Rambling in the Luberon

Highlights

  • Picturesque village of Isle sur la Sorgue (and its Sunday morning market)
  • The famous spring: Fontaine de Vaucluse
  • Gordes and the Senanque Abbaye surrounded by lavender fields
  • The churches of Bonnieux
  • Chateau de Buoux and 12th century Chapelle de Ste. Marie
  • The charming Auberge des Seguins in Buoux

Self-guided walking adventures offer the freedom to see the world at your own pace and the flexibility to explore fascinating villages and landscapes rich in history, culture and beauty without compromising on the security and organization of a guided tour. It is the best of all worlds.

During a self-guided walking trip all of the hassle of logistics, luggage transfers and accommodation are taken care of. Detailed route notes and maps keep you on track, while a 24/7 emergency contact number is included should anything go amiss. Your bags are transported each day to the next evening’s accommodation, hand-picked to showcase the best of a town or village. And clear and detailed route descriptions and maps and local sightseeing information inform you of the best things to see and do en route. Best of all, you travel under your own steam and will have time to savor the sights and delights of the region.

This self-guided adventure will take you into the heart of the Luberon where a new discovery awaits with each turn: 1000-year-old villages perched spectacularly above the valleys below; open fields laden with poppies and wildflowers; and centuries-old stone huts that offer intimate picnic spots and beautiful trails far from the beaten track. Starting in the town of Isle sur la Sorgue, with its antiques and Venice-like canals, you will journey to the mysterious springs of Fontaine de Vaucluse, and famed villages such as Gordes and Bonnieux.

While much of the terrain on this trip is easy to navigate, due to the length of the walks each day and the terrain (some of the trails are rough and stony), it is classified as “moderate.” The trails are generally good, but on occasion there are steep or winding sections of loose limestone shingle. A reasonable level of fitness and ability on rocky paths is required. You will need good hiking boots and adequate protection against the sun, including a sun hat.  And don’t forget your water bottle(s).

Please note: The following itinerary assumes the walking trip begins on a Sunday, primarily to coincide with “market days”. However, you can start the self-guided walking tour any day you choose. Our barge trip begins and ends on a Saturday. So if you want to do the walk before the cycling trip aboard the barge, just make sure you can get to Avignon or Aigues Mortes by Saturday evening, when the tour begins. (For more information on local transportation, visit Rome2Rio.)

Day 1 – Sunday

Arrive in the town of Isle sur la Sorgue1, the “Venice of France,” surrounded by the crystal clear waters of the Sorgue River. You’ll want to get here early because the town’s Sunday market2 is among the most colorful in Provence and has a mixture of antiques, crafts, ceramics and food. Here you can stroll the canals bordered by quaint cafes, restaurants and antique shops and lose yourself among a labyrinth of narrow streets and in the town’s warm, Provencal charm. You will overnight here in a 2-star hotel (with a swimming pool) set on the banks of the Sorgue River. (A 3-star hotel is included in the upgrade.)

Day 2 – Monday

A short transfer by taxi will take you to Fontaine de Vaucluse, the mysterious spring that heads the Sorgue River. From there, you will walk through cedar forests following a 300-year-old mur de la peste, a stone wall built to protect Provence from the 1720 plague. After walking through Cabrieres (and its castle), the path takes you to Gordes a town built of majestic grey limestone, rising dramatically out of the valley and crowned by a Renaissance castle. Here you will stay for two nights in a charming 3-star, 19th century, house with a heated swimming pool, garden, and restaurant. Alternatively, the “upgrade” puts you in a 3-star-hotel located near the village center. (Today’s walk: 13km/8 miles, 4 hours, +450m/200m)

Day 3 – Tuesday

Today’s circular walk takes you through thyme-laden fields dotted with old stone huts and down into the Senancole Valley toward Senanque Abbey. Built in 1148, and still in use, the abbey is one of the best-conserved Romanesque buildings in France and certainly one of its most magnificent. There will be time to explore the Abbey before returning to Gordes via a cobbled path. (Today’s walk: 10km/6 miles, 3 hours, +250m/-250m)

Day 4 – Wednesday

This morning you will be transferred to the village of Goult before crossing the Calavon Valley on foot, passing the ruins of ancient stone farmhouses before reaching the town of Lacoste, crowned by the ruins of the castle of the Marquis de Sade. Lacoste offers a stunning ensemble of old village gates and cobbled streets, not to mention the haunting allure of the castle. It’s also a great place to have a picnic or to have lunch in one of the local restaurants. From there you will continue on to Bonnieux, another gem of the Luberon, immortalized in Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence.” With its beautiful town square and the old cobbled steps leading to a 12th century church, there is much to enjoy here. And there is a lovely market every Thursday morning, from June through September.  You will spend two nights in the heart of Bonnieux in a 2-star family-run hotel. Or, the upgrade puts you in a 3-star B&B with a swimming pool, also located in the town center.  (Today’s walk: 11 km/6.8 miles, 3.5 hours, +350m/-250m)

Day 5 – Thursday

Today you will climb to the highest reaches of the Luberon where the dark green canopy of its cedar forests provide the perfect shade and shelter for a picnic lunch. From here, awe-inspiring views extend from the Alps all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. You can spend as much time as you need here before returning to Bonnieux to spend the night. (Today’s walk: 8.6 miles, 4h, +400m/-400m)

Day 6 – Friday

You should have time to visit the weekly market in Bonnieux before starting your leisurely walk along back country roads toward the Aiguebrun Gorge, through truffle oak plantations and past exquisite stone villas. After the Col du Pointu Pass, you will have reached the Grand Luberon. From here a quaint path through the oak forests leads to the Chateau de Buoux then up to the 12th century Chapelle de Ste. Marie. Our journey will take us alongside imposing cliffs before we descend in hairpin turns along a cobbled mule track to the base of the Aiguebrun Valley where we will spend the night in the 2-star Auberge des Seguins, a breathtaking 17th century goat farm restored and converted into a hotel in harmony with the original buildings. There is no television, Wi-Fi, or cell phone reception. (Today’s walk: 14km/8.6 miles, 4 hours, +250m/-150m)

Day 7 – Saturday

After a short transfer from Buoux to the medieval village of Saignon, your walk takes you into the unique landscape known as the “Colorado Provençal.” Crossing the Calavon Valley on foot, you will soon reach the world’s largest deposit of ochre, a rainbow of yellow, orange, and red sands sitting in stark contrast to the maritime pine trees, with their long and bright needles. From there you will return to Saignon, a peaceful and (as yet) undiscovered little village easily explored on foot. There are a number of highly regarded French restaurants and bistros in town. So, you might want to scope them out ahead of time and make a reservation for when you return. You could also pick up a delicious lunch to-go. (Keep in mind, many French restaurants don’t start serving dinner until 7:30 pm!) From here you transfer to Roussillon where you will spend the last night. 12 km/7.5 mi, 4  hours,  +400m/ -300m

Day 8 – Sunday

After breakfast, transfer to Isle Sur la Sorgue. Remember, Sunday is market day, here. So you might want to spend some time dawdling before travelling on. 

  1. For those disembarking the barge in Avignon, it is a 40 minute bus ride to Isle sur la Sorgue.  The bus runs fairly frequently on Saturdays, 9 trips total between 7:08am and 5:28pm. It runs less frequently on Sunday with only 3 trips, between 9:48am and 5:28pm, which is still very doable.  There are 10 trips a day M-F.  A taxi is also an option for about $75. For those disembarking the barge in Aigues-Mortes, it’s a bit trickier and you must go through Nimes, by all counts not a bad place to spend a night or two.  The train from Aigues-Mortes to Nimes does not run on the weekends. However, there is a bus that will get you to Nimes where you can catch the fairly frequent train to Avignon.  For additional information on local transportation, you can visit the Rome2Rio website.
  2. Our barge trips end on Saturday, May 28 and Saturday, June 4.  So, it is possible to be in Isle sur la Sorgue by Saturday evening and attend the Sunday morning market, where you’ll find hundreds of vendors selling fruit and vegetables, cheeses, sausages, olive oil, wine, flowers, fabrics, soaps, pottery, olive wood cutting boards, clothes, jewelry and more! This market is also recognized throughout the world for its large emphasis on brocante (antiques and bric-a-brac). There are also over 30 permanent antique and second-hand shops in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. There would be an extra fee for an extra night in Isle sur la Sorgue, if you wanted to arrive on Saturday night and start your walking trip on Sunday.
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