In contrast to the magnificent and lavish Paris is a peaceful, serene, simple Provence surrounded by vibrant flower colors all year round. When traveling to Provence France, you will come across images of farmers working hard under the flowers. Or the horses are leisurely resting in the middle of the vast field. All will blend to create a peaceful picture that makes our souls peaceful and relieved. Today, I will share with you my past journey to this most beautiful land through my Provence travel itinerary for 5 days. So, how to spend 5 days in Provence, South France in summer? Let’s check out our suggested Provence itinerary 5 days on my Provence road trip itinerary which pass through the most beautiful places during lavender season.
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What’s attractive about Provence?
If someone reminds me of Provence, I’ll tell you about a brilliant picture in the South-East of France. The range of colors goes from the white shades of fragrant almond blossoms every spring. The yellow color of autumn pine forests in the Alps, of summer sunflower fields. The orange color of the Roussillon ocher mines. The red-pink color of flamingos in the Camargue biosphere reserve in winter. The endless purple of lavender flowers plateaus, fragrant to the horizon in July. The clear and deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea. The enchanting turquoise color of the Verdon gorge. The silvery green of the pine forests on the slopes of Mont Ventoux or Mont Saint Victoire has been painted many times.
It can be said that Provence is one of the most beautiful lands in France. And because of that, a huge number of tourists will flock here, especially in summer days. People come to Provence not only to see but also to satisfy all the senses. Breathe in the free flow of lavender-infused fresh air. Listening to the chirping of cicadas evokes nostalgic memories. Feel the burning heat of each summer sun’s rays on the skin, and then be gently caressed and soothed by the cool breeze. Enjoy French cuisine made from a variety of fresh seafood and sweetness of full sun vegetables.
There are many ways to fall in love with Provence. But I like to drive away from the crowd to see a nostalgic and anxious Provence like in the paintings of Paul Cézanne or Vincent van Gogh. Try going like me on summer days in July.
Provence road trip itinerary: Recommended Provence itinerary 5 days (5 days in Provence)
If you want to go all Provence, perhaps a lifetime is not enough. For those of you who come here, don’t have much time and still want to “steal” some good memories of the South of France, I would like to suggest a short Provence itinerary 3 or 5 days.
This itinerary is for the Provence lavender season in the last week of June and the first 2 weeks of July. This lavender route Provence goes through part of the destinations I listed at the end of my previous post about Provence (https://livingnomads.com/2022/05/provence-lavender-season/). If you plan a trip in a different time, you can re-adjust, remove lavender areas and add more places to visit to better suit.
However, with this itinerary I travel by self-driving car. I don’t know if I go by public transport, which way to go and how long it will take, don’t ask me.
The itinerary focuses mainly to admire the natural scenery and visit some beautiful old cities and small villages, combined with shimmering virtual life photography at the golden hour. Therefore, the daily schedule starts very early, sometimes I left the house at dawn 5, 6 am and ending very late at sunset 9, 10pm. If you do not have the ability to stay up late, get up early, you can choose the places you are less interested in to phase out.
Every day is a specific itinerary I have arranged according to a topic. If you want to go for less days, you just need to choose the topic you like and go on that day.
Day 1: Cove and Lavender – Around Marseille, Cassis, Valensole Lavender Plateau (190Km, 5 Hours)
The coves near Marseille: Early in the morning, from Marseille to the cove (calanque in French). The most beautiful and easily accessible calanques near Marseille are Sormiou, Morgiou, Sugiton (located right behind the Luminy campus university dormitory). Particularly, Sormiou and Morgiou can go by car to the place if you arrive early before 7, 8 am. Each calanque has a different opening time for vehicles. If you arrive after this hour, you can still get down to the calanque, but you’ll have to walk down and up, which can be quite strenuous if it’s hot that day. Remember to check if there is a forest fire warning that day and then go here, because if there is a risk of forest fire, you will not be able to go down to the calanque. See times and short trek suggestions here (http://www.calanques13.com/acces-calanques.html).
Cassis: Cassis is a small port city east of Marseille, very pretty with cute corners of the coastal city of Provence. Beautiful beaches, hilltop fortresses, harbors teeming with fishing boats and yachts. Coming to Cassis, people often go sightseeing along the Route des Crêtes, visit Cap Canaille, trekking to the coves of Port Pain, D’en-Vau.
Aix-en-Provence: If you leave Cassis when it is still early (mid-afternoon), then go straight to Valensole, the light is not yet beautiful. You can stop for a few hours in the city of Aix-en-Provence (often called Aix for short) on the way to Valensole. This is a small city in the North of Marseille. People often call Aix the most Provencal place in Provence. Small Aix with lovely and photogenic fountains, dotted somewhere in its old town.
Valensole and the lavender plateau at sunset: This is the largest and most famous lavender growing region in Provence. All information about the way to explore Valensole and other places, I wrote in the previous post (https://livingnomads.com/2022/05/provence-lavender-season/). This should be the final destination of the day. The best time to see the lavender fields on the plateau is from 7pm to sunset. The plateau lies between the villages of Valensole and Riez, along the D6 road.
5 days in Provence: Day 2: Lake and gorge – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie Village, Lake Saint-Croix, Verdon Gorge, Rougon Village (190 Km, 5 Hours)
Valensole and the lavender plateau at dawn: if you are not tired of watching the lavender fields in Valensole the afternoon before, this morning you should return to the Valensole plateau. This plateau is located on the way from Valensole to the next points on the itinerary, so it is convenient. The lavender fields at sunset can be a bit crowded, but in the early morning before 7, 8 am, you will be alone in a deserted plateau, free to pose and take pictures.
Village Moustiers-Sainte-Marie: is a beautiful small village near Lake Saint-Croix, with a traditional craft of making pottery. The village is built on a poetic mountainside and is always on the list of the most beautiful ancient villages in France. The village farmers market meets every Saturday morning. You should also come here in the morning before 9am, before going to Lake Saint-Croix otherwise it will be quite crowded.
Lake Saint-Croix: about 40 km east of Valensole, passing through Valensole plateau, very convenient for you to go to see flowers and then visit the lake in the same day. The lake water has a very special turquoise color flows from Verdon gorge. Here you can enjoy renting rowing boats, water bikes, swimming in the lake, or simply enjoying the view from above.
Verdon Gorge: one of the most beautiful gorges in France, created from the Verdon River. The Gorge du Verdon stretching from Lake Saint-Croix all the way to Castellane. Instead of just going to only “Gorge du Verdon” that marks on Google maps, you should drive along the following route to see the magnificence of this gorge (see diagram above):
- From Lac Saint-Croix (Gatelas bridge) on the D952 road, to Palud-sur-Verdon. From this village, you leave the D952 road and go up the D23 road. Road D23 goes in a circle, starting and ending at Palud-sur-Verdon village, this is a one-way road, so remember to go clockwise. The road goes up high, passing through many beautiful viewpoints.
- Continue going on the D952 to Rougon, one of the most beautiful villages in the region. Remember to walk to the viewpoint to see the Verdon gorge, then go up to the village to see the village from above.
- Continue going on the D952, turn to D955 road and then D71 road. Go to Artuby Bridge and then turn back on the D71 towards Lake Saint Croix for a view of the gorge from the south.
Going all the way down this road in Verdon Alley will takes entire day. If it starts to get dark and you feel like you can’t keep up with my guide, you should go back along the same road to return, because the mountain road is zigzag, driving at night is not familiar here a bit dangerous.
Verdon Gorge is also a paradise for those who love to go hiking, kayaking and extreme sports. Instead of ducking paddle boat at Lake Saint Croix, you can try rafting on the Verdon River (google with keyword « rafting + gorge du Verdon »). If you want to participate in these activities, you should spend a few more days here.
Day 3: Ancient Village – Banon, Sault, Roussillon, Senanque Abbey, Gordes (220 Km, 4.5 Hours)
If the first 2 days focus on natural scenery, the 3rd day will be charming small lavender fields and rural Provence villages, as in the best pictures of this land.
The area to the north of the Luberon strip is a hidden place of small villages on the hillside, in which it is impossible not to mention Banon, Sault, Rustrel, Simiane-la-Rotonde, Saignon, Gordes, Roussillon, Ménerbe, Vénasque… very pretty and so lovely. You can choose a few villages to visit, depending on your own time budget.
Village Banon and Sault: are two beautiful villages in Provence. In Sault the lavender fields are smaller than in Valensole. Yet these fields yield 40% of the flower production of the whole of France. Sault’s flower fields, which bloom from late July to mid-August every year, are nestled among the trees, surrounded by rolling hills.
- North of Sault, between Sault and Montbrun-les-Bains has the most beautiful flower fields in the region.
- You can visit the flower fields at the foot of Sault village to take pictures of the romantic purple flower beds, with the background of the old village. GPS coordinates 44.091275, 5.404013).
Roussillon village: walking on small roads zigzagging through the hills of Provence, you must have noticed the orange houses, pastel blue windows, country style. The orange color comes from the ochre mines of Roussillon. This is one of the most Provencal style villages in the region, under the blazing sun and the chirping of cicadas. If you have time and can stand the heat, you should buy a ticket to visit Roussillon’s white to orange mine, see if you think you are in Bryce Canyon in the southwestern United States.
Senanque Abbey: Surely in Provence, there is no souvenir shop without at least a postcard with the image of the Senanque Abbey. This is a very beautiful abbey, built in Roman architectural style in the 12th century. Senanque is located close to the last village of today – Gordes, so it’s convenient. However, you should skip this place if you are afraid of crowded places.
Gordes: If I could only choose one Provence village to visit, I would choose Gordes. The village is located on top of a hill, overlooking the valley. Gordes is charming, and is filled with alleys for you to explore at your leisure. You should go to Gordes in the late afternoon, around 6pm, when the tourists have left. Around 8 pm is also the time to go along the road to go out of the village, watching the afternoon light cover the Gordes and the valley below, very romantic.
Overnight stay in Avignon.
If time only allows you to spend 3 days in the countryside of Provence, then the above itinerary according to me also goes through quite a lot of interesting points. If you are still not satisfied with the suggestions above, you can go with me for 2 more days.
Provence road trip itinerary: Day 4: Roman Architecture Cluster – Avignon, Orange, Nimes, Arles (125 Km, 2 Hours)
Together with the city of Nimes and the River Gard bridge (Pont du Gard) in the nearby Occitanie region, the three cities of Avignon, Orange and Arles form the largest and best preserved cluster of Romanesque structures in France.
Avignon: also known as the city of the Popes, famous for the bridge Saint-Bénézet and the Palace of the Popes, the huge palace was the residence of the Popes before the Church returned to Rome. Through months and years, Avignon hidden many legends such as the story of Saint Bénézet – who built the famous bridge, or Jeanne VIII – the only female Pope in history.
Orange, Arles, Nimes, Gard River Bridge: are massive Roman architectural works, including theaters, arenas, city walls, temples, and aqueducts that are preserved almost perfectly. Even the Nimes arena, with a similar design to the Colosseum but much more intact, is still the venue for many music and bullfighting events. However, it is not possible to visit all these cities in one day, you should choose 1 or 2 places you feel most interesting.
Overnight stay in Arles.
Day 5: Camargue Biosphere Reserve – Grau-Du-Roi, Saintes Maries De La Mer, Pont De Gau Bird Park (93 Km, 1.5 Hours)
Leaving the “big” cities, today we return to the countryside, to the Camargue mangrove biosphere reserve. Camargue is not a village, nor is it a small suburb. This is a vast marshland, stretching along the Mediterranean coast, from Grau-du-Roi to the lower Rhône river.
Grau-du-Roi is a small tourist city cum lovely fishing village, stretching white sand beach. Pleasant sea atmosphere and many beautiful photo angles reminiscent of Venice.
Aigues-Mortes next to Grau-du-Roi: a small town surrounded by a wall, from the edge of the town wall you can see the special pink salt fields in the Camargue region.
Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer in the central part of the heart of the Camargue. Come here, whether it’s summer or winter, you’ll find something very profound. Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer is a pilgrimage site for the Gitan people, originating from the legend of Saint Sara. This city also has a long white sandy beach, next to countless saltwater lakes and ponds, home to thousands of flamingos. It would be fun to ride a bike here and roam around the area or find a stable for a horseback picnic.
The Pont De Gau Bird Park (Parc Ornithologique du Pont De Gau) is a place where we can enjoy watching thousands of flamingos at a distance of only a few meters. The best season to go bird watching is from November to April because the birds have the most pink feathers at this time. Summer is also full of birds, but the feathers are slightly lighter in color. In addition, the most beautiful time to see flamingos is when the sun is almost setting. You can go to the bird park 1 hour before the park closes and linger for a long time until you are sent back to watch the birds in the sunset. If you go in summer, remember to bring a good mosquito spray if you don’t want to know what a mosquito bite is even through your jeans. See opening hours here: https://www.parcornithologique.com/
Provence itinerary 5 days: Renting a car in France.
To follow the itinerary I just wrote, of course you will need a car or motorbike. In France, there are many reputable rental companies such as Avis, Hertz, Europcar …
You can search for cars directly on the websites of these companies, or go to the websites of car rental agencies such as Rentalcars (https://www.rentalcars.com/). On Rentalcars, there are many companies with all kinds of cars and sometimes the price is cheaper than renting directly from the company or with discounted promotions.
When renting a car in Europe, you should pay attention to car and person insurance. I will write a more detailed article about roadtrip and car rental experience later.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Provence you can refer to
- Morning Lavender Tour from Aix-en-Provence
- Provence & Lavander Day Tour
- Vineyards and Lavender Half Day Tour in Provence
- Aix-en-Provence and Valensole Lavender Full Day Tour from Marseille
- Provence Guided Day Trip from Paris
- Roman Theatre of Orange and Orange Museum Ticket in Provence
- Château d’If Ticket in Marseille
- Villa Kérylos Ticket in Beaulieu-sur-Mer near Nice
- Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, and Marseille Day Tour from Marseille
Read more France guide here.