The Lavender Route

One of my neighbour’s guests (British) asked me yesterday ‘Where can we see the lavender fields?’ so I thought it was high time I wrote a blog post about one of the most photographed regions in France – the Lavender Route or Routes de la Lavande.

While not geographically part of the French Riviera, you can be wandering the small villages of Provence that overlook hillsides and horizon-stretching plateaus covered in flowering lavender within 1.5 – 2 hours drive so it’s easy to include in an itinerary if you visit the French Riviera.

Of course, Grasse is well known for flowers and perfume but for the spectacular postcard-perfect photographs you lust after in travel magazines you really must head further to see it for yourself.

 

The plateau de Valensole - one of the best locations to see lavender fields in Provence

The plateau de Valensole – one of the best locations to see lavender fields in Provence

Best time to visit the lavender fields

The lavender starts blooming from early to mid June and is present until approximately mid-August when the lavender is harvested and many of the towns have festivals celebrating this fragrant purple flower.

However, there have been years when the harvest has moved forward due to weather conditions.

You’ll also likely see sunflowers, cornflowers and poppies blooming. Interestingly, lavender was still hand-cultivated by sickle right up until the first cutting machine was prototyped in the 1950’s.

For 2016, full bloom is expected to be late June around Apt/Plateau d’Albion, and early July around Sault.  Full bloom is optimal for photo opportunities!

Note:  I have written this blog post as an information source only, please do not email me directly to check whether your own individual travel plans coincide with the lavender harvest – I recommend you contact the Sault Tourist Office directly as they are very knowledgeable about current conditions each year of which fields are best to see lavender.

Where to find the lavender fields

The best locations to see the lavender fields are:

The Valensole plateau, particularly between Riez, Valensole and Forcalquier. At Riez, you can also see the remains of the 1st century AD Roman temple dedicated to Apollo and eat one of the best truffle dishes of the region, brouillade aux truffes, which is scrambled egg with truffle shavings.

Sault-en-Provence: Sault-en-Provence (Sault) is perched at 776 metres above sea level so you get a great panoramic view over lavender fields. Driving from Banon you’ll see many lavender fields if you the take D950 road to Sault. You can also drive from Sault along the D943 road and then D230 past Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt before going to Gordes or Roussillon and you will see many lavender fields along this route.

Simiane-la-Rotonde: A pretty village surrounded by lavender fields and with a medieval castle to visit.

 

Simiane la Rotonde

Simiane la Rotonde

Lavender itineraries

There are plenty of guided tours operating in this region, but I suggest self-drive as there is so much to see!

My recommended scenic route to take in some of the best sights of this area and the lavender fields would be: Lac de Sainte-Croix*, then Moustiers-St Marie, Puimoisson, Riez, Valensole, Forcalquier, Banon, Sault with side-trips to Simiane-la-Rotonde, Roussillon* and/or Gordes*. *Lac de Sainte-Croix is a beautiful turquoise lake at the western end of the Gorges du Verdon and you can swim, hire pedal boats or go kayaking. Roussillon and Gordes are both unique and pretty hilltop villages worth a visit.   For my customised Lavender Route map, visit my collection I curated on Wanderant:

For other itineraries to discover the lavender region, visit this website: http://www.moveyouralps.com/fr/routes-de-la-lavande/itineraire-lavande

It is possible to drive and stop by the roadside for photos.

Lavender festivals

Most of the towns in the lavender-growing area host annual festivals to mark harvest time. You’ll find parades with flower-laden floats and artisans selling all types of lavender products including soaps, honey, pot pourri and essential oils. Here are some lavender festivals you can visit if you are in the area:

Dignes: Beginning of August, a 4-day Corso de la Lavande with all kinds of lavender produce for sale, flower floats, music, dancing and a truck that sprays the roads with lavender water!

Riez: Last fornight in July, Fête de Lavande

Sault: Around 14 and 15 August, cutting festival, flower floats, Fête de la Lavande

Valensole: Last fortnight in July, Fête de Lavande

Banon on the Lavender Route

Banon on the Lavender Route

Other things to see and do

As well as the yearly lavender festivals, there are plenty of other attractions and activities that aim to capitalise on the lavender industry including farm tours, visits to lavender distilleries and guided tours. Some suggestions are:

Coustellet: Musée de la Lavande (The Lavender Museum) showcases the process of harvesting and distilling lavender. They have a free audioguide (available in 5 languages) that highlights their collections of copper stills, Provençal costumes, perfume bottles, a giftshop and pleasant outdoor terrace. There is plenty of carparking, and the museum and public toilets are accessible for persons with reduced mobility. Reduced entrance fees for students, retirees and disabled visitors. Accompanied children under 15 years of age get free entry and an activity quiz. www.thelavendermuseum.com

lavender-537851_1280

Forcalquier: Jump onboard a hot air balloon for an aerial view over the lavender fields. You can reserve a flight via the Forcalquier Tourist Office. http://www.haute-provence-tourisme.com/vol-en-ballon/

 

Hot air ballooning near Forcalquier (The Lavender Route)

Hot air ballooning near Forcalquier (The Lavender Route)

Sault: The tourist office offers 7 guided tours on the theme of lavender www.ventoux-sud.com

I highly recommend visiting this region.  The scenery is very picturesque and even if you dislike lavender you can visit for gastronomy, wine tasting, kayaking, cycling, hiking, rock climbing and horse riding. All of the Tourist Offices in the region have maps and lots of information, visit http://www.alpes-haute-provence.com/, www.valensole.fr and http://www.village-banon.fr/

I would love your feedback on my blog post!  Please share on Facebook or Twitter if you found it informative, thank you.

Image credits: Coeur du Luberon, Luberon Tourism, Fondecran, Tourism Alpes Haute Provence.

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “The Lavender Route

  1. Thank you kindly for this very detailed + most helpful, informative blog post about visiting the Lavender Fields in France! My husband + I are planning to celebrate nine years together by visiting this region around the 2nd week of August 2015. I’ve been on a constant search to confirm if the lavender will be in bloom and if we’ll enjoy the fields before they are harvested if we go at this time.

    Based on your vast knowledge + personal experience, will we be able to enjoy the lavender fields in bloom if we are in Provence, from August 13-17? If you have time to reply, that would be so very much appreciated.

    Thank you again! Your blog post has provided so much clarity. Much continued success to you and your blog. ❤

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  2. This was a very helpful blog post! I plan on taking the Valensole to Riez route when I visit in June but want to make sure there are areas to pull over and walk through or walk close by the Lavender fields. Are you aware of any areas specifically that I can stop at or is it easy enough to just pull over when a Lavender field comes up?

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    • Hi there, thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting! There are plenty of places to stop and pull over for photos and indeed walk through the lavender fields! From late June is better and you may also see wheat growing, poppies and sunflowers too during the lavender season. The best places to see and stop are the D6 road between Valensole and Riez, there are nice fields on the D56 east to Puimosson, and on the D8 between Valensole and the D953 junction just north of Puimosson are big lavender fields.

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  3. Thank you for this helpful and interesting blog.

    We only can go on holidays end of July this year (probably starting 26th July). We are concerned whether we should go to the Provence (we would love to see the lavender), or if the time is too late. We worry they have already harvested most of the lavender by then. How do you think about it? Is it still worth to go there end of July?

    Thank you for an advice!

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    • Bonjour Wolfgang and thank you for your nice comment! Late July is when some of the regional lavender festivals are on (Riez and Valensole) so you should be fine. Unless it is exceptionally hot weather in June/July as it was last year in 2015, the harvest season extends to August. You could also check closer to the time regarding the weather, though of course this makes it difficult to pre-book travel.

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  4. Hi! Thank you for your post. I am planning to stay at Nice for 3 nights and then stay in Cannes for 2 nights (and making a trip to Valensole). Do you think it is feasible?

    My sis is generally not comfortable with driving so I was wondering if there are any guided tours from Cannes/Nice. Thank you!

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    • Hello, thanks for visiting my blog! I’m not aware of any tour operators from Cannes/Nice that visit the lavender fields however you can try to contact one to ask for a private tour (though be advised that if there is just 2 of you it may be quite costly). This company is based in Cannes: http://www.french-riviera-tours.fr If your sis is not comfortable driving, the other option is to take a train to Aix en Provence, Avignon or Marseille and join a tour from there as there are many tour companies based there. Again, you would need to consider the travel time and whether it connects with the tour departure time. Best of luck

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  5. Hello, Thank you for your wonderful site. My husband and I will be in Provence about 32 days end of June to end of July traveling from United States. We will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. We found your site looking for lavender routes and I thank you for sharing all the wonderful information. We are wondering about the roads on your suggested routes. We are thinking of doing your recommended scenic route starting in Lac de Saint Croix going thorough all the villages you mentioned to Sault . We are concerned about roads that are scary with cliffs. How are the roads and are there cliffs and scary parts on the routes you suggest? We are in our early 70’s doing the trip on our own so we are not thrill seekers. Could you please give information on the danger of these mountain roads. Are there some routes worse than others that we should avoid? We were also considering going to Sault from Bedoin. We just want to avoid scary roads with cliffs. What do you suggest? We are staying in Bonnieux and L’Isle Sur la Sorgue.
    Thank you in advance.
    Betty & Bob

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