Trek Notes - France

Landscapes of Luberon

Landscapes of the Lubéron

General Information

This easy walking Holiday is based in the glorious Lubéron national park, starting and finishing in the lush countryside of the Sorgue river. It's a land which has been an inspiration for generations of poets, painters and writers from Petrarch in the 14C to contemporary abstract artist Victor Vasarély and best-selling author Peter Mayle.  

You'll be intoxicated by the rich colours of the landscape, all intensified by the wonderful limpid light. Seventeen shades of ochre were once quarried at Roussillon, from violet through purple to vivid reds, oranges and mellow yellows. Its delicate natural tints were used to wash the local houses. At Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, the emerald-green Sorgue river gushes in torrents from a mysterious subterranean reservoir. Lavender makes a fragrant mauve carpet, green forests cloak the hills, and in Spring white blossom veils the cherry orchards. And it's all against the backdrop of an azure sky.  

The walks are short, with plenty of time for exploring exquisite villages, natural wonders and historic sights. Three of the four hotels have pools in the grounds and the other has a public pool just 50m away. You'll enjoy typical Provençal hospitality and cuisine at them all.  

Day 1. Arrive at Isle-sur-Sorgue
Known as "the Venice of the Comtat", with its shady squares and preserved water wheels. It's a mecca for antiques-lovers. The hotel's airy modern dining room juts out over the twinkling waters of the River Sorgue, which divides into five streams as it goes through the town.
Day 2. Rustrel / St Saturnin-lès-Apt (11km/3hrs)
We give you a lift to the start point in Rustrel, where you can begin the day with an hour-long circuit in the Provençal Colorado, once ochre quarries and now a strange landscape of fantastic shapes and vivid colours. Today's main walk is through classic Provençal countryside where you will see vineyards and cherry orchards, fig trees and olive groves, and neat plantations of scented lavender. Our hotel at St Saturnin-lès-Apt is small, friendly and family-run. The food is gorgeous and the views across the valley are fantastic.  
Day 3. At St Saturnin-lès-Apt
St Saturnin is one of our favourite villages. It stands on the edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse with lots of medieval and 18C buildings. We recommend you enjoy the great views from its windmills and ruined château. The pool near our hotel is open from July to September, and on Tuesday mornings the busy market is a magnet for local people. Visit Apt, which is famous for its crystallised fruits and traditional pottery. It has a museum of the Lubéron, plenty of shops and cafés and a colourful Saturday market.  
Day 4. St Saturnin-lès-Apt / Roussillon (9km/21/2hrs)
The walk today takes you south of St Saturnin, skirting the Perréal hill (there are the remains of a Roman oppidum and a chapel at the summit if you want to climb up). The path goes through cherry orchards, vineyards and pine forests, with a magnificent panorama across the Apt plain and the Lubéron. After a quick stop in Gargas, you continue through pine forest along blood-red ochre-coloured tracks, then descend past more vineyards and on to Roussillon. Our modern hotel is bright and airy with landscaped gardens and nice pool. Dinner is taken in a restaurant in Roussillon (transport provided or 10min walk if preferred).
Day 5. At Roussillon 
Roussillon, officially one of the most beautiful villages in France, is famous for its streaked ochre cliffs. (There's an informative and optional "Ochre Trail" 45 mins). You could visit the superb perched village of Bonnieux where there's a bakery museum (closed on Tuesdays). The vast shady cedar forest near Bonnieux was planted in 1861 by woodsmen who brought seeds back from the Moroccan Atlas. If you fancy riding, there are stables at Roquefure. Or just relax by the pool!
Day 6. Roussillon / Joucas 10km/3hrs 
The main theme of today's walk is ochre and you soon find yourself on an ancient track stained with the most incredible reds, yellows and purples. After lunch, walking with the striking "eagle's nest" village of Gordes ahead (lots of time to explore later in the week), you finally turn off north to Joucas - where you'll find a warm welcome at our family-run hotel. Its bar is the focal point for the village.
Day 7. At Joucas
Today there's plenty of time to explore the pretty perched village of Joucas. You can swim in the hotel's pool or play tennis on the public courts. Hot air ballooning is available nearby. Murs, not far away, is the birthplace of Crillon-le-Brave, a famous soldier friend of Henri IV. It has a restored 15C castle with majestic views and the remains of a wall erected in 1721 and designed (unsuccessfully) to keep out carriers of the plague.

Day 8. Joucas / Fontaine-de-Vaucluse 14 1/2km/4 1/2hrs 

Through the hamlet of Les Grailles and up to Gordes, which clothes the hilltop with wonderfully photogenic houses, terraces and gardens. There's a museum of stained glass and an oil mill, and the village is packed with cafés, restaurants and shops. Gordes is dominated by its Renaissance château, housing dazzling "geometric" pictures by Hungarian modern artist Vasarély. Just outside the village you can make a short detour to the museum of rural life in a group of dry stone huts (bories), resembling limestone beehives. On to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, the source of the Sorgue and home of the love-sick poet Petrarch. Then it's a 10-minute taxi ride (pre arranged) back to our hotel at Isle-sur-Sorgue.
Day 9.
Leave Isle-sur-Sorgue after breakfast.

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