June through August each year, the Provence lavender fields come alive.
From muted mauves to vibrant violets, the lavender in Provence, France, is a rich array of colorful hues and refreshing scents that tantalize the senses. It was my dream for many years to see the lavender fields in bloom, and when that dream finally came true, it was one of the loveliest trips I have ever taken. In just one day, you can visit several small provincial towns and villages, stopping along the route to walk among fragrant fields of lavender or gaze at the stunning landscapes. The best way to travel with a big group of people is by renting a van or a bus depending on the amount of people. If you want to take this into consideration then check out this great bus rental agency.
If you’re in France throughout the summer months, I highly recommend renting a car and heading to Provence for a day or two—I promise you won’t be disappointed. In addition to lavender, you’ll find no shortage of heritage, history, culture, and cuisine.
When to Go
Typically, the lavender begins to bloom in June and is harvested in August. Of course, it’s up to Mother Nature to decide when the fields will be at their fullest, but if you visit sometime between the end of June and late July, you should have a good chance of seeing the lavender in all its glory. I visited at the end of June, and the lavender was at its prime. If I had visited any earlier, I think the blossoms would have been a lot less dense.
Where to Stay
To make the most of your visit, you’ll want to hit the road early, so it’s a good idea to stay overnight in the area. Cavaillon is a small town in the center of the action. Located in Luberon National Park, it’s surrounded by beautiful vistas and quaint provincial towns. While there isn’t much to do in Cavaillon per se, it’s the perfect jumping off point for visiting many nearby attractions. I stayed at the Inter-Hotel Cavaillon Hôtel Du Parc, and I kid you not, it was the most delightful experience.
Situated just off the main road, there is plenty of free parking right outside the hotel, which is ideal since it’s necessary to have a car for your stay if you want to visit the surrounding communities and take a tour through the lavender. Upon entering the adorable inn, we were immediately greeted by the owner. She was eager to show us around and gives us tips on what to see during our stay. She was helpful, friendly, and very knowledgeable. The pride she had for her inn and community were absolutely infectious. And we absorbed every bit of advice she gave us like the good little sponges we are.
The charming decor is exactly what you would expect from a hotel in Provence, with antiques and other adornments filling every empty space. There’s a huge breakfast room where, for about 10 Euros, you can enjoy delicious pastries, teas, and other goodies each morning. The spacious rooms are immaculate, cozy, and offer all the amenities you need for a most amazing stay.
Map Out Your Route
I am all about advance planning, but there are so many possibilities for things to see and do in this region of France that it’s hard to narrow things down. I had a high-level idea of the types of things I wanted to see and do but nothing concrete. I told the innkeeper my ideas, and she quickly went to work highlighting several routes on a map, giving us a variety of options for places to visit. She included the top spots to see the lavender, as well as great places to grab a bite to eat and check out the local culture. All of her suggestions were spot on.
The map shown here details the exact route we took. Click the “More options” link opens up step-by-step driving instructions so you can follow the same route on your visit to the Provence lavender fields.
Morning – Lavender Museum
Start your day with a visit to the Lavender Museum just a 15-minute drive from Cavaillon in the community of Coustellet. Here, you’ll learn all about the history of lavender farms in France and the evolution of the distillation process. You’ll also find out how to tell authentic lavender from synthetic products. The cost is just 7 Euros-ish per person, and it includes a self-guided audio tour.
Plan to spend about 45 minutes exploring the museum, which is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from May through September. Be sure to arrive early to get ahead of the crowds. We got there just after opening, and by the time we left, tour buses were starting to arrive and carloads of people were pulling into the parking lot.
In addition to the exhibits, Le Chateau du Bois boutique sells locally made lavender products. After you’ve picked up a few souvenirs—I grabbed a sachet for my closet—head outside for a first glimpse at the lavender in bloom. There is a small but wonderfully fragrant field where you can snap a few shots. It’s also where we learned from the “Beware of Snakes” signs that vipers like to hide out beneath the lavender bushes, so watch your step when you’re wandering through the fields (or driving the back roads, as I well learned).
Mid-Morning – Sénanque Abbey
Next, make your way to Sénanque Abbey on the fringes of Gordes, a stunning hilltop town. It’s just a 20-minute drive from Coustellet along scenic country roads that wind around Gordes for phenomenal views of the village that is considered one of the most beautiful in all of France. It was about 11 a.m. when we arrived, and it was already packed. We lucked out and quickly got a parking space near the entrance to the entrance, but be prepared to walk a ways or wait a while for a good spot.
The abbey is the quintessential stop for lavender enthusiasts. In fact, when you Google lavender fields, the iconic image that comes up is one of the stone abbey surrounded by fields of purple flowers. It’s every bit as beautiful in person as it is in pictures, though don’t expect to walk through the lavender. At best, you can view it from behind a tall stone wall or from the side.
Founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks, the abbey is home to a small community of monks who make their living growing lavender and tending honey bees. You can purchase some of their products in the abbey boutique, as well as a delightful selection of other lavender-related products. Here, I picked up some homemade honey, a brick of soap, perfume, another sachet, and a tote bag. Expect to spend less than an hour at the abbey.
By now, your stomach will likely be grumbling. Make your way back to Gordes and park in one of the public stalls in the center of town. It costs just a few dollars for the entire day, but you likely won’t spend more than an hour or two. It will take only five or ten minutes to walk into town, which is defined by the white stone buildings that rise from the high above the cliff side and the labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets.
Take some time to explore the local shops, which sell much the same lavender products as the abbey and every other boutique in Provence. Then, grab a bite to eat at one of the many street-side cafes. We opted to grab a Caprese sandwich and a lemon meringue tart from a local bakery, which we ate sitting on a rocky stairwell in the middle of the action and watched the world go by—one of my favorite things to do. After, we wandered around a bit more and enjoyed the beautiful views of the farms below the village before heading back to the car to continue our road trip.
My trip to this part of France was solely inspired by my desire to see the lavender fields in bloom so we continued our road trip north toward Sault. Since the development of synthetic lavender, many farmers have stopped growing the good stuff—it’s a lot of work for not a lot of reward (as we learned at the museum earlier in our trek). However, many farmers between Gordes and Sault still earn a living growing lavender, so it’s a must for anyone who shares my passion to see the fields in bloom. The drive takes about an hour, and there isn’t much to do in Sault once you arrive, but the beautiful vistas en route are worth every mile you put on your rental.
We stopped numerous times along the highway to frolic in lavender fields and take pictures of the purple panoramas beneath the twisting road. I’m not going to lie, there’s a steep drop at times, and there are numerous turns on the impossibly narrow two-way route, but it’s not a long drive by North-American standards. You can take a break when you reach the top. Parking is a bit trickier here—you may need to circle around a few times before you can find a spot on a side street.
Sault itself is a small community. There are a handful of boutiques selling the tried and true lavender staples. Our fun find here was a nougat shop with the most delicious selection of flavors, including lavender, which we just had to try. Simply tell the shopkeeper how much you want, and she’ll chop off a chunk. You pay by weight.
We also went to a nearby lavender distillery on the edge of town called Aroma Plantes. Here, you can take a tour of the facility to see how farmers extract the essence from the lavender. There’s also a small, interactive exhibit and a well-stocked shop filled with everything from lavender-infused essential oils to hair products. Our favorite feature was the on-site cafe serving up lavender-infused beverages of all kinds, as well as a selection of delicious snacks. I had the apple lavender juice and a lavender honey crepe. Both were divine. Plan to spend about a half hour wandering through Sault and an hour or so at the distillery.
I love packing my days as full as I can when I’m on vacation, so we decided to make one last stop before returning to Cavaillon. Located at the base of the Mont de Vaucluse, Roussillon is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s truly a gem. About a 40-minute drive from Sault, the lavender landscape gives way to majestic red cliffs and magnificent ochre quarries. There’s a public parking zone on the edge of the city that costs just a few bucks.
We arrived around 5 p.m., which was early enough for the shops and restaurants to still be open but late enough that the crowds had died down a bit. We grabbed a gelato to tide us over and then made our rounds through the red stone streets. Roussillon looked quite different from the other towns we’d visited during the day, and we thoroughly enjoyed its uniqueness. Hands down, the most spectacular feature of this quaint community is the striking view of the vibrant cliffs jutting up over the towering trees and into the bright blue sky—amazing to behold. We spent about an hour and a half in Roussillon, which was plenty of time to walk through the maze of streets.
The drive back to Cavaillon takes about 30 minutes. If you follow the same route we took and spend about the same amount of time in each location, means you’ll arrive back in Cavaillon around 7 p.m. Like most sleepy provincial towns, just about every restaurant is closed by this time. So I offer a few options to close out your evening with a delicious meal.
Across from the Roman Arch in the center of town, you’ll find a pizza truck. I know, you didn’t go all the way to France to eat pizza from a truck, but it’s good…like really good. They offer a ton of toppings, bake it fresh when you order, and it only costs about 10 Euros for an entire pie. There was a long lineup of people waiting for their orders when we arrived, so we figured it was worth a shot. We sat on the steps of the arch to eat and enjoyed a little more people watching.
Alternatively, make your way to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorge, a small but adorable community about 15 minutes from Cavaillon by car. Most of the restaurants close early, but there are a few who keep their doors open past 7 p.m.
If you want to see the lavender in Provence, follow this jam-packed itinerary, and you can’t go wrong. Driving through Luberon is as easy as pie, so it makes for a peaceful and relaxing journey. If you’d rather let someone else do the driving, there are plenty of great—and affordable—day trips you can take, too. For me, this was a bucket list trip and one of my favorites of all time. Considering I have been to more than 50 countries and hundreds of cities, it takes a lot to impress me, and I would happily do this trip again and again and never get bored.
Did I miss anything? Are there other places to see the lavender in Provence you’d recommend? Leave a comment here to share your ideas!
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