Provence: Luberon, the heart of Provence

Provence: Luberon, the heart of Provence

France » Self-guided (independent) hiking tours

  • Explore one of the most popular regions in France
  • Hiking trails through scented lavender fields
  • Bright green vineyards and ochre-coloured villages
  • jan
  • feb
  • mar
  • apr
  • may
  • jun
  • jul
  • aug
  • sep
  • oct
  • nov
  • dec

From 695 €

Duration (days): 7

Difficulty grade:  

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As it descends from the southern Alps, the Durance River makes a slow loop around a limestone plateau known as the ‘Luberon’ - a rugged, wooded region that stretches for about 65 km between Cavaillon in the east, and Manosque at its western extremity. The western end is known as the ‘Petit Luberon’ and the eastern end as the ‘Grand Luberon’. The two sections are divided by the Combe de Lourmarin (the old pathway), which cuts across the mountains between the charming villages of Bonnieux and Lourmarin.
A beautiful region, rich in colour and contrasts, with vivid sprays of scented lavender, bright green vines, ochre-coloured villages and austere white limestone hills. This is the heart of Provence, an area that has attracted artists and writers for centuries, with dozens of lovely villages to explore, ancient forts, spectacular abbeys and countless other geographical and historical sites. There are some marvelous walking trails in the area, following the GR9 from the medieval village of Viens to picturesque Rustrel, or hiking across rocky escarpments down into dramatic gorges, where ochre was once been mined.
Provence is also known for its food, with garlic, olives and olive oil playing an important role in the preparation of many dishes.

Day 1: Start of holiday in Apt
Arrival and accommodation in Apt. You may choose to walk to the nearby village of Saignon, depending on your time of arrival.
Walk by Apt via the 'Bellevue' rock
A walk to the village of Saignon, perched on top of a hill behind a large rock that towers over the valley. Saignon is a peaceful little village that you can easily explore on foot. Opposite the town hall there is a pretty 12th century Roman church and while walking through the narrow streets you will see ancient fountains, picturesque shady squares and beautiful old houses with intricate doorways. It is worth climbing up to the ‘Rock of Saignon’ where you can enjoy a marvelous panoramic view of the plains and the Luberon range. If the weather is clear, you can see Mont Ventoux, the Lure Mountains, the Alps of Haute Provence and even the heights of Avignon! Thanks to its rock, Saignon played a key defensive role for the town of Apt, attacked through the centuries by numerous invasions... although not yet by tourists!
Walking distance: 10km, duration: 3h30, altitude gain: +230m, descent: -230m.
Day 2: Cereste to Viens
The walk starts at the ruins of the Priory of Carluc, located near the Domitian Way: the Roman Via Domitia (one of three ancient road systems in the region) that once passed through Apt and Bonnieux. Here you can see the last remains of an 11th century priory and the 12th century chapel, still intact, surrounded by a Carolingian necropolis consisting of about ten tombs dug out of the rock. From here you join the GR97, one of the famous long-distance paths (‘Grande Randonnee') that traverse France. You arrive at Opedette, a tiny hamlet built at the end of a spur, bordered to the East and West by rocky escarpments known as the Gorges du Calavon. From Opedette to Viens the path follows these gorges, with lovely views. Depending on your energy levels, you may wish to take an additional circular walk from Viens, known as the ‘Circuit des Bories’, where you’ll find old dry-stone dwellings (bories), constructed without mortar, that are typical of the region.
Hiking distance: 14km, duration: 5h00, altitude gain: +567m, descent : -400m.
Day 3: Viens to Rustrel
Surrounded by magnificent countryside, and perched on a rocky outcrop, Viens is an ancient village with a charming medieval atmosphere. It boasts a Renaissance château, restored in the 14th century, where you can enjoy a panoramic view from the Montee de la Pousterle to the Lure gorges. Continuing along the GR97 in the direction of Rustrel, you have the opportunity to hike along the famous ‘ochre route’. The mining of ochre began more than a century ago, and Rustrel soon became an important production center. Today, after a long decline, the exploitation is almost at an end, although the ‘Colorado Provençal’, as it is known, has received a second lease of life, attracting numerous visitors each year. Your route takes you past an incredible succession of rusty-coloured rocks, golden cliffs and red earthen chimneys that rise majestically out of the vegetation. Rustrel itself is dominated by a beautiful 17th century château, and during the summer months visitors can relax in the municipal outdoor swimming pool. The village is also known for its ‘Côtes du Ventoux’ wines.|
Walking distance: 16km, duration: 5h30, altitude gain: +235m, descent : -455m.
Day 4: Saignon to Buoux via the Mourre Negre
Departure from Saignon, one of the oldest villages in France, perched on a huge rock and providing an amazing panoramic view of the area. From here you have the option of walking up through fragrant woodland and lush green fields to the Mourre Nègre (the highest point in the region, at 1125m), where you enjoy another spectacular panorama. On a clear day you can see right across to the Southern Alps. You then continue to your ‘auberge’ just outside Buoux, which is also your base for the next two nights.
Hiking distance: 15 km hiking by the Mourre Nègre, duration: 6h00, altitude gain: + 615m, descent: - 715m.
Saigon to Buoux via the Aigue Brun valley
From Saigon, a second choice of walk that passes through the Aigue Brun valley to Buoux along the plateau des Claparèdes.
Walking distance: 10km or 7,5km, duration: 5h30 or 3h00, altitude gain: +115m, descent: -90m or -215m.
Day 5: The village of Bonnieux
A circular walk from Buoux allows you to discover the many layers of history in this region, with impressive views of the Aigue Brun Valley. The limestone cliffs around Buoux are equally interesting; they were once a retreat for hermits in the 15th century and now they offer an exciting challenge for rock-climbers. You continue towards Bonnieux and doubtless you will spot its church tower long before the rest of the village comes into view. Built on a plateau above the valley, it is one of the finest villages in the area. Some of its houses date back to the 16th century and, if you climb the 86 stone steps to the old church, you’ll enjoy an outstanding view of the mountains of the Vaucluse, with Mont Ventoux towering in the distance. While here, don’t miss the Boulangerie Museum that houses an interesting display on bakery and bread production. You return to Buoux for the night.
Hiking distance: 17km, duration: 6h00, altitude gain: +270m, descent: -270m.
Day 6: Buoux to Apt
Today’s walk takes you up through the village of Buoux, where you can visit the ancient fort, well worth a detour if only for the excellent view of the valley and into the deep ravines of the River Aigue Brun. You then follow the GR9, across the Plateau of Claparedes, which brings you to the outskirts of Apt, the last stage of your walk through the heart of Provence. Apt is situated in the centre of the Luberon Nature Reserve, and is reputed for its local products. It is known world wide for its candied fruit, and the Saturday morning market is one of the great sights of the region, with fresh fruits, goat cheeses and many other local products available for sale.
Walking distance: 11km, duration: 5h00, altitude gain: + 135m, descent: - 365m.
Day 7: End of holiday in Apt
End of your holiday in Apt. Possibility to do a circular walk and discover the Pays Aptois. The walk starts in Apt and follows the GR9 in the direction of Saint Satunin les Apt. Discover small hamlets typical of the Pays Aptois region.
Hiking distance: 10km, duration: 3h30, altitude gain: +250m, descent: -250m.

Accommodation and luggage transportation: Halfboard in double rooms in comfortable hotels and guesthouses (except on days 1 and 6, when dinner is not included; there are numerous options to have dinner outside while in Apt). Free access to a swimming-pool for 3 days! Luggage transfers between the inns are included.

Price: 695 Euros/person in twin/dbl room

Single supplement: 160 Euros

The price includes: Halfboard accommodation (except days 1 and 6 when only breakfast is included), transfers on Day 2 and Day 4, luggage transfers, detailed route notes and maps and all necessary details needed for your holiday.

The price does not include: Additional transfers, drinks, insurance, evening meals on days 1 and 6.

Tips: The trek is available to start every day between March and November (July and August are extremely hot and not at all recommended to walk; some trails may be closed due to fire prevention at that time). Access: Either by train: Avignon station, or by air: Avignon or Marseille airport. For more details please check www.voyages-sncf.fr. Transfer from Marseille airport to Apt for 1 to 6 pers: 200 Euros.