Aix-en-Provence is a city rich in culture and heritage, which makes it a perfect destination if you have a few days to spend in the south of France. With a beautiful old town that was once surrounded by city walls, it epitomizes the character of Provence.
But if you have a few days to spend in Aix-en-Provence, you may also want to set aside some time to visit the surrounding area. The Provence region is incredibly diverse with unique landscapes, delicious food, incredible wines, and some of the most beautiful villages in the world.
From small towns to nearby lavender fields, Aix is central to everything around. And that doesn’t even larger cities like Marseille, Avignon, or Nice, which are still within a couple of hours drive, but may require more time to visit.
I should note that traffic jams can be an issue in the south of France, especially in the summer time when French locals and tourists all descend upon the area. As such, I have limited all the day trips to destinations that are within a couple of hours’ drive from Aix-en-Provence, if not less.
The bus service is rather sparse in the area and trains do not always travel to many of the smaller villages, so you will require a car. Or you can choose to book a tour which I have highlighted below, if you don’t wish to drive in France. And so with that, here are the best day trips from Aix-en-Provence. Allons-y!
1. Gorges du Verdon
About 62miles (100km) away from Aix-en-Provence lies the Gorges du Verdon. It is gorgeous natural river canyon about 15 miles (25km) long. If you are a nature-lover who enjoys hiking, kayaking, and swimming, you will not want to miss this beautiful protected natural park.
Along with hiking trails and kayak rentals, there is also a man-made Lac de Sainte-Croix at one end of the Verdon Gorge, which has sandy beaches for those who want to spend the day relaxing.
The Gorges is very popular with tourists and there are several tours leaving from Aix-en-Provence to help you make the most of your time in the area. You can read more about visiting the Gorges du Verdon here.
Perched on a hill, near the Gorges du Verdon is the charming town of Moustier-Sainte-Marie which has been voted one of the “most beautiful villages in France”.
The provencal hilltop village was founded by a group of monks in the 5th century, who built a church there, high on the hillside.
There are many small shops selling local artisanal products as well as a couple of small art galleries you can wander through. With beautiful views of the valley below, there are also several great restaurants offering local specialties to have lunch in rather exquisite surroundings.
People from all over flock to this beautiful part of Provence, which has managed to retain its charm and village feel in a fast-paced world. There are several tours visiting the village from Aix-en-Provence, and you can read more about visiting Moustiers-Sainte-Marie here.
3. Valensole Plateau
If you are visiting this part of France, you will not want to miss out on the famed lavender fields in Provence. Those sweet-smelling purple flowers are certainly a sight to behold.
Now, I should note that if you want to see lavender fields, you have to visit Provence in the summer. The best time to visit the lavender fields is between mid-June to mid-July. There is no point visiting in October because there will be no lavender growing, it will already have been harvested.
If you do happen to be in Aix-en-Provence during that time, you can visit a nearby lavender farm and learn about its cultivation and uses from a local producer. There are several tours, some which leave in the mornings or in the afternoons that you can see here.
I recommend the morning tours, especially if you are visiting in the summer because it gets very hot under the sun in this part of the world.
4. Les Calanques
About 31 miles (50 km) away from Aix-en-Provence, Les Calanques are a magnificent natural wonder. With towering rocks and aquamarine clear water, you can decide to hike, swim, or just take it all in.
Drive over if you prefer to explore the Calanques by land, or take a boat leaving from the Vieux port of Marseille.
There are several tour options to head to the Calanques that you can see here. Wear hiking boots if you go by land, those rocks are slippery. And don’t forget to bring a bathing suit! You can read more about visiting the Calanques here.
Right next to the Calanques and Marseille, is the small seaside town of Cassis. It is a stunning place full of beautiful pastel architecture with houses perched on hills, vibrant flowers, and gorgeous beaches.
The French Riviera is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. With its glistening waters, beautiful coast, and the attractive towns that line it, it’s easy to see why this place is so popular. This stretch of the Mediterranean counts several popular towns right next to each other, including Bandol, La Ciotat, Sanary-sur-mer and La Seyne-sur-mer.
Lourmarin has been labeled “une des plus beaux village en France” (one of the most beautiful villages in France) to visit.
The village owes its existence to its strategic location near a route to Aix-en-Provence, around the Massif of Luberon. Aix-en-Provence has always been a bustling town due to its natural thermal springs, so the route to Aix needed to be defended.
A fortress was built in the area in the 12th-century to protect that route, and gradually the village around it expanded to what it is today, with a population of approx. 1000 people.
There is a beautiful château in the village to an exhibition to French philosopher and writer Albert Camus who lived in area for several years. Along with bustling cafés and small boutiques, this is the quintessential French village in Provence.
Officially recognized as one of the plus beaux villages de France (meaning one of the “most beautiful villages in France”), Gordes a tiny gem of a town that attracts quite an exclusive clientele.
The village of Gordes is in a stunning location on a clifftop and offers some expansive views of the valley below. The village itself is tiny and much of it is built on a slope.
With a 5-star hotel in its midst known as the Bastide in Gordes, this is a town that tends to attract the wealthy, looking for a getaway that can last all summer.
Compared to its neighbors, Gréoux-les-Bains doesn’t have the charm and the beauty those popular tourist attractions, but what it does have is several luxurious spa resorts right at its doorstep.
Located about 35 miles (55 km) from Aix-en-Provence is a town that originally grew around its natural hot springs.
Today is now one of the biggest spa resort towns in France, overtaking Aix-les-Bains in the Rhône Alps, and Aix-en-Provence when it comes to attracting spa-goers. You can read more about visiting Gréoux-les-Bains here.
9. Baux de Provence and Carrières des Lumières
The Carrières des Lumières is around 47 miles (75km) from Aix-en-Provence, near the town of Baux-de-Provence. Ancient quarries that were used to dig out limestone for construction, have been taken over by a digital art studio.
The art exhibition projects the imagery of famous artists like Picasso and Van Gogh on these centuries old walls, of what is classified as a “Site naturel classé” (listed natural site).
And the nearby village of Baux-de-Provence is not so bad either. Les Baux de Provence has been named one of the “plus beaux villages de France“, with an impressively large Château, pedestrianized village, and more.
You can take a tour to Les Baux-de-Provence from Aix-en-Provence and read more about visiting Baux-de-Provence and the Carrières des Lumières here.
10. Saint Rémy de Provence
St. Rémy de Provence is just 50 miles (80km) from Aix-en-Provence and is one of the most beautiful towns in all of France. With its pastel-colored buildings and cobbled streets, it’s definitely worth a visit.
It is also famous for being the place where Vincent Van Gogh lived, albeit under rather odd circumstances.
From 1889 to 1890, Van Gogh was a patient at the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and it is here that he painted some of his most memorable works, including The Starry Night, which actually features St. Remy.
In the old town of St. Rémy is the Musée Estrine, dedicated to Vincent van Gogh and his works. You can read more about visiting St. Rémy-de-Provence here.
About 40 miles (65 km) from Aix-en-Provence, you will come across yellow ochre hills of an old quarry, surrounded by the lush greens of the forest. Nearby sitting atop a hill is Roussillon, the town officially recognized as one of the “plus beaux village de France“.
The town sits atop the hill, and its lower part is lined with all sorts of artisan shops. The main commodity here is pottery and pigments.
12. Pont du Gard
About 72 miles (117 km) away from Aix-en-Provence is an ancient Roman aqueduct known as Pont du Gard. Built over a period of 5 years in the 1st century, the aqueduct was built to carry water to over 50 km (31 miles) to what was then the Roman colony of Nimes.
With 3 tiers of arches, it crosses the river Gardon and is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges, as well as being one of the best-preserved.
After the Roman empire collapsed, the Pont du Gard remained in use as it also served as a toll bridge for people looking to cross the river. The bridge remained mostly intact, with the Ducs of nearby Uzès being responsible for maintaining the bridge.
Rather than delivering water, the bridge instead became a tourist attraction, with everyone from French Kings to apprentice masons making their way to the bridge to admire its architecture.
In the early 2000s, traffic around the area was rerouted to preserve this UNESCO world heritage site and from pollution and maintain the tranquil nature of the area. Today, it is one of the most popular destinations in France after the Palace of Versailles and Mont Saint Michel.
The city of Nimes is one of those fascinating towns that manages to combine ancient Roman ruins with 21st century modern architecture.
Located about 68 miles (110 km) away from Aix-en-Provence, Nîmes is known for its unique Roman sites, including the remains of its amphitheatre and temples, which is among the best-preserved in the world.
Along with a Roman Arena, in the heart of the old part of Nimes lies the Maison Carrée dating from the 1st century B.C. It is one of the best-preserved temples to be found anywhere in the former Roman Empire.
And within the small city center are several small boutiques and restaurant terrasses making it a great place to find some of the local specialties, and ideal for a day trip. You can read more about visiting Nimes here.
The French monarchs have departed, but the Ducs of Uzès are still around. About 80 miles (130 km) from Aix-en-Provence is the charming little duchy of Uzès, complete with its own castle and ducal family.
At one time the Dukes of Uzès were the highest title in the land, coming in just after the French royal family. The family managed to survive with their heads during the French Revolution, and bought back their castle in the 1800s and restore it to its former glory.
Today, you can visit the castle, which is at once a home, a museum, and a performance hall. (We managed to see the Duke and his family there at a concert during the summer holidays).
But the real attraction is the town. With charming cobblestone streets and large squares packed with cafés and shops, this is a town that attracts a lot of visitors. The streets are lined with utterly chic art galleries and high-end restaurants known for their gastronomy. You can read more about visiting Uzès here.
Arles is a small town that sits on the river Rhône, about 48 miles (77 km) away from Aix-en-Provence. It is most famous for being the home of Vincent Van Gogh from 1888-89, during which he produced over 300 paintings and drawings.
But even before Van Gogh, the town had a long history. It was founded during the Roman Empire, becoming an important city as demonstrated by the arena and other ruins that still like the city.
It is also next to the Camargue national park, with its unique wetlands and horse-riding culture that attract visitors from far and wide. You can read more about taking a tour to Arles and the Camargue here.
16. Sète and Canal du Midi
About 115 miles (185 km) away from Aix-en-Provence is the small seaside town of Sète. Sète is often called La Venise languedocienne or the “Venice of Languedoc”, because of it has many smaller canals in the heart of the city, along with the Canal du Midi.
The town has a population of around 45,000 and is part of the Montpellier-Sète urban area. A large fishing town, it has a rich heritage of maritime history as well as gastronomy.
One of the first things you notice in Sète is its Royal Canal, the main artery of the city. With lovely pastel buildings lining the canal, dating from the 19th century, you will quickly fall in love with this part of the south of France.
In addition, you can also visit the Canal de midi which is nearby. The Canal du Midi is a man-made river constructed from in 1681, located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France.
Most people have never heard of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence. And they don’t know its connection to Mary Magdalene, and her years in France.
Located about 28 miles (45 km) away from Aix-en-Provence, this is reputed to be the town that Mary Magdalene is buried in.
Provençale tradition recounts that she arrives in France in a broken-down little boat with Lazarus, Maximinus, May Salomé, and their servant Sara. From there she is said to have gone to Marseille, and converted the locals to Christianity.
In Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is the church where her body is believed to be buried. The town is named after Saint Maximinus, one of the most well-known saints in France. You can read more about visiting Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume here.
The village’s main road cuts through its center. Most of the village’s stores and businesses are located in its lower section, while its higher section has meandering lanes that lead to the church perched on a hill.
There is also a small vinery called Château La Canorgue nearby, if you are looking to indulge in some Côtes du Rhône wines. And if you are looking for stunning views over the Luberon, a visit to the village of Bonnieux is a must.
If you enjoyed that post, you may want to read more about traveling around Provence and the French Riviera. A bientôt!