This full day Marseille shore trip
visits the heart of Provence, the Luberon valley with its charming hilltop villages. For most people, this area is by far most reminiscent of Provence.
After meeting your driver guide in Marseille, you drive into the Luberon which is a valley lined with rugged hills topped with charming villages. There is no must-see site here, rather just small charming villages such as Gordes, Lacoste, Menerbes and Roussillon. It is a time to drink in a way of life, to revel in the beauty of French hilltop towns. Think of the book "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle, and you immediately know what we mean. Medieval villages perch on top, or cling to the cliffs, of the rocky hills and offer a view of life from another age. The towns were built in their dizzying locations for defensive purposes since the region saw many battles for control throughout history.
The strong wind that often blows in from the Mediterranean is known as the "mistral." You'll see that it affects the landscape and architecture, from windowless south facing walls, to hollow church steeples made from wrought iron. Today, lavender fields which bloom in July, sunflowers which bloom in June and wild red poppies which bloom in May line paths between the vineyards and olive groves of the valley.
While you are in the Luberon Valley, you will have free time for lunch (meal not included).
We have described some of the best towns below. It is not possible to visit all of the towns but you can talk with your driver guide about your specific interests as you begin the tour. The best day to visit any of these is on the town's market day. Ask your driver about Markets in Provence and see if one is available. But try not to rush. Enjoying the beauty and charm of a village and exploring it in detail will make your day memorable and rewarding.
Fountain de Vaucluse
- Located just below the cliffs leading up to the Vaucluse Plateau, this town is known as the Fountain of Vaucluse because it is the source of the Sorgue River. The river rises from a hole at the base of the cliffs and then flows through the heart of town past the main shops and cafes. This natural spring is one of the most powerful in the world, pumping 60,000 gallons of water per second in the winter and early spring. By late summer the flow slows considerably but it is still a sight to see.
- Featured in Peter Mayle's books, this small town has a hill top castle, great views of Bonnieux, and the Castle of the Marquis de Sade.
- This village is by far the most popular with tourists from the everyday to the rich and famous. The town clings to the cliffs near the Vaucluse Plateau. By far the most chic of the hill top towns, it is an amazing sight as you approach. The steep cobbled streets are lined with boutiques, gift shops, exclusive hotels and restaurants. In the center of town is the Chateau de Gordes. A castle dating back to the 11th century, it was rebuilt with a Renaissance interior in the 16th century.
Near Gordes is Abbaye de Senangue surrounded by fields of lavender during the peak season (July). Also nearby is the Village des Bories. This village of dry stacked stone huts is an outdoor museum about rural life in the region. At first impression you are certain that the village is prehistoric with its odd beehive shaped structures set amid rolling terrain, but in fact it began about 500 years ago and thrived until the mid-1800's.
L'isle sur La Sorgue
- This canal town's name means island in the Sorgue. The river flows through town and is crossed by pedestrian bridges and lined with waterwheels that date back to the time when the town was famous for its fabrics. Today it is known for its antiques (Brocante) and its Sunday Market which features antiques and Provencal products. This is one of the most popular markets in France.
- A sleepy simple town featured in Peter Mayle's book.
Oppede le Vieux
- This town is less touristy and recent renovations to the buildings have started to result in an arts and culture enclave.
- The ochre colored rock found in the hills nearby was used to build this most picturesque hill top town. As you approach you will notice the bright red, yellow and orange tinted houses that line narrow winding streets around a hill. There are great views over the valley to the surrounding mountains. This is one of the most touristy towns in the region.
Other beautiful villages are Buoux (in July to see the lavender) and Bonnieux.Mobility
: Folding wheelchair OK, but towns have cobblestones (advance notice required)
If you cannot find what you are looking for, our Marseille tours
and Marseille shore excursions
can also be customized to fit your needs. If you have a larger group, we can offer you a private Marseille shore trip
using a mid-size bus or full size coach. Please contact us
with any questions or to receive a customized quote.