Day 1 : Avignon: city of the Popes
Your walking holiday begins in Avignon, city of the Popes, with an afternoon welcome meeting with your guide. After meeting your guide, a transfer (45 min) will take you to Gigondas, a village perched high above the Rhône Valley’s sea of vines, where you will check into the Les Florets hotel, hidden in the hills and amongst the vineyards. Dinner and night in Gigondas.
Day 2 : Through the vineyards of Gigondas
Gigondas>Dentelles de Montmirail>Gigondas
- walking time about 4 hours +250m/-250m
Leaving your hotel, a short climb takes you to the foot of the imposing Dentelles de Montmirail, a set of chiseled limestone teeth hovering dizzyingly above the ground, a setting for some of France's best walking. You are surrounded by the vines of Gigondas, their old and twisted branches proudly displaying bunches of Grenache and Syrah grapes, used to make a Grand Cru of Côtes du Rhône wines. You walk on paths laden with aromatic herbs and boxwood, while the oak trees provide shade from the Provencal sun. Soon you find yourself atop the hills, from where views extend across the entire southern Rhône plains, seemingly carpeted by one gigantic vineyard, while the backdrop is painted by the silhouettes of the Cevennes Mountains. You descend back to Gigondas through the vineyards. Dinner and night in Gigondas.
Day 3 : Jagged mountains and Muscat wines
Gigondas>Beaumes de Venise>Buoux
- walking time about 4 hours +100/-350m
Leaving your hotel on foot, you take old farming tracks through the vines, where you can admire the terraces carved into the hillsides. The scent of rosemary and roasted pine needles guide you through the forest. Secret paths atop the hills lead you through the ancient stone ruins of an abandoned village before descending to Beaumes de Venise, a town renowned for its sweet white wine made from Muscat grapes. Enjoy a cool drink in the village square before a private transfer to the forgotten village of Buoux, hidden deep in the Luberon Mountains. The walking paths lead through the truffle oak plantations, and you find yourself hovering vertiginously above a giant limestone cliff, with your hotel nestled deep below. No need to take out the climbing gear: a centuries-old cobbled path leads you down in gentle zigzags, where you find your improbable hotel, restored from a 17th century goat farm. Enjoy the authentic family ambiance and traditional Provençal cuisine of the Auberge. Dinner and night in the Auberge just outside Buoux.
Day 4 : The hidden Luberon and its 3000 year old Fort
- walking time about 5 hours +500m/-500m
Buoux is a walker’s paradise, set at the junction of the Luberon’s most breathtaking paths. Continuing your walking tour, you follow the Aiguebrun River along the base of the canyon, through lush and dense vegetation. As you make your way up the slopes, the landscapes give way to dry shrublands, mixing boxwood and thyme. You follow alongside old terrace walls to the lost hamlet of Sivergues, just a handful of medieval homes set around its cobbled streets. A last climb takes you to the upper ridges of the Luberon Mountains, from where the 360 degree views extend from the Southern Alps to the Mediterranean Sea: the most idyllic of picnic spots. A gentle track leads you back down towards the Auberge, but not before you visit the 3000 year-old ruins of the Fort de Buoux, a stronghold set atop the Aiguebrun gorge, used before the Roman Empire. Dinner and night in the Auberge, just outside Buoux.
Day 5 : The southern Luberon and its magnificent villages
Buoux>Lourmarin>St Rémy de Provence
- walking time about 5 hours +300m/-500m
Leaving the Auberge by foot, you zigzag up the untamed slopes of the Luberon, in landscapes of wild lavender and truffle oaks, on your way to the upper ridges. Descending the south face of the mountain, you are accompanied by views of the Durance plains and far-reaching mountains. After your leisurely descent you reach the village of Lourmarin, classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Its castle overlooks the village, a wonder of renaissance architecture. The tiny cobbled streets of Lourmarin, set around its stone fountains, are an invitation to stroll amongst the centuries-old homes and sit down at the main square for a café or glass of rosé, and watch the world go by. Evening transfer to Saint Rémy de Provence, your base for the next two Provence walks. Dinner and night in Saint Rémy de Provence, a stone’s throw from the old village gates.
Day 6 : Van Gogh’s Provence
St Rémy>Les Alpilles>St Rémy
- walking time about 3,5 hours +250/-250m
Saint Rémy de Provence is a lively artist’s town, bathed in light and colour, birthplace of Nostradamus and final home of Vincent Van Gogh. It’s Van Gogh’s hospital that you will visit this morning: a Romanesque monastery converted into a residence for the mentally ill, where Van Gogh spent a year of his life and did some of his best work. The narrow lanes of Saint Rémy are dotted with enamel reproductions of Van Gogh’s paintings, facing the landscapes where he laid down his easel. Today’s walk takes you through a botanical path and slowly up to the crest of the Alpilles Mountains, laden with bright pink cistus flowers and a carpet of aromatic herbs. The windswept landscapes offer magnificent views in all directions, from Mont Ventoux to the Mediterranean Sea, a Provence walking dream. Return to Saint Rémy. Dinner on your own. Night in Saint Rémy de Provence.
Day 7 : The perched village of Les Baux
St Rémy>Les Baux de Provence>Maussane>Arles
- walking time about 4 hours +250m/-300m
Walking on the crest of the Alpilles mountains, you are atop the world, contemplating panoramic views and untamed landscapes of Provence. Suddenly the village of Les Baux de Provence comes into view, its 1000 year-old castle overlooking the rest of the village, all of which sits like an eagle’s nest atop a rocky crag. Walk through the old cobbled streets of Les Baux, visit the castle ruins, and enjoy a cool drink overlooking the plains below, carpeted by olive groves. Leaving the village gates by a medieval staircase you make your way towards the plains, and among the gnarled trunks of olive trees you reach the village of Maussane. A private transfer takes you to Arles, where you can admire the great Roman coliseum that stands proudly in the centre of town. Dinner on your own. Night in Arles.
Day 8 : Au revoir in Arles
Your Provence walking tour ends after breakfast.