The Luberon is a mountainous area in Provence, Southern France. It’s a truely beautiful region with lots of things to do for any traveller. There’s hikes to explore, vinyards to visit, and small towns to get lost in. Cute hilltop villages will capture your imagination along with the breathtaking scenery. You will fall in love with the provincial charm of olive groves and lavender fields. I spent three full days here and could have spent a week exploring this beautiful region. Below are my recommendations on what to do in the Luberon, Provence.
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Visit The Hilltop Village of Gordes
At the top of any list of what to do in the Luberon should be Gordes. The first time I saw Gordes I literally gasped. It´s a tiny village in the Luberon area of Southern France, and cascades down the mountain in picturesque stone cottages and olive trees. It’s something out of a travel dream, and one I´d had since learning about the town in 2014. Gordes makes me wish I could paint, or even better, have two million euro so I can buy a house here and live my dream Provence life. This includes a cat or two, maybe a goat, and lots of lavender, lemons, and olives. The lanes twist around the old chateau, and on corners you can have uninterrupted views over the beautiful Provence plains.
A fun fact about Gordes is that it was dying by the end of the second world war. The industrial revolution had killed off most of their trade, and a severe frost had decimated their olive trees (apparently they are still recovering today). The village was an ageing population and there were many ruins as people moved away. Then the artists found it, and turned Gordes into an artistic commune. People like Marc Chagall, Jean Deyrolle, and Pol Mara. The chateau is an art gallery because of this and still shows some of their pieces. The chateau is definitely a must when deciding what to do in Gordes. It has a history of the town at the beginning and then some fascinating exhibitions.
As it’s tiny, parking is a bit of an issue with Gordes. We turned up at 10:00am on a Sunday and had no problems, but by 11:00am the place was busy. We parked up the top near the hospital, but there is more parking further out of town. If you’re driving into Gordes make sure you stop at the look out that is sign posted out of town. It’s a great place for photos and views of Gordes.
You want to take Gordes slow, savour it like a long Italian lunch. We stopped at bakeries and ate french sweets, and lost ourselves down laneways and up stairs. For lunch we dined at La Trinquette, a little rambling house on the edge of the Gordes cliffs. You get beautiful views across the valley, and the food is delicious, French cuisine. I highly recommend it, just be prepared for tiny staircases.
Village Des Bories
Just around the corner from Gordes is the Village des Bories. It’s a well preserved snapshot of village life back in the 18th century. There are about twenty stone houses, which housed people, livestock, and wine (my favourite one). It’s fascinating to see how people lived; it always makes me try and imagine what it would have been like. They have an informative video in the first house to provide a history of the place. It’s in French, but it has English subtitles.
They have a few recreations of farm life in the old bories and signs at each one explaining what it was used for. You can walk in to some of them. There’s a large parking lot at the site, but just be warned the drive in has quite a small road. You can also see other bories in the fields on the way in,
Abbaye de Senanque
The Abbaye de Senanque is hidden away in a valley down a oneway road from Gordes. It’s still operating as an abby for monks and the peace and silence of the place is beautiful. You just want to wander, and let your thoughts sit a little less heavier. There are walking tracks around it, and best of all lavender fields, which the monks cultivate. We came in the lavender off season, but you could see the field where they would be eventually. While we were there they started ringing the bell to signal 8:00pm and you could hear that it was all done by hand.
If you come at around sunset the Abby will be in shadow due to the valley. However, we accidentally took the road towards Venasque and found an absolutely stunning sunset. I thought we’d missed it and then we turned a corner and found ourselves on the edge of the hills looking out over a valley. The sky was deep reds and oranges and beautiful purples. A very special moment and one I highly recommend.
The Ruins of Oppéde-le-Vieux
Oppéde-le-Vieux is a hilltop town that has been around since the 12th century. It’s a mix of architecture as it evolved from castle village to farming community. Since the 19th century it was left to fall into ruins with only a few people left living amongst the trees and ghosts. It’s a fascinating look into the history of the Luberon. It should be on anyones list when deciding what to do in the Luberon. The good news is, that it’s not, so your explorations should be relatively private.
The village of Oppéde is at the bottom of the hill and has a few small galleries and two restaurants. It’s a sweet little town with information boards in English and French about its history. Most visitors are cyclists on their journey through the Luberon, so you will sometimes have the ghost town above to yourself.
Once you start following the old stone road up the hill you encounter ruins almost straight away. There’s walls with windows and doors opening to wild gardens, and holes that gape into cellars. There’s even a few houses that are still lived in; french, stone cottages framed by the shells of their empty neighbours. I was so curious about what they would be like inside, it reminded me of a secret garden. Right at the top of the hill is a church that they’re renovating and a castle that they are very slowly excavating. And of course views over the Luberon.
Stay In A Provincial Stone Cottage
I highly recommend finding yourself a stone cottage for your stay in Provence. Ours had light blue shutters and was surrounded by an olive grove. Word of advice, don’t try and eat a raw olive. It will be the bitterest thing you’ll ever regret putting in your month. However the fig tree made up for it. Nothing better than sitting on the stone terrace of your cottage drinking a glass of red whine and snacking on a sweet, fresh fig. There’s a lot to choose from on Airbnb, so get booking and visit the lovely Luberon.