There is no question, when you think of Provence in the South of France, you think of lavender fields. This small decorative flower has gained a starring role as one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.
Known as “blue gold”, the plant has been cultivated for centuries in the area called the Plateau of Valensole in Provence, for its scent and its essential oils.
And not only does it smell and look wonderful, this ornamental plant also contributes phytochemical ingredients to traditional medicines, cosmetics, and more.
So if you are going to be in the area around Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, you should definitely make a stop to explore this powerhouse of a flower from the South of France.
1. Best time to visit
If you want to see lavender fields, you have to visit Provence in the summer. There is no point visiting in October because there will be no lavender growing. The best time to visit Provence, when the lavender is at its peak, is between mid-June to mid-July.
If you come too early, the lavender will not be very high, and if you come too late, it will already be harvested. Also, you should note that French school holidays start the 2nd week of July so Provence becomes a lot busier as a tourist destination.
☞ READ MORE: French holiday calendar: All the official and quirky celebrations
2. Getting around
In order to see the lavender fields, you will need a car to get around. Public buses will not be convenient even if you are right in Valensole, so I highly recommend renting a car.
There are also tours that leave from nearby Aix-en-Provence or Avignon if you are not comfortable trying to drive on single-lane French roads.
The tours will take you to the field, explain the harvesting process, and even give you the opportunity to pick up a few provençale souvenirs. You can find a list of lavender tours here.
3. Where to stay
You could choose to stay in the village of Valensole itself, or the afore-mentioned Aix-en-Provence which is one hour away.
While Valensole will give you the charm of a small French village, Aix-en-Provence is where the chic people live, sometimes being referred to as the 21st arrondissement of Paris.
€€€€ – Château du Grand Jardin
€€€ – Hôtel des Augustins
€€€€ – Aquabella hotel and spa
☞ READ MORE: Best Things to do in Aix-en-Provence
4. Finding lavender
You will find lavender fields all over the Plateau de Valensole, so don’t stress about finding it. (There is no need for GPS coordinates. Trust me, you will feel silly that you drove around with GPS coordinates when the fields are everywhere!)
You can easily combine it with a regular day trip such as visiting the Gorges du Verdon, Lourmarin, Roussillon, or Moustier-Sainte-Marie. As you are driving, you will easily cross several fields that you can stop and take a picture at.
If you do want more precise locations, here are a couple: when leaving the village of Valensole, follow the ‘Route de Riez‘ also known as the D6. After exiting Valensole you should soon see a large lavender field on the side of the road. Another alternative is the D8, which also will take you to a lavender field about 5 minutes outside of town.
The Sénanque Abbey which is about 1h30 away from Valensole is also famous for its spectacular lavender fields in front of it.
5. Go early in the morning
It gets hot in Provence, so head out early in the morning. You don’t want to be trying to find lavender under a 35C° (95F°) degree heatwave and blazing sun!
The light is also better for taking photos in the morning, so try to aim for that golden hour.
6. Don’t enter the field
Now, this is an important one that every French lavender farmer will tell you: Don’t enter the field. I know that you have come from afar to visit the lavender fields, and want to take one of the famed Instagram photos, but this is that farmer’s livelihood.
Lavender is fragile and farmers work hard all year long to plant their crops and that is the harvest for the full year. Having visitors trampling through the fields significantly compromises the quality of the lavender.
Not to mention that this is private property, and besides being illegal, it is just rude. Just take a few pictures from the side of the field, and you’ll be good to go.
As an additional note, the fields are usually full of bees who love lavender so you don’t want to get stung by wandering into the field!
7. Don’t pick the flowers
I know this is not what you were hoping to hear, but as with the point above, this is the livelihood of those farmers. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a store, grab a couple of items and walk out, don’t pick the lavender without paying for it.
You can easily find many artisanal lavender shops in Valensole, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, or any other town in Provence and pick up a few sachets of lavender instead.
In fact, you can get more interesting items such as essential oils, soaps, etc. that will actually survive your plane trip back home than a few sprigs of lavender.
- Lavender and Cherry cream – by Occitanie
- Lavender Gift set – by Occitanie
8. Enjoy the taste
And rather than just smelling it, why not try some lavender ice cream at local ice creams, a cup cake, or some candy? There’s plenty to choose from, so keep your eyes wide open as you browse through town. You can read more about local foods and drinks to try in Provence here.
Will you be putting the lavender fields on your list on your next holiday in Provence? If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy reading more about nearby places in Provence and the French Riviera. Bon voyage and à bientôt!