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      our holidays > Cycling Holidays > France > Provence > Villages & Valleys of Provence

Villages & Valleys of Provence

Provence’s colourful medieval villages
Starting point:

You begin in the village of Roussillon, listed among the most beautiful in France. It’s a veritable artist’s palette of a village, painted with the colourful ochre sands of its quarry, which contrast beautifully with the surrounding green pines and deep blue Provençal sun. Your two nights here are spent at Les Sables d’Ocre.

Day 1
Circular route from Roussillon: 49.5km
Shorter option: 31.5km

Our introductory circuit leads you east from Roussillon on small back roads through cherry orchards and vines. You pass – and can visit – the Bruoux mines: an otherworldly labyrinth of 40 kilometres of ochre mines dating from the mid-20th century, with cathedral-like galleries that soar 15 metres high. You then continue to the town of Apt in the Calavon valley, the world capital of fruits confits  (candied fruit). From here, you can take a shortcut to loop back to Roussillon, or pedal eastwards to Rustrel. This sleepy village is set above one of the largest ochre deposits in the world, often referred to as the Colorado Provençal  for its brightly coloured earth and chaotically shaped cliff formations. Return to Roussillon via the authentic village of Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt.

Day 2
Roussillon to Coustellet: 35km
Shorter option: 34km

Leaving the bright hues of Roussillon behind, you cycle on to Gordes. Out of all the spectacular medieval hill-top villages of the Luberon, this is perhaps the most jaw-dropping: its golden-grey stone buildings rise almost improbably from the Calavon valley, spiralling in concentric circles up to a Renaissance castle. Take time to explore the narrow, cobbled streets and hidden lanes lined by old stone walls and centuries-old dry-stone huts, then begin your ascent to the lost village of Goult, boasting a stunning limestone castle and timeless medieval streets (a shorter route omitting the climb to Goult is also available). Once you reach the valley, you follow a specially designated cycle lane, set atop a former railway line. This leads you past a fifth-generation candied-fruit maker and to Hotel Les Oliviers in the cosy village of Coustellet, your base for the next two nights.

Day 3
Circular route from Coustellet: 46km
Shorter option: 34km

We suggest heading south towards the villages perchés  of the Luberon mountains. After a short but steep climb you reach Oppède-le-Vieux, where medieval homes nestle tightly above the ramparts, and ancient cobbled streets lead up to a 12th-century church. Two quaint bistros sit below the village, inviting you for a petite pause café. Country lanes meander on from here through orchards and truffle-oak plantations to reach three more hill-top villages, all well worth a visit. First is Ménerbes, its streets hanging precariously above the valley, and listed among the most beautiful villages in France. Next is Lacoste, with vaulted stone archways, tiny medieval streets and the ruins of a castle belonging to the infamous Marquis de Sade. And last but not least Bonnieux, where the views from the ancient church extend to the entire valley (the name Bonnieux comes from the French words bon  (good) and oeil  (eye)). You return to Coustellet via the leisurely cycle-only path along the valley.

Day 4
Coustellet to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse: 20km

Today, you leave Coustellet behind to explore the lesser-known villages of Maubec and Robion, both set on the jagged, western edge of the Luberon mountains. Pedal past gorgeous stone villas and gardens before making the short climb between the villages of Cabrières and Lagnes, aiming for a viewpoint from where you can enjoy a short walk to the ruins of Le Mur de la Peste. Literally translated as the ‘plague wall’, this 27-kilometre dry-stone wall was built in 1720 to ward off the plague that arrived via Marseille. A winding descent then brings you to the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and its pure, emerald waters, the depth of which remains a mystery even today. Here you spend two nights at the Hotel du Poète, set right alongside the soothing waters of the Sorgue river.

Day 5
Circular route from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse: 18.5km

Beyond Fontaine-de-Vaucluse the plains begin, and the vines and truffle oaks give way to pear and apple orchards. Seldom-used lanes criss-cross these to lead you to the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a veritable island surrounded by the clear waters of the Sorgue river. The picturesque quays here are lined with cafés and restaurants, while ancient waterwheels sit in the cold waters (12-13°C all year long!). The renowned Sunday market stalls fill the entire town centre, while the famous antique shops attract visitors from all over the world.

Additional circular route from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse: 48.5km
Shorter option: 35.5km

If you choose to add an extra night in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, this additional ride takes you to the little-known villages on the northern slopes of the Vaucluse Mountains. Passing through cherry orchards, you cycle high above the plains to the tiny Provençal villages of La Roque-sur-Pernes and Le Beaucet, both completely lost in time and as far off the beaten track as you can hope to get. Continue north to the village perché  of Vénasque, where the Romanesque church harbours a baptistery from the 6th century – one of the oldest religious monuments in Provence. You then freewheel down to the plains, passing the villages of Saint-Didier (and its famed nougat factory!), and then Pernes-les-Fontaines, its pretty medieval streets sprinkled with beautifully sculpted fountains, before eventually returning to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
We also provide notes for a slightly abridged version, heading directly from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to Pernes-les-Fontaines.

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  - Moderate cycling - Grade 2 Cycle
Local Map
Type: electric
Maximum range: 80km
Levels of power: 4
Gears: 8
Helmets? yes (must be requested at time of booking)
Accessories: waterproof map case on handlebars; pannier/saddlebag; pump; puncture repair kit; lock
Regular bikes available? yes (hybrid)
This Grade 2 holiday includes 6 days' electric bike hire. To find out more about what it's like to use an 'e-bike', take a look at our FAQs...
If you would like to map your route on your smartphone or dedicated GPS device, we can provide GPX tracks for this holiday – please call for details.