10 Perfect Hikes in Provence

From the mighty peak of Mont Ventoux, through lavender fields at Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, in the footsteps of Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and along the rugged, azure-coloured coast of Marseille. Provence is perfect for hiking.

Not only is the weather pleasant most of the year, the trails are extremely diversified. One day you can feel the presence of history on your hike to Pont du Gard, the next you are strolling through the vineyards of Gigondas. Follow us on our 10 best 7-14 kilometre hikes in the region, and please comment below if you’ve got a suggestion for a trek.

Mont Ventoux

One of the best hikes of our lives. Really! A 14 km hike with 900 vertical metres to defeat sounds tough but not impossible. It’s important to choose decent weather for this hike, as conditions change quickly on Provence’s Fujiyama. You need nerves of steel for the first part of the hike when you traverse the tiny footpath along the slope that looks like the slightest interruption would cause a limestone avalanche.

However, if you continue, you and up walking on the spine of the Mont Ventoux, with spectacular views to both sides while the wind is struggling to blow you away – an exhilarating experience! Read all about our wrestle with the Windy Mountain here.

 

Pont du Gard

The ancient Roman aqueduct is a “must-see” on a trip to Provence. And what better way to view it than after a hike through a landscape, that probably hasn’t changed so much since the aqueduct was built in the 1st century AD. This hike through history is around 9 km and climbs 300 vertical metres in total and is fairly easy, as the difficult parts of ascension is done on stairs.

The hike has the other advantage that you save the parking fee of the UNESCO site AND you get to see Pont du Gard in a different perspective than most other tourists. After crossing the bridge at the side of the aqueduct, we did the little 1,4 km loop trail “Mémoires de Garrigue” that tells the story about agriculture in the area.

 

Alpilles / Le Rocher des Deux Trous

A walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh. This hike begins at the parking lot of Monastère Saint-Paul-de-Mausole or Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Vincent Van Gogh stayed in 1889–1890. The destination is Le Rocher des Deux Trous, which literally translates to “Rock of two holes”  – a rock that can be seen in Van Gogh’s painting “Montagne des Deux Trous”.

We did the hike in springtime, when the almond trees blossomed and the blue iris stood tall. It was a symphony of Provençal colours and flora and was absolutely beautiful. At only 7,7 km and 300 vertical metres it’s a fairly straightforward hike – only the last bit out to the rock is a bit tricky – especially when the Mistral blows. And remember to visit the nearby amazing Les Baux-de-Provence.

 

Gorges de la Nesque

The Gorges de la Nesque are perhaps less famous that its eastern counterpart Gorges du Verdon, certainly a little smaller, but just as impressive – making it perfect for a manageable hike. This imposing and wild ravine reaches a depth of more than 400 metres in some places, and offers great views.

Because of its outstanding beauty this natural and historic site was given the label “Biosphere Reserve” by the UNESCO. The hike is 9,11 km long and has little more than 600 metres of ascent and descent.

 

Calanques National Park

This hike is one of the most diverse we went on in Provence. Calanques National park is situated incredibly close to Marseille, yet is totally unaffected by the proximity of the metropolis. It’s the only National Park in Europe that is terrestrial, marine and peri-urban.

You walk along the coast, into ravines and along the ridges of the canyon – most of the trail with gorgeous views of the azure and turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. With 8,65 km it’s not a long hike, but it’ll get your blood pumping from kilometre 3 to 5 when you climb around 250 vertical metres. The rest of the hike is just pure enchantment.

 

Dentelles de Montmirail

The lace of the admirable mountain is the direct translation of this craggy mountain range, at the foot of Mont Ventoux in the famous wine region of Gigondas. The dramatically jagged shape of their peaks was formed by horizontal strata of Jurassic limestone being folded and forced into a nearly upright position and subsequently eroded into sharp-edged ridges and spikes 200 million years ago.

The massif, which is about eight kilometers long, is renowned worldwide for its climbing walls but is also a popular spot amongst hikers and mountain bikers. The 7,5 km hike offers cose contact with the fascinating limestone layers and wonderful views of both the jagged mountain ridge, the surrounding plateau and the famed vineyards.

 

Gordes & Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque 

A nice hike through a perfect Provençal landscape, the Vaucluse mountains, where you get close and personal with gorgeous Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages of France and the picturesque Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque with its (if you’re visiting at the right time) blooming and fragrant lavender fields.

You can start the 10,6 km hike either in Gordes or at the abbey. The latter will save you that pesky parking fee they charge in Gordes, so that’s naturally where we started. And could spend the saved Euros on a coffee instead in Gordes..

 

Montagnette / Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet

This hike along the small mountain of La Montagnette, is a walk through fennel, savory and thyme. The last herb is called “farigoule” in Provençal and is probably the reason for the name of Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet, that’s the goal of this hike. The hike is a little more than 11 km and only 200 vertical metres, making it a relaxed walk.

The abbey and it’s gorgeous baroque church is worth a visit, and usually the picnic area outside the abbey grounds is popular among families. The hike offers wonderful views of the surrounding flat area south of Avignon, and it’s fun to think that the famous Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral enjoyed the same views, when he attended the boarding school that once occupied the abbey.

 

Luberon National Park

This hike is only 7 km, but 554 metres of ascent and descent will take you past some gorgeous views of the Luberon plateau as you hike up the slopes of the Luberon Massif. On the way, you encounter the Rocks of Baude, that are made of thick limestone beds eroded on several levels and much flora, such as wild thyme.

Some parts of the hike across rocky sections are difficult and requires good footwear and solid stride. You start and end your hike in Robion where – if you’re as lucky as us – can check out the locals’ Pétanque match.

 

Fontaine de Vaucluse

We return to the Vaucluse Mountains near Gordes and Abbaye de Sénanque for the last hike, to the source of the Sorgue river and namegiver to the region: Fontaine de Vaucluse. Vaucluse comes from the Latin phrase vallis clausa or “closed valley” and that phrase certainly makes sense when you approach the spring.

But we’re pre-empting the 7,71 km hike, which starts at a paid parking place in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (I know, but what are you gonna do..) and heads norths, away from the fountain and into the mountains. We’re amazed (and exhausted) by how quickly we’re in the mountains, when you’re hiking in Provence. Well, that’s what a hike with around 500 vertical metres can do.

Quickly, we leave the village behind and enjoy a secluded hike in the hinterland of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse before returning to the village and enjoying the last stroll up to the spring. And certainly enjoying the cup of coffee under the shade of the the trees and next to the cooling river.

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