumber. Colour paints the fields – cherry and almond blossom drift in the air and vibrant red poppies adorn roadsides. Market traders sell strawberries, and cherries, and as summer nears melons and peaches, all fresh from local suppliers. Day time temperatures can still be high, reaching the mid-twenties (77 Fahrenheit), but the nights remain cool and air conditioning is rarely needed. It is a great time of year for a Provence vacation.

The summer months of July and August are busy and hot. Temperatures during the morning and evening are tolerable but afternoon temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees making touring uncomfortable. Air conditioned rooms for sleep are essential.

From September to early October is another great time to tour. Day time temperatures are pleasant, and rainfall is low. The summer crowds have departed and the grape harvest is in progress in the fields. For many residents it is their favourite time of year.

Clientele on Provence France Tours

When you book a group tour you take a chance. Are you going to like the other people on the tour? Are they going to be the same age and have the same interests as you? Will they come from the same part of the world? To understand who you might be touring with, first ask why people book Provence, France, tours.

Provence as a vacation destination is renowned for its history, its art, its beautiful countryside and its wine and food culture. It therefore attracts a wide variety of people. The composition of any group is likely to be cosmopolitan and drawn from anglophone nations around the world. Americans, Australians, and the British make up the majority of tour groups. The average age on a tour group is around 55. Single travelers are not unusual.

Tours attract this demographic for two main reasons: By booking onto a tour with an organised itinerary clients are able to see more in a short space of time and secondly travel is tiring and stressful. Arriving at an airport / train station, carrying heavy bags to a car hire office, queuing, and then coping with a foreign road system are all demanding.

Large vs Small Group Provence France Tours

Larger group tours are attractive for budgetary reasons. The organisors are able to offer economies of scale and block book hotel rooms and restaurants, offering 7 day tours at very competitive prices.

Those able to spend a little more, however, will find that the experience of touring with a group of say 14 rather than 28 is qualitatively much better. Large groups involve a lot of waiting around, they move slowly, and are difficult to organise. They eat in large restaurants and only visit sights which are capable of dealing with large groups. For example small traditional wine makers would never welcome a large group for a tasting. It is this opportunity to experience the real Provence that is lost on a large group tour of Provence.

Major Provence sights, attractions and cities

Provence Small Group Tours
The cries of the gladiators echo through the centuries in Arles’ Roman Arena

The major cities of Provence visited by Provence Tours are Aix en Provence, Arles and Avignon.

Out of three, Aix en Provence, is the city not to miss. It is the most pleasing to spend time wandering around. Its old town is filled with narrow streets, squares and fountains. There are plentiful boutiques, the world renowned Musee Granet plus Cezanne’s artistic heritage to explore.

Arles is a must for lovers of Roman history and also boasts a Van Gogh trail and Van Gogh Foundation.

Avignon, is famed worldwide for the Palais des Papes and the Pont d’Avignon. However, it is a busy, often workmanlike city and the least visually appealing of the big three. If you need to give one a miss, then consider skipping Avignon.

The Provence Countryside

The Provencal countryside is at its most alluring in the Luberon region. The hills and surrounding fields are full of fields of vines and at the right time of year lavender (see heading –  a word about Lavender). The villages of the region, such as Lourmarin, Gordes, Bonnieux and Roussillon are rightly world famous. This is the region where Peter Mayle wrote his seminal book “A Year in Provence.” Sadly now deceased Peter lived out his last years in the village of Lourmarin in the Southern Luberon. It was his favourite village in the region, and the village Provence Guru has chosen to use as a base for its Provence Small Group Tours.

The countryside adjacent to Arles and Avignon is known as Les Alpilles. Its landscape is much harsher than the Luberon. It is rockier, dryer and hotter. The villages are more spaced a part. They are less visually attractive than their Luberon cousins but produce fantastic olive oil. The main town of the region, Saint Remy de Provence has a wonderful twice weekly market.

The Provence Coast

Finally, most Provence France tours will take in Les Calanques: –  large rocky inlets cut into the coastline to the east of Marseille. They are famed as the most unspoilt part of the French Mediterranean coast. Cars are largely banned and access is on foot or by boat departing from the town of Cassis. When the sun is shining, the water glitters like a blanket of diamonds. Part of the experience of visiting Les Calanques is stopping at the port of Cassis, which is delightful and full of restaurants offering the local speciality – bouillabaisse fish soup.

A word about Lavender.

Many clients come to Provence lured by images of great fields of lavender breaking over the horizon like a wave. The vibrant purple of these photos is like a siren song. However, the summer sun quickly burns away the blaze of colour, so that lavender fields are only in full bloom for a couple of weeks. Complicating the timing still further, when a field of lavender blooms is dependent on its altitude and weather conditions leading up to the summer months. As a general rule of thumb lavender in the Luberon reaches peak colour from mid June to early July, lavender on the high plateaus near Sault and Valensole in mid to late July. Small group tour operators can adjust their schedules more easily to make sure they visit the right field of lavender for your week.

Wine Tastings

These can be tourists traps or truly enlightening experiences. Chateauneuf du Pape producers, in particular, have cashed in on the fame of their wine. Tastings tend to take place in the center of the village not at the winery itself. The wines offered to taste are often too young. By the time a Chateauneuf du Pape has spend 10 years ageing, it’s too expensive to offer in all but the most upmarket tastings. Look for Provence France tours that offer tastings with small producers, where you get to visit the vineyard rather than just a generic tasting room in a village.

Provence Tour Leader

Provence France Tour
Jamie Ivey signing copies of his books about Provence

The importance of choosing a tour with a knowledgeable tour leader cannot be overstated. Look for companies that use experts in their field, authors of books or academics.

Provence Tour Itinerary

Examine any proposed tour itinerary carefully. The temptation for many tour operators is to pack their itineraries with as many sights as possible. This ensures they do not lose out on clients because for example they do not visit the Palais des Papes. However, so much about visiting Provence is soaking up the ambiance, and partaking in the relaxed style of life. It’s not possible to truly enjoy your Provence vacation if you are being rushed from place to place, slaves to an over ambitious itinerary.

Provence Transport hubs

The main Provencal airports are Nice and Marseille

Nice airport is around 1hr 40m drive from the centrally located Provencal town of Aix en Provence. Ask your tour provider if they charge a supplement for a Nice airport pick up.

Marseille airport is connected with most European hubs. It is located outside the city and is an easy airport to fly in and out of.  Most Provence tour operators will pick up from Marseille airport.

In addition Avignon airport also has a limited number of low-cost flights from the UK.

The TGV train is the other main way of travelling to the South of France. Trains run from Paris hourly to Aix en Provence and Avignon TGV stations. There are also frequent trains from Lille in the north of France to both of these stations.

From Easter to the end of the tourist season it is also possible to get a direct train from London to Avignon.


And finally:


If you have any questions about touring Provence then please do not hesitate to get in touch with Jamie Ivey, author of this article, and the Moon Guide to Provence. Email: jamie@provenceguru.com

You may also like our recent article on Planning a South of France Vacation