Situated in the the heart of Provence, the Luberon is an idyllic valley with rolling hilltops and a treasure trove of natural beauty. It has always an area with a rich history and a timeless charm, but these days it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in France.
The “Parc Régional Naturel du Luberon” is flanked by the rugged Alpilles Mountains to the west and the majestic Mont Ventoux to the north. Nearby are the large cities of Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, providing a wonderful gateway to the area.
From ancient times, this region has been coveted by various civilizations, including the Gauls and Romans, who left their mark through impressive ruins. The Middle ages saw the construction of fortified villages perched atop the hills, serving as a testament to the valley’s turbulent past.
Today, it is the sunshine, outdoor markets, and cobblestone streets that attract people to the area. So let’s have a look at the top things to see and do in the Luberon Valley, shall we? Allons-y!
Things to do in Luberon
1. Hilltops of Gordes
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.
2. Fontaine de Vaucluse
The Fontaine de Vaucluse is not actually a fountain. It is a natural spring, and one that is considered the 5th largest in the world. And it is about 22 miles (35 km) from Avignon.
Located in at the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains, between the towns of Saumane-de-Vaucluse and Lagnes, this little corner of the Natural Park of Lubéron is one of the most visited sites in Provence.
The spring itself is situated at the feet of a steep limestone cliff 230 metres high, and has an annual flow of 630 million cubic metres. It is a beautiful area, with a few provençale restaurants dotted all around.
You can take a tour from Avignon that will bring you to Fontaine de Vaucluse and read more about visiting Fontaine de Vaucluse here.
3. Roussillon and the Ochre Trail
About 40 miles (65 km) from Aix-en-Provence, is Roussillon, the town officially recognized as one of the “plus beaux village de France”.
Roussillon is famous for being surrounded by the orange and yellow ochre hills of an old quarry. They are a sight to behold, and are so popular that reservations are needed to visit during certain times of the year.
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, from the nearby ochre trails.
There are several organized tours that visit Roussillon and the nearby lavender fields from Avignon and nearby Aix-en-Provence. You can read more about visiting Roussillon here.
4. Château de Lourmarin
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, which was eventually reconstructed into the château you see today, over the centuries. It survived the French revolution, as at the time it was owned by local Marseillais merchants who had been ennobled.
These days the château is owned by a foundation for the arts and welcomes artists, painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers from France and beyond. The château is made up of 2 parts, the old fortress where they hold exhibitions, and the newer “residential” portion of the château.
There are often concerts and other events like weddings at the château, so check before heading over. The château also has lovely gardens that you can walk through and picnic in. There is also an exhibition to French philosopher and writer Albert Camus who lived in Lourmarin for several years.
The Château is part of the “Routes des châteaux en Provence” so if you are inspired, so if you are inspired you can drive to the other 5 châteaux that are on the route.
5. Market days
The village of Gordes also holds a weekly market held every Tuesday morning attracting a lot of visitors. It is a traditional marché with a variety of food products, and runs from 8am to 1pm.
The Luberon Valley is particularly famous for its truffles and during the marché you can find plenty of local producers recolting them from the terroir. Truffles are a type of edible mushroom that grows in the surrounding countryside, and are regularly used in French haute cuisine.
6. The wine
There are many local wineries across the valley, especially in Bonnieux, that stocks and sells some of the best wines in the area. Visitors can take a tour of its facilities and taste the wines, or they can purchase bottles to take home.
7. Local Specialties
Walking through the villages of the Luberon, you will notice many of the specialities of Provence available for sale. Try the pain d’epices (meaning “spiced bread”) in various flavors like strawberry or peach.
You will also find various products made from truffles like oils and tartines. Keep an eye out for the black diamond truffle, you’re lucky enough to find it, as well as other flavors and local delicacies.
You can also find calissons from nearby Aix-en-Provence and savons de Marseille from Marseille to take home as souvenirs. And while you are there, don’t forget to indulge in a pastis cocktail and the tomates provençale. You can read more about food and drinks in Provence here.
8. Pont Julien
Similar to the renowned Pont Du Gard, a smaller Roman bridge called the Pont Julien is located in the Luberon Valley. The bridge was built around 3 BC after the Roman conquest by Julius Caesar and named after him.
It is just outside the village center of Bonnieux in Provence, and as a testament to its design, the bridge was still a working bridge for cars are recently as 2005.
It was built along the old Roman road, the via Domitia which connected the settlements in Cavaillon to Apt, and is today one of the most famous Roman ruins in France.
How to get to Luberon?
The closest airport to the Luberon Valley is in nearby Avignon, which is also the location of the high-speed TGV train station. You can also arrive in Marseille which is a couple of hours drive away, but has a much bigger airport and TGV train station.
How easy is it getting around?
There is no access via a rail or bus system across the Luberon Valley, so you will need a car to get around. There are several tours that you can take from Avignon or from Aix-en-Provence, but otherwise you will have to drive yourself.
How many days should you spend?
I would recommend spending at least 3 nights in the Luberon Valley so that you can get to all the sights. And for a bit of rest and relaxation in southern France, why not extend that trip to a week?
Where should you stay?
The village of Gordes is one of the most popular places to stay in Luberon, with an elite clientele that comes from all over France.
For a more budget-friendly option, the towns of Ménerbes and Roussillon are also a great choice, with plenty of restaurants and bars around to make your stay in the village a comfortable one.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about traveling around Provence. A bientôt!