General

Many people combine their time in Provence with a stay on the Cote d’Azur/Riviera. Cities such as Nice, Cannes and Monaco, and resorts such as Antibes, Juan Les Pins, Beaulieu Sur Mer, and Villefranche sur Mer, are surprisingly easy to visit.  A train line runs all along the coast, stopping at all the cities and resorts. Trains run every fifteen minutes making this an extremely convenient way of getting around. Our favourite resort is Villefranche sur Mer, where we recommend the Hotel Welcome, which is a 5 minute walk from the train station.

3/4 nights on the coast is an ideal way to extend your trip. For a supplement of approx €200 we can organise a taxi to the Riviera. Altenatively you can take a train from Aix en Provence to Nice or Cannes.

Another popular way of extending a stay is to add a couple of nights in Paris at the beginning or end of your holiday. The train from Paris to Aix en Provence takes just over 3 hours and runs hourly.

Provence Small Group Tours
Our base the village of Lourmarin is nicknamed the “St Tropez of inland Provence”

All our groups are based in the village of Lourmarin at the 4-star Bastide du Lourmarin Hotel. The Hotel has a swimming pool and spa, and is conveniently located a 1 minute walk from the center of the village. In the event of a shortage of rooms guests may be also be accommodated in the historic Moulin de Lourmarin hotel right in the heart of Lourmarin.

Lourmarin is classed as one of France’s most beautiful villages. It is filled with shops, cafes, restaurants and art galleries and is an enchanting place to spend time. The village has an extensive literary heritage claiming Albert Camus, Henri Bosco and Peter Mayle as past residents. It is located in the Luberon Regional Nature Park, in the heart of Provence, 30 minutes north of Aix en Provence. Little known outside France, Lourmarin is beloved by the famously hard to please Parisians. Mention the name of the village to a Parisian and watch a wide smile spread across their face as they confess: “J’adore Lourmarin”.

One of the reasons to choose our tour is that you will spend 5 nights in the village soaking up its unique atmosphere. Each night you will be able to choose a different restaurant to suit your mood. Tour members can dine together, or choose to spend some time apart. Please see the photos below for images of Lourmarin.

The wines of Chateauneuf du Pape are rightly world famous. As a result the village of Chateauneuf du Pape has become a thriving tourist center. Many of the vineyards have moved their tasting rooms from the vineyards into village center shops/tasting rooms to cater for tourist demand. Tastings in Chateauneuf can therefore feel generic, as one tourist group after another trails through.

Meanwhile the quality of Provencal wine outside Chateauneuf du Pape has improved dramatically in the last twenty years. Vineyard visits still offer an authentic experience and way of getting up close to the wine making process and the vigneron responsible for the wine. At Provence Guru we therefore offer one tasting at a Luberon vineyard and one outside Cassis.

For wine enthusiasts who really want to sample Chateauneuf, Lourmarin is lucky enough to claim one of France’s top wine negociants as a resident. Laurent Tardieu makes top Rhone wines for export all over the world, including Chateauneuf. A tasting of Chateauneuf in Lourmarin can be arranged on request.

Provence is blessed with sights. You could tour for 2 weeks or a month and still not see everything. A 6 day tour has to be selective. At Provence Guru we have structured an itinerary that offers the Best of Provence in a limited time. Arles and Aix en Provence are favoured over Avignon, because in our opinion they offer more to the visitor. However, in the event of rain on the day of the scheduled visit to the coast, Cassis and Les Calanques, we visit Avignon instead.

At Provence Guru we believe that group size should be a key factor in choosing your tour provider. The size of your group will directly impact on your enjoyment of your holiday. Here are just a few ways in which group size will impact on your holiday:

 

  • The larger the group the more time you will spend sitting around waiting for others.
  • Many great restaurants are too small and too busy to accommodate parties over 10.
  • The itinerary of a small group can easily be adapted to suit participants. The larger the groups the more difficult it is to change the itinerary.
  • Covid 19: Adapting to social distancing rules and providing appropriate transport is easier for small groups.

For these reasons we have chosen to limit our group size to a maximum of 10 people.

Private tours generally work out around €1,000 per day excluding accommodation and food. This includes Jamie Ivey as a guide for a day plus transport. The group size limit is 7 people.

On a daily basis you can expect to do a little walking. Visits to cities such as Aix en Provence and Arles include walking tours with our tour leader Jamie Ivey. The visit to the Luberon village of Roussillon also offers the opportunity for tour members to explore the Sentier des Ocres. Here there are two trails: one takes 30 minutes, the other an hour to complete. Both trails head out into the spectacular ocre tinted countryside.

If you would like to include more walking in your holiday, please let us know in advance – we can always adapt our itinerary to provide opportunities for hikes.

We have prepared a graphic to compare the offerings of the major providers of Provence Small Group Tours. Click on the image to the left to enlarge.

Conclusions:

Provence Guru offers the smallest group size – Max 10 people.

Slow Tours is the least expensive tour. This needs to be set against the inconvenience of multiple bases and the use of 3 star hotels. The tour concentrates more on the coast than the Provencal countryside and cities. The tours also run infrequently

Provence Guru and Off the Beaten Path offer very similar tours concentrating on the main Provencal sights. The differences between the operators are as follows:

 

 

  • Provence Guru is €500 cheaper per person and includes 2 more meals in its price than Off the Beaten Path.
  •  Off the Beaten Path uses a 3 star hotel whereas Provence Guru bases clients in a 4 star hotel.
  • Provence Guru includes a visit to Aix en Provence, Off the Beaten Path does not.
  • Off the Beaten Path has a strict cancellation policy. Provence Guru has a “best of kind” cancellation policy. Read more here.
  • Provence Guru tours are owner led.
  • Off the Beaten Path offers 3 guided walks inc. in the price. Provence Guru offers guided walks for a small supplement of €30 per person.
  • Provence Guru has a smaller group size – Maximum 10 persons vs Maximum 16.

 

The Luberon Experience is the best choice for clients specifically interested in visiting the Luberon Hill Villages.

Classic Journeys is the most expensive operator. It uses 5 star hotel and is a good choice for luxury and clients interested in the Languedoc and Southern Rhone regions.

Provence has a fantastic reputation for its food and wine. We understand the local food culture and want you to enjoy the best Provence has to offer. We avoid touristy restaurants and eat in off the beaten track places, patronized by locals.

Although The Best of Provence Tour is not specifically listed as a Gourmet Tour it includes two wine tastings at top local domains and the opportunity to taste regional dishes such as bouillabaisse ( the famous fish soup of Marseille) and delicacies such as the Calissons of Aix en Provence (almond and candied fruit). Above all we want you to return from your Provence holiday raving about the food.

Guests take breakfast in their hotel, which is included in the price of the tour. This consists of croissants, pan au chocolat, fresh fruit and cereal.

In addition 5 meals are included in the Best of Provence Tour. On the first evening a gala welcome dinner is held in one of Lourmarin’s top restaurants. Lunch is also provided from Monday to Thursday. Three lunches are taken in restaurants which have been specially selected by our tour leader Jamie Ivey. The fourth lunch usually takes the form of a picnic/buffet in a vineyard.

In the evenings guests can opt for any of Lourmarin’s numerous restaurants.

A small group also allows us to easily cater for food allergies etc…Please let us know in advance of any special requirements.

 

Small Group Tours attract an average of 30% single travelers. Out of a group of 10, it would be normal to have 3 or 4 single people on the tour. This is an average and no guarantees can be made about the number of single travelers on any one tour.

Provence Small Group Tours welcomes single travelers. As with all tour operators we face the challenge of increased cost.  With our low prices we cannot absorb all of this cost, however, we do cover most of the extra expense and have limited our single traveler supplement to €200.

Single traveler places are not always available on tours. Please always enquire before booking.

Payment

Provence Guru is a member of A Tout France the French travel agents association. Any money you pay Provence Guru is covered by a full financial guarantee.

Our “best on the market” policy:

Deposit is payable upon reservation. Full payment is due 90 days before departure.

All payments are refundable (minus any bank charges and processing fees) up to 21 days before departure.

In the event of cancellation between 21 and 15 days before departure your payment can be used as credit against another tour.

Thereafter refunds are not possible.

Other tour operators:

According to our market comparison Provence Guru offers the most flexible cancellation policy available among Provence Small Tour Operators.  Please click on the graphic below to see our competitors cancellation policies:

Entrance fees, transport, breakfast and lunchtime meals are included in all tours (except private). Apart from the welcome dinner on the first evening, dinner is not included. You should budget an additional €20 to €50 per person per night depending on your choice of restaurant and wine.

Note if you pay by credit card a 3% processing charge will be added to your final invoice. To avoid this additional charge please make payments by bank transfer.

 

Preparation

Our sister website www.provenceguru.com contains a wealth of information about all things Provencal.

We also recommend the latest book of our tour leader Jamie Ivey: The Moon Guide to Provence.

 

Our tours take place between April and the end of September. During the day it tends to be warm, so light summer clothing is usually appropriate. The evenings can be cold though. So do bring jumpers and trousers.  A rain coat is always a sensible precaution.