As soon as we arrived in the South of France, we started looking for fields of lavender and sunflowers. Unfortunately, it was too late in the season and the sunflowers were dry and dead and the lavender had been harvested. I looked at my boyfriend and we sighed. If only we could ever go back again to the Provence to see the lavender bloom and the sunflower fields… Flash forward a few years and off we went this summer. We jumped on a plane to Nice, rented a little car and drove to the hearth of the Luberon region in France to find the lavender and sunflowers. Check out our stunning 2-day Summer Road Trip to find the Lavender fields in Provence!
2-Day Summer Road Trip To See Lavender Fields in the Provence, France
Lavender in the Provence
If you think of France, you see rows of purple lavender disappearing in the distance. The Provence in the South of France is undeniably linked to lavender fields.
Where is the Provence?
The Provence is a bigger area in southeastern France that consists of several smaller administrative areas. The Provence is bordered by the Rhône River in the West and the Italian border in the East. It reached from the Mediterranean Sea in the south.
It consists of different departments, for example, the Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes and the Vaucluse.
How to get to the Provence?
By Plane: You can fly to Nice or Marseille. Find your flight to the Provence here.
By Train: Regular high-speed trains run to Nice, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and many other cities in the Provence from Paris. Find your train ticket well in advance on the Thalys website here.
By Car: From anywhere in Europe, you can easily reach the Province by car. Find the best rental car from the Nice airport like we did or drive from elsewhere in France, Spain, Italy or Switzerland.
Take in mind the huge traffic jams south of Valence on the Route du Soleil (A7) in summer. The first Saturday of July is called “Black Saturday” for a reason. Avoid when possible.
When does the lavender bloom in the Provence?
Small patches of Lavender can be found everywhere around the Provence. As we wanted the highest chance of success, we set out to the region of Luberon to increase our chances of finding Lavender.
Lavender usually blooms from late June until end of August, depending on the season and the rain that year. In order to harvest lavender, it must be dry and hot for a couple of days in a row, as the lavender is cut and let to rest on the fields. If you happen to come right after a dry and hot period at the end of July, it might be already harvested.
How to find the lavender fields in the Provence?
It took us quite some effort to find the lavender fields in the Provence. We visited late July and most of the fields in the lower regions around Gordes were already cut. Although we asked the locals in our hotel and even at the Lavender Museum they couldn’t really tell us where we should go to find the lavender fields in the Provence.
We read that lavender grows at different altitudes and the higher you get, the later it will be harvested (and also blooms). So depending on the time of year, the climate and this year’s temperature and rainfall, you might need to go into the hills and mountains to find the lavender fields.
Areas to find large lavender fields are: the Abbey de Sénanque, Sault-de-Vaucluse, Valensole and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
If you don’t drive or have to rely on public transport, you can always join a tour to discover the Provence and see the lavender fields.
Where to stay in the Provence to see the lavender fields?
We based ourselves in Roussillon as it was central and had several good options for hotel stays. In the end, I picked a lovely boutique hotel with an outdoor pool (which we enjoyed very, very much in the stifling July heat).
Check prices and availability for Le Petit Auberge de Roussillon here.
Other good options would be:
- If money isn’t an objection to you, then stay in Gordes. This ancient whitewashed town is hugging the cliffs and offers great views across the countryside. The Bastide de Gordes promised world-class luxury and celebrity treatment. Check if you can afford a night here.
- Earlier in the season, Apt offers a range of very affordable accommodation to discover the lavender fields in the Provence. I’d choose the lovely Bed & Breakfast of L’Auberge Espagnole. Check out ratings and prices here.
- Sault-de-Vaucluse would be a good base if you’re going later in the season. One could call the hotels rustic and full of character, in other words, it is old and small, but not without charm. I’d stay in D’Albion for sure. Check if you agree with me here.
2-Day Summer Road Trip To See Lavender Fields In The Provence
We set out specifically to this part of the Provence to find the lavender fields and sunflower fields in the region. We arrived early morning at Nice airport on a Saturday and flew back home the next day in the evening. This offered us nearly 2 full days of exploring the Provence and finding lavender in France!
White City of Gordes
As we left the car rental parking garage, we had to type something into our navigation to get us on the route. I flipped open my Lonely Planet Guidebook of the Provence and we settled for the lovely village of Gordes. Named as one of the most beautiful villages of France, this must be our winner! As soon as we maneuvered our car along the winding roads around the town, we recognized why the French call Gordes this way. Set atop a cliff, overlooking the valleys, this little hamlet is a true French beauty. The chalk-white houses formed a stark contrast on this bright sunny day at the end of July.
We parked the car and walked to a lookout point with the best views of Gordes. It looked like the houses were stacked on top of each other, one started where the other ended, all with white walls and green gardens.
Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque
From Gordes, it was not that far to the Abbey de Sénanque. This lovely monastery is pictured on almost every image of the lavender fields in the Provence and has become iconic for Southern France and lavender.
Unfortunately, this does come at a price. The secluded Abbey should be a haven of tranquillity and inner reflection. Not a backdrop for the best Instagram picture or your lavender selfie.
I couldn’t help but be very disappointed with the place. Or at least, what it has become and how our fellow travelers choose to ignore all rules and guidance in such a lovely place. Don’t get me wrong, the Abbey and its surrounding are lovely.
Located in a valley, the Abbey is made of lovely slate roof tiles and bay windows. The rows of lavender were already cut, but I can imagine it is a splendid sight in full lavender season. But with the gates around it, numerous selfie-sticks, signs, and people trespassing, it felt more like a Disney attraction than anything else.
As we felt so guilty for the behavior of other people, we stopped and found ourselves in a deep conversation with some of the people of the abbey. We could write a wish on a piece of paper which was really nice.
Click here to find more information about the Abbey, opening hours and admission fees.
Roussillon in the Provence
After a full day of driving around in the Luberon, trying to find the purple lavender fields, we decided to head to our hotel, take a dip in the pool and relax a bit. As soon as we drove up to the town of Roussillon, we knew we would not get any relaxation time soon. This city is made out of deep red ochre clay, forming a stark contrast with the almost blue trees nesting at the base of the village.
The people of Roussillon built their houses with the red iron oxidized clay and there is even a path meandering through the old ochre mine. As it was too hot and we really wanted some pool time, we skipped the trail but it looks so impressive we might go back one day. Check for more info on the Ocre Trails.
Do you want to stay in the heart of the Luberon? Then check out my hotel in Roussillon.
Finding Lavender Fields in the Provence
After a refreshing dip in the pool, we decided to head out again to see if we could find the lavender in the Provence somewhere. It took us almost a whole day to find some lavender fields still in bloom but as we headed into the mountains towards Sault, we finally found the fields of flowering lavender.
What a sight!
Nothing but lanes of purple, violet and lilac coloured lavender! This was what we came for and it was spectacular.
The bees were buzzing around the plants, the air was thick of heat and lavender scent and nothing but purple fields until the horizon. The perfect scenery for a glass of wine.
Lavender Museum in Coustellet France
The next morning, we decided to visit the Lavender Museum. As we had a car, it was easy to drive to another village and explore there.
We picked the Lavender Museum in Coustellet as we wanted to learn more about lavender and the production of lavender oil.
Sadly, I found the museum an absolute bust. It was an introductive video which had some interesting facts and figures, but after that, we could browse the museum. Maybe I’m spoiled with all the splendid musea I’ve visited in the past, but the Museum of Lavender is not that great. Just a couple of old machines and some pictures.
The extensive gift shop took up more space than the whole museum. Overpriced and over-commercialised, we decided to go shopping at the local market. Much more fun!
Shopping at a local market for lavender soaps
We hit the jackpot right away, as it was market day in Coustellet! Stall after stall of artisan soaps, lavender oils and local produce. It wasn’t a big market, but we managed to leave quite some money behind.
North of Sault-de-Vaucluse to Aurel France
As we didn’t find any lavender fields in the lover regions around Coustellet or Aix-en-Provence at that time, we decided to go to higher ground again and see if we could find some at a higher altitude. We drove back to Sault and went even further north.
Here we found small patches of lavender fields that were not harvested yet. They sat right opposite their already harvested friends, so I guess we were right on time!
We drove north of Sault to Aurel where we had a lovely view of the village and the lavender fields surround it.
Ice Cream Stop at Montbrun les Bains
We drove all the way north to Montbrun les Bains, located on the border of the Luberon, Vaucluse, and Drôme in France. After exploring this ancient stronghold, it was time for some ice cream before we continued our route.
Back to Nice airport
As we needed to be back at the airport for our flight home, we slowly made our way towards Nice.
But after almost 2 days of driving, we still hadn’t seen any sunflower fields. As a little kid, going on a family holiday to France means driving alongside endless fields of sunflowers. But on this trip, we hadn’t seen any yet.
The receptionist of our hotel explained that the farmers get subsidies from the EU to grow wheat therefor growing sunflowers is not lucrative enough. Story of my life. I was happy to see the purple of the Provence so I tried to ignore the disappointment of not seeing the bright yellow sunflowers in the Provence.
Can you imagine my surprise as we turned a corner at the end of our weekend and saw nothing but yellow fields in front of us? As two kids hyped on sugar, we jolted from the car and ran towards the sunflower fields. We must have looked like complete idiots but who cares?!
Amazing colors of the Provence, France
Although our weekend was quick and super short, we managed to drive nearly 750 km in the Provence. Mainly in the Luberon area to find the lavender fields of the Provence. We saw the amazing whitewashed villages, ochre red of the earth, lovely lavender purple and bright sunflower yellow that are so iconic of the Provence. Mission accomplished!
How to be a good tourist and still take amazing lavender photos
Just like the tulip fields in the Netherlands, the lavender fields in the Provence are a great draw to tourists from all over the world. Yes, I am guilty of that too. Keep the following in mind when looking for the lavender and taking pictures:
- Don’t take any lavender with you from the fields. The farmers leave it for a couple of days after harvesting but that doesn’t mean you can take it.
- Don’t pick any of the lavender from the plants. That is somebody’s crop and the plant needs to grow in full.
- Don’t tremble any lavender bushes. That means no jumping over rows of lavender or cutting between them. They can be quite thick, so just walk around it
- Stand at the edge of the field and take a picture from a higher vantage point, that way, it looks like you’re standing right in the field
- Ask for permission before entering a field. That is someone ground and livelihood you’re entering. It would be like walking right into a producing factory without asking permission first (something you just don’t do, but when it is in nature everyone thinks it is ok).
- Take pictures early morning or late in the afternoon. The sun in July is fierce and makes for ugly shades in your pictures. Go for the soft light.
Have you ever seen the lavender bloom? Where was it? And what is the favorite colors of the Provence for you? Share it in the comment section below!
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