Saport’advisor #3 : Top 5 best places to visit in the Luberon

For those who are living in the South of France the name Luberon is quite common. This valley located in Vaucluse’s department is also known all around France and is now famous in several countries around the world. What is more confused is the way to pronounce this word: it is the same as it is written. Speaking about “Lubéron” will not help you to make local friends!

The reasons for this success are quite simple: this small region contains everything that is associated with the image of “Provence”. From the romantic small villages with houses made of cut stones to famous lavender fields (but ONLY FLOWERED IN JULY), this area is associated with beauty. But because of the growing reputation of the Luberon, especially during the summer, here are the five best places to visit without being annoyed by legions of tourist according to Mélissa.

#5: The castle of Oppède and its old town:

The old town and castle of Oppède-le-Vieux.
Credits : mairie d’Oppède.

Located in the Western Luberon, not far from Cavaillon, the castle of Oppède “the old” is one of the greatest examples of medieval castle conserved in the region. From the huge towers to the dungeon, the place is quite ruined and some of the stones were used by the inhabitants to build their houses in the village.

After several months of rehabilitation and improvement of the security of this area – several stones were not stabilised – don’t hesitate to walk less than one hour to have a nice point of view to the North of the region, facing the famous Mount Ventoux. If the weather is too hot or a storm is coming, the small restored chapel will be a nice shelter for you.

When you come down, don’t hesitate to visit the small village made of old restored houses and eat an ice under trees!

Saport’advisor’s tip: Because of the work engaged last year to enforce the security of the whole structure, don’t hesitate to verify if the place is opened to visitors or not.

How to go there? The easiest way is to take or rent a car. You need a bit more than one hour to go to the village from Aix without taking the highway. If you decide to take the A7, you have to follow the direction of “Avignon” until the interchange of “Cavaillon”. After crossing this place, follow the road signs to “Oppède”. It takes 45 minutes from Aix, one our if you don’t take the highway.  

4# The Buoux fort:

Still about military architecture, the Buoux fort will make you happy if you are interested in history and nature. Located between the famous villages of Lourmarin and Bonnieux, the fort was an ideal place to monitor the one and only passage to pass from southern to northern Luberon, which is separated by a mountain range. But it is not so easy to find it ! Leave your car next to the wonderful Aiguebrun’s valley, protected from the sun by the forest and ideal for a picnic. Have a look a huge rock detached from the cliffs and follow the little path until the house of the guardian.

After ten minutes, take your time to imagine how was the fort before its dismantling in the 17th century. Try to find the remains of the fortifications, the cisterns or the ancient church. Buoux was a barrack able to receive hundreds of soldiers and support a siege, so everything was made to build an autonomous place on a strategic position. The visit ended by the discovery of the bastion, well conserved and restored by an association, to have another nice point of view to the whole northern Luberon. Finally, you go back down using a huge staircase, be careful to not fall in the deep!

Saport’advisor’s tip: Don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you, avoid the place if you have a fear of heights!

How to go there? From Aix, take the A51 highway direction “Gap” until “Venelles” for free. Then, follow the road signs in the direction of Apt. 15 minutes after crossing “Lourmarin”, you will find some indications before the “Pointu” pass to “Buoux”. It takes 50 minutes from Aix. Arriving to the entrance, you will have to pay 5 euros to the guardian. The place is open between 10 am and 5 pm. If you go there between June and September, go on the net to inform yourself about the fire risk: if it is too high, the forest area near the fort might be closed.

#3 The cedar forest:

Sunset viewed from the cedar forest.
Credits : T.K.

Hearing the name of this place, it doesn’t sound typical of the south of France! In fact, those cedars are trees imported from Lebanon which acclimated well at the top of the “little Luberon”. This area is located between Bonnieux and Lacoste and is offering a 180° point of view over the whole south Provence, from the great Sainte Victoire in the East to the Alpilles and the Camargue in the West. Three different paths with several levels of difficulty are purposed, one is accessible to persons with reduced mobility.

This peaceful place is perfect for walking without a lot of difficulties, less than two hours and to have the opportunity to see one of greatest panoramas of the region. Such as the Buoux fort, this area is subjected to the risk of fire, so don’t hesitate to visit the fire dept’s website. Finally, don’t go there if it is too windy, the panorama is really exposed to the mistral, except if you want to learn how to fly!

Saport’advisor’s tip: ideal if you are in family with small children or with people who doesn’t like to hike.

How to go there?  From Aix, follow the same itinerary as to go to “Buoux”, but after leaving “Lourmarin”, follow the direction of “Bonnieux”, and finally the sign “cedar forest”. It takes one hour from Aix. Do not forget it is forbidden to have a barbecue, smoke and to set up camp wildly in the forest!

#2 The medieval village of Viens:

Viens viewed from the north.
Credits: mairie de Viens.

The heritage of Luberon is gigantic. I could have recommended some other place like Gordes, Bonnieux or Lacoste, famous to be home to the castle of the worldwide known Marquis de Sade. But Viens – don’t forget to pronounce the “s”, has something else to offer. This place located on a hill at 600 metres high is in the north-east border of Luberon. But what makes it special is the medieval atmosphere given during the visit of the village.

Viens overflows with middle-aged houses, has one of the oldest roman church conserved in south of France and offers a lot of little streets enjoyable in the spring and the summer, sometimes really cold in winter. Take the time to look at some details like small statues on houses, the centuries-old doors and the date sculpted on stone in front of every home.

Saport’advisor’s tip: don’t hesitate to go with your car to the Oppedette’s gorges, a wonderful panorama only 10 minutes from “Viens” where you can observe several bird species.

How to get there? From Aix, follow the A51 highway until “Venelles” and then the direction of “Apt”. After crossing the town, you will find signs to go to “Viens”. It takes less than one hour and a half from Aix.

#1 The Colorado Provençal:

Several nuances of ochre can be observed in the Colorado Provençal.
Credits: T.K.

Less famous than its American cousin, the “Colorado Provençal” is one of the most curious places in the south of France. The ancient open-cast mine was one of the exploitations, like Roussillon, of ochre. Overwhelmed by tourists in August, this place is quiet and nice during springtime and the beginning of the summer.

Follow the different paths to the quarry after crossing a Mediterranean forest replanted during the last decade – the ancient one was cut for ochre’s industry. Find the traces of the exploitation, especially the wagons and railways between the trees. Watch the circuit of water, very rare in the region but essential for the ochre’s exploitation, following the canal and pipes.

Enjoy taking beautiful pictures but do not wear white clothes: ochre has been used to dye, so it is really hard to wash, never try with hot water! Finally, don’t go off the path, even if you see people doing it: ochre is 90% sand, climbing little ochre hills expose you to an injury in addition to the degradation of this beautiful place!  

Saport’advisor’s tip: Coming after 3pm on a hot day or before 9 am during the summer may be perfect to fully enjoy the place. Don’t forget to take cash with you, the restaurants don’t accept credit cards, the closest cashpoint is in Apt (10 kilometres).

How to go there? Follow the A51 until “Venelles” and then the direction of “Apt”. Cross the town and you will find signs to “Rustrel”. The Colorado is indicated by other signs after the arrival next to the village. The entrance ticket costs 5 euros for a car, so the more you are in the car, the cheaper it is. From Aix you need a bit more than one hour to go there.

Any suggestions or questions? Don’t hesitate to send a message to Melissa, she will be happy to give you more advise!

Thibaut Keutchayan

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