A Provence road trip has been on my hit list for a while and this summer I spent 14 fantastic days driving through rolling countryside and I was ready to get my summer clothes out, drink a glass or three of ice-cold local rosé and smell the fragrant flowers. There was plenty of that.
But I also packed my explorer goggles to make sure I discovered what else was going on here. Were there any adventures to be had amongst the vineyards? There certainly were. I mean serious adventures! Think scaling cliff faces, navigating mighty water rapids and cycling between vineyards on tasting tours. Ok, maybe not all serious…
How To Plan Your Provence Road Trip
There is an abundance of exciting things to do in Provence in addition to the insane amount of outdoor adventures. Before you set off, do your research on the activities you really don’t want to miss, pencil these in (…to an excel spreadsheet) and work everything else around them. You should also plan, if you can, to allow some time for unforeseen explorations. That’s the whole point right!
For research, I turned to the trusty Lonely Planet Provence & The Cote d’Azur guide as well as blogs and local websites. This left me planning a circular route hitting all the key Provençal destinations with the first week focused on activities in Luberon region and the second week working my way down the coast. You could easily do this the other way round or cut sections out as you like.
For an overview of my Provence road trip itinerary, you can use the interactive map below. I’ve marked the locations where I stopped for adventure activities, campsites as well as highlighting towns of note.
Disclaimer: This is a guide only and might not cover the exact route I took.
How To Get To Provence
Provence is easily accessible via Train and Plane from the UK with key Stations and Airports in all the major cities including Nice, Avignon and Marseille. As I have family in Paris, our trip started there but it is possible to drive from the UK. I would caveat though that it is a big drive and I would highly recommend stopping over somewhere on route for a kip. Be sure to check out my guide to Driving In Provence (coming soon) which has some handy tips to consider before you set off.
If you’re looking to rent a car whilst there be sure to thoroughly research the company beforehand. Don’t forget to pick up Car Insurance as well as Travel Insurance before you leave the UK!
Amateur Tip: It’s worth checking with your bank whether they cover you for Travel Insurance. Be sure to read the small print though and pick up any excess cover you might need before leaving the UK.
Provence Road Trip Itinerary: A Day By Day Guide
DAY 1: Orange – Avignon | Via Châteauneuf-du-Pape:
DISTANCE: 28 KM
Our first stop in Provence was Orange. Here you can visit the original Arc de Triomphe and the historical Theatre Antique d’Orange. The theatre is definitely worth a visit and is in fabulous condition for a building that is over 2,000 years old. Sadly, the Arc was covered in scaffolding but I have no doubt it is a fine roundabout. As far as fine roundabouts go.
We left Orange and headed straight to wine country stopping at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The town is notorious for producing some of the finest red wines in France and is protected by the French Certificate ‘appellation d’origine contrôlée‘ or AOC. Get used to seeing this! It also boasts a fine castle ruin which overlooks the town and is a great place to park the car. After window shopping for fine wines and grabbing an ice-cream we left Châteauneuf-du-Pape for our final stop of the day, Avignon.
DAY 2: Avignon
We decided to spend a full day in Avignon visiting the cities monuments and discovering the secrets of the town. We started the day with a visit to the famous Pont du Avignon. A few guides I read noted it wasn’t worth visiting the bridge itself as it’s visible from various viewpoints throughout the town. However, if you book your ticket with a visit to the Palais des Papes it costs only €2 and you get a free audio guide. We did this whilst waiting for our entry to the Palais and I don’t regret it.
The Palais des Papes is a spectacular and imposing cathedral which overlooks the main town square. It really is well worth a visit and the self-guided tablet tour is fantastic. It truly makes the building come to life. On top of this, the gardens pack a wow factor.
Amateur Tip: The Palais des Pape only allows visitors in at sets times. If you can book your tickets online ahead of visiting you’ll save yourself some time. We queued to buy our tickets only to realise we could have saved ourselves the trouble!
Related Post: How To Spend A Day In Avignon (coming soon)
DAY 3: Avignon – Gordes | Via L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue
DISTANCE: 27 KM
We left Avignon early doors to catch the famous Sunday morning market at L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue. If you want to plan your visit around the infamous Provençal market day, this one should definitely be on your list. A long road through the centre of town plays hosts to dozens of small stalls packed with all sorts of antique treasures whilst the city centre becomes a hubbub for all kinds of sellers. Think lavender, soap, garlic and saucisson sec. Everything so tempting!
Aside from the market, the reason we wanted to visit L’Isle Sur La Sorgue was to get in our first day’s kayaking. The journey would take us from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse back to L’Isle Sur La Sorgue along La Sorgue itself. Check out my guide which covers everything you need to know about Kayaking Sur La Sorgue (coming soon). As we had booked to kayak at 1 o’clock the staff kindly let us park in their car park for free. Perfect to avoid the market day mayhem.
Once we’d safely returned from our kayaking trip we headed further into the Luberon region and towards our first night’s camping in the beautiful town of Gordes.
Related Post: Camping Des Sources In Gordes (coming soon)
Day 4: Gordes
After a bit of a sleepless night, the first night’s camping is always the worst for me, we spent the day wandering the streets of Gordes and visiting the local attractions L’Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque and Village des Bories. The latter will set you back €6 per adult and whilst the buildings in the village are fascinating the lack of information on site left us feeling somewhat underwhelmed to say the least. If you’re really into historical buildings and settlements you could pay this a visit but perhaps do a spot of historical reading before you go so you know what’s what.
Amateur Tip: If you’re wanting to visit Provence when the lavender is in season be sure to visit between June – Mid August.
Related Post: How To Spend A Day In Gordes (coming soon)
DAY 5: Gordes – Roussillon – Gorges du Verdon
DISTANCE: 166 KM
If you’re planning a Provence road trip that will take you through the Luberon region, Roussillon is a fantastic place to stop and spend half a day. The town is dotted with eye-catching buildings, painted with the local ochre which makes them a deep red colour. It’s also home to the local trail ‘Le Sentier des Ocres’ where you can visit the huge red ochre cliffs and discover the history of the ville. We parked at the lower end of town with a ticket costing €3 for 24 hours.
We left Roussillon and drove to Gorge du Verdon. If you’re putting this on your itinerary expect plenty of panoramic mountain views, vines and if you’re there in the right season, lavender fields.
Related Post: A Short Guide To Walking ‘Le Sentier des Ocres’ In Roussillon (coming soon)
DAY 6-7: Gorges du Verdon
The Gorges Du Verdon aka. Europe’s Grand Canyon was a key pit stop on our Provence road trip. With an abundance of adventure activities, we felt passing through on a day trip would be a sin so planned to spend a full two days here. We stayed at Camping Calme et Nature near Castellane (coming soon) which really lived up to its name.
We were supposed to spend a full day whitewater rafting in the Gorge du Verdon but fate planned otherwise. The water in the Gorge is controlled by a dam located at Lac de Castillon which only releases water on Tuesdays and Fridays. We, none the wiser, didn’t book in advance so didn’t secure a spot on tour. As it happens, however, this was rather fortunate as it meant we ended up spending a glorious day Aqua Trekking. One of the best adventures of the holiday.
Related Post: A Complete Guide To Canyoning In The Gorges Du Verdon
Our second day was spent discovering the two main lakes near the gorge: Lac de Sainte-Croix which is where the river leaves the gorge and Lac de Castillon located near Castellane. Both lakes have their benefits and both are great for different water sports.
Related Post: Visiting The Gorges Du Verdon (Coming Soon)
DAY 8: Gorges du Verdon – Grasse – Antibes – Saint-Tropez
DISTANCE: 178 KM
As you’ll soon come to realise, the countryside in the south of France is breathtakingly beautiful and this section of our Provence road trip was a real stand out. With the Alpes sitting on the horizon and field after field of lavender you’ll be tempted to drive up and down here for the rest of your holiday.
Our first stop after leaving the Gorge was Grasse where we discovered the old town and visited the Musée International de la Parfumerie. At €4 entry, this is a great little museum taking you through the history of scent and fragrance. With your ticket, you also get half-price entry to the Jardins du Musée International de la Parfumerie. Well worth a visit to get up close to the fragrant flowers that make up the perfumes you’ve just learnt about.
We decided to visit Antibes for lunch simply so that I could eat some good old Moules Marinière. Of course, you can eat them anywhere but in Antibes they do something wonderful with the chips which make them extra delicious. A great activity is to walk to the port and climb the town wall for a proper lookout over the boats. You can also visit the old fort ‘Le Fort Carré’ with entrance costing €3.
We left Antibes and headed down the D559 through Frejus and Sainte-Maxime. Although 50-70 kmph most of the way this was a truly scenic ocean route and a great alternative to driving the motorway. The perfect way to get us ready for the next stop, Saint-Tropez.
Related Posts: 9 Things To Know Before Driving In Provence
DAY 9-10: Saint-Tropez
For two nights in Saint-Tropez, we stayed at Camping La Vigneraie 1860 (review coming soon). I arrived thinking I might feel out of place amongst the wealthy and who’s who of visitors the town is renowned for attracting. I left, though, fully appreciating why it has a reputation as one of the most beautiful seaside resorts in the world. I’d managed to stick to my budget and still have a great time. A spot of rain can’t turn us Brits away from a day at the beach. Would I go back? Absolutely!
Amateur Tip: I’m not made of money so it was a real priority to ensure I didn’t need to stretch the budget just to fit Saint-Tropez on the itinerary. I’m pleased to tell you it can be done! You can read my guide to visiting Saint-Tropez on a budget here (coming soon).
DAY 11: Saint-Tropez – Le Lavandou | Via L’Île de Porquerolles
DISTANCE: 51 KM
We left Saint-Tropez and headed straight for the port La Tour Fondue in Hyères to catch the ferry to L’Île de Porquerolles. If you can make a visit to this beautiful island it’s well worth it. The crossing, which costs €19.50 for a return ticket, takes about 20 minutes. You cannot take your car so it’s worth arriving earlier to nab a parking space. We rented bikes for the full day and saw dreamy beaches, fort ruins and windmills!
Amateur Tip: We parked at Parking Des Îles which cost us €12.60 for 6 hours. There is a parking Indigo next door if Parking Des Îles is full.
Related Post: A Day On L’Île de Porquerolles (coming soon)
DAY 12: Le Lavandou
After reading about a vineyard cycling tour in our Lonely Planet Guide we knew this was something we had to plan as part of our trip. It was the main reason for us staying in Le Lavandou which played a pivotal role in allowing us to easily pick up our electric bikes and be the perfect departure and arrival location.
Related Post: Cycling Vineyard Tour Provence (coming soon)
Le Lavandou was a sleepier seaside resort vs the characteristic Saint-Tropez. We found a great après bar, Acapulco Café, along the port and there is a good stretch of beach but be sure to walk around when looking for dinner options as there are a couple of tourist traps about.
Related Post: Tips For Camping In Provence (coming soon)
DAY 13: Le Lavandou – Aix-en-Provence | Via Cassis
DISTANCE: 163 KM
We wanted to get in another morning Kayaking so we left Le Lavandou and headed to the quaint port town of Cassis to get our fix. Cassis is the gateway to the Parc de Calanques which is made up of a beautiful cove ridden coastline. It is the only national park in Europe to include land, sea and peri-urban areas. We rented our Kayaks from ‘Location Kayak Cassis CSLN’ on Plage de la Grande Mer and set off on a 3-hour trip to discover the Calanque d’En Vau.
Related Post: Kayaking The Calanques (coming soon)
Amateur Tip: You can hike in the Parc de Calanques, however, as Provence is prone to wildfires the paths are sometimes closed especially between June and August. If you still want to visit the Calanques this way be sure to do your research and pack appropriate supplies and plenty of water.
After visiting Chateau de Bormettes on our vineyard tour we were recommended to visit Domaine des Masques en route to Aix. If you’re still in need of rosé supplies, the Domaine sits high on the cliffs and offers fantastic wines and beautiful scenery. Be warned, the road leading to the Domaine is mostly gravel. It is worth it though.
We arrived in Aix en Provence a little later than planned after our detour but spent a fantastic evening walking the streets, spotting fountains and drinking beer.
DAY 14: Aix-en-Provence – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence | Via Arles and Les Baux De Provence
DISTANCE: 99 KM
Most of the Provence travel guides recommend visiting Arles. We set off early to allow for plenty of exploration time and to catch the Wednesday morning market.
With quaint streets and boutique shops, notable attractions in Arles are the numerous Roman ruins. The amphitheatre and theatre are particularly worth a visit. It’s also a key ‘Van Gogh’ location where he painted ‘Le café de nuit ‘ and where he cut off part of his ear. There are plenty of other attractions in town, however, few have information boards so fall a little flat.
Amateur Tip: You can purchase an Arles pass which, if you’re planning to visit the amphitheatre and theatre only, is well worth doing. There are two options €12 and €16 which you can purchase at the tourist office or at the key attractions.
Related Post: Small Towns Worth Visiting In Provence (coming soon)
On our drive to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence we stopped at the beautiful town of Les Baux-de-Provence. Another Ville Fleuris, in addition to dramatic panoramic mountain views this small town boasts one of the most fantastic cliffside castles I’ve ever visited: Château des Baux.
Over day 14 and 15 we stayed in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This town was a top hit for us with plenty of restaurants and the fascinating Roman town of Glanum. Take a look at A Short Guide To Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (coming soon) to find out more.
DAY 15: Park Camarague
The final day of our Provence road trip we visited the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue. This vast nature reserve is home to a multitude of wildlife including flamingos, wild horses and local Camargue bulls. Covering an 86.3k hectares of land there are plenty of adventure activities and wildlife spotting opportunities, not to mention the beautiful pink salt mines. A particular stand out was the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau. A must see!
Related Post: Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Park Camargue (coming soon)
Provence Road Trip Common Sense
As with any adventure, your safety and the safety of those around you is paramount. Before heading out on any activities it is best to let someone outside of your group know what your plans are and where you will be.
In France, the European emergency number is 112. You would be wise to also check with the tourist office what the local emergency numbers are.
Use your common sense, check the weather, take water and make sure you have insurance.