Highlights of the Luberon France
Exploring the hilltop villages of the Luberon mountain region is a must for travelers to the South of France. Much of the Luberon is a national park and the quaint, beautiful villages that occupy the area are extraordinarily picturesque, with sweeping, panoramic views of inland Provence. From various points and under the right conditions, you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Mont Ventoux, Avignon and the edge of the French Alps. Originally built on mountain tops for protection, the villages are located near each other, making a day of visiting several towns and stunning sites doable without spending too much time in the car.
To get a real sense of the terroir, consider cycling or hiking through the Luberon, winding past vineyards, orchards, gardens and seasonal flowers in bloom. There’s an established network of walking and hiking trails suitable for all abilities, including families. The trails are extensive and well-maintained, taking you through the absolutely gorgeous countryside, through rolling hills, past wineries and alongside crumbling Roman ruins.
Each village has its own feel and unique characteristics, the remains of medieval castles, chapels and fortresses. The villages each have their own market day where you’ll find delicious locally grown produce, flowers, herbs, as well as spices, tablecloths, cured meats and cheeses. Wine production is an integral part of life in the region—stop into one of the village “cooperative”for a free tasting.
The village of L’Isle Sur La Sorgue is best known for antiques. The lively Sunday morning market is quite a sight, with an abundance of antiques, local produce, clothing and more. Enjoy strolling along the canals and outdoor, waterside dining. Visit nearby Fontaine de Vaucluse, the water source for the Sorgue river. If time allows, enjoy kayaking in this beautiful, natural setting.
Peter Mayle brought a wave of attention to the small village of Menerbes in writing A Year on Provence. This quaint, fortressed village is rich with 16th and 17th century architecture. A castle rests on top of a rocky outcrop, watching over neighboring Gordes and Roussillon, both listed among the most Beautiful Villages of France.
Three miles away, Oppede le Vieux, a quiet, ancient village with cobbled paths and ivy-covered stone buildings, houses two churches and the ruins of a castle, providing excellent views of the Luberon valley.
Built on a hilltop, Gordes offers breathtaking panoramic views of Provence. The allure of Gordes is wandering the narrow cobbled streets, admiring the stone buildings, and happening upon yet another fantastic view of the valley below. The landscape on the drive to nearby Abbey Notre Dame de Sénaque is nothing short of spectacular.
Goult is a quaint, hilltop village full of Provencal culture and history. To fully appreciate the beauty of Goult, take the self-guided walking tour through the village to see the windmill, the chateau and the magnificent views of the valley, then enjoy a glass of rosé at one of the region’s best terrace cafés, Cafe de la Poste.
Classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Roussillon is best known for its distinctive red cliffs, created by the world’s largest known ochre deposit. The color palette is striking, ranging from yellow to orange to pink to red. Walk through the village to admire the architecture and vibrant hues, visiting a few of the numerous restaurants and art galleries.
To get the best views from Bonnieux, be sure to climb the stairs leading to the old church. From this vantage point, take in the entire valley floor and a clear view of another hilltop village, Lacoste. The nearby Cedar Forest, planted in 1860, presents amazing views of the Luberon valley as well as an occasion to take a nice walk through the woods.
Lourmarin is the place to be if you are looking to browse boutiques and lunch in quaint cafes alongside cobblestone streets. A picturesque Renaissance castle sits near a fortified farmhouse dating back to the Middle Ages.