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My daughter Robin loves lavender. I have always wanted to visit Aix-en-Provence. And thus this South of France itinerary was created combining medieval hill towns, the great outdoors and city life topped with a large dose of Provençal charm. A week in Provence – a dream come true!
Provence is part of a larger area named Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, one of France’s 22 administrative regions. Quite frankly you could spend a lifetime exploring and discovering new delights in this region. This wonderful 7 Days in Provence Itinerary will give you a taste of an area of France that is highly diverse and rich in culture. You might be returning for more in the future!
South of France Itinerary: 7 Days in Provence
Note: The 7 days in Provence in this South of France itinerary
- take place over the course of 8 days as it includes two half-days of travel time
- is planned using a rental vehicle but includes a couple of days where the car stays parked
- was followed the third week of June
Guided Tours: Another way to explore Provence is to stay in one location and take day trips. Here are some suggestions:
From Avignon a full day-trip of Provence, a guided hike in the Calanques, Luberon hilltop villages, and the Gorges du Verdon and Lavender fields.
Day 1 South of France Itinerary: Arrival Aix-en-Provence
Where To Stay In Aix-en -Provence, France: Right here.
Drive: Aix-en-Provence TGV station to the centre of town (approximately 23 minutes)
Getting to Aix-en-Provence: Book your direct train ticket on a TGV (Très Grande Vitesse) train. From Paris, the length of the trip is just over 3 hours. TGV trains, especially if you are coming from Canada where train travel is not that common, travel at approximately 300 kph. As you whiz past the countryside, the ride is smooth and comfortable.
You arrive at the modern and airy TGV train station approximately 17 km outside of Aix-en-Provence.
There are buses that run every 30 minutes to take you to the city centre. If you are planning to rent a car for your Provence itinerary, the car rental area at the train station is easy to locate.
Once settled in your accommodation, it’s time to wander Aix-en-Provence and start to explore the sites. Read What to do in Aix-en-Provence to get you oriented and started!
The Provençal atmosphere is immediately apparent with yellow stone buildings lining the streets, cobbled laneways, plane trees standing tall and the fountains at every turn that Aix-en-Provence is known for.
Start in Vieil Aix (the historic quarter) and get lost in the maze of tiny streets lined with boutiques, name-brand shops and cafés. Stop for a glass of cold rosé that Provence is known for and while away the afternoon people watching.
Alternately, head to Cours Mirabeau and walk down the wide avenue lined with plane trees, 17th-century buildings and classy cafés.
Day 2: Explore Hill Towns of the Luberon
Drive: Car needed all day for this Provence itinerary to visit hilltop towns in the Luberon; first stop L’Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque (1 hour 30 minutes)
The towns of the Luberon perched on hilltops and tucked into valleys are the focus of the South of France itinerary on Day 2. It is a full day of driving and visiting towns (as many or as few as you desire).
These delightful medieval towns have simply stayed true to their ancient ways of life. Tourism is alive and well but meandering along tiny, cobbled roads is an invitation to step back in time.
Driving from Aix-en-Provence, head straight to L’Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. This Cistercian monastery, founded in 1148, is tucked into a valley. It is a peaceful and grounding start to the day. You might be in luck, depending on the time of year and see the Abbaye surround by lavender fields in bloom. We were there in the third week of June, a little early for the lavender to be in full bloom.
From the Abbey, it is an easy drive to Gordes, one of the most popular hilltop towns in Provence. The best view of Gordes, cascading down the side of a cliff, is from below. Arrive early to get a spot in the very tiny parking lot.
It’s a 20-minute drive from Gordes to Roussillon, the other village that was high on our priority list. With its warm shades of yellow, red and orange, Roussillon invites you to wander the narrow streets. Be sure to leave enough time to hike along the Sentier des Ocres and savour some lavender ice cream.
We had made a commitment on this south of France vacation to embrace a relaxed pace and not be driving in the dark so our day trip to the Luberon included the Abbey and two towns, this time. It was enough to give us a taste of medieval towns in the Luberon and know we would love to return.
Read more | More details about Gordes and Roussillon are also found in this post on Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.
Top of my list for the Provence itinerary next time: Menèrbes and L’Ilse sur la Sorgue.
A Week in Provence Travel Tip: If you want to visit many more hill towns of the Luberon, I would suggest staying in Avignon or in one of the towns such as L’Isle sur la Sorgue for the simple reason that there will be less driving time. Avignon to Gordes: 50 minutes; L’Isle sur la Sorgue to Gordes: 30 minutes
Day 3 of 7 Days in Provence: Aix-en-Provence
No South of France itinerary would be complete without spending some time in Aix-en-Provence. With all its elegance, Aix-en-Provence immediately charms. It might be a good idea on this 7 days in Provence itinerary to wander and get a little lost! You’ll discover various historic quartiers, many gurgling fountains, the daily market at Place Richelme and traces of Paul Cézanne, the famed local painter.
In the third week of June, La Fête de la Musique is in full swing on the longest day of the year which means there is music in the streets. More lingering. More rosé. And the best music of all was on the street corner right below our Air BnB!
Day 4 South of France Itinerary: Aix-en-Provence, Valensole & Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Where To Stay in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie: Right here!
Drive: Aix-en-Provence to Valensole to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (1 hour 35 minutes)
You’re going to love Day 4 on this South of France itinerary!
Aix-en-Provence: Photo Shoot
If you like photography, start your day with an early morning photoshoot in Aix-en-Provence. The streets were empty at 6 am except for the city cleaners hard at work cleaning up after the previous night’s festivities and the early market vendors setting up their stalls.
Aix-en-Provence is known as the City of a Thousand Fountains and in the early morning stillness, the sound of running water was the most peaceful way to begin the day.
Aix-en-Provence’s Saturday market has to be the most amazing French market I have ever encountered. Lavender soaps, flowers of all kinds, produce enticing you to stay awhile and cook up a French feast are the usual but the Cours Mirabeau is lined with stalls selling clothing, textiles of all sorts, purses, jewellery and unique Provençal goodies. Allow yourself plenty of browsing time and be sure to leave some extra space in your suitcase for your treasures.
Valensole: A Must On A South Of France Itinerary
Valensole is synonymous with lavender. Not just the scent of a dried bunch but endless fields of it blowing in the breeze and host to bees that are in seventh heaven! If you are in Provence in the summer, you just have to have Valensole on your south of France itinerary.
As you follow your Provence itinerary, you will find many roadside lavender fields. Sometimes there is a place to pull off and sometimes not. The sight of lavender in bloom as far as the eye can see is more tempting than you can imagine. Stop. Let the delicate scent delight.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie: A Gem On This South Of France Itinerary
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, is tucked below the two mountains where a star that has reportedly been there since the time of the Crusades, hangs on a wire. Follow the busy narrow road into town and cross your fingers that you will find a spot to park. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie’s charm is no secret and draws many tourists.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie certainly lives up to its nickname the “Etoile de Provence” (the Star of Provence). The waterfall rushes through the centre of the village, the Chappelle Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir clings to the cliff above the town and their famous faïences (fine glazed earthenware) graces store windows.
Plan to stay overnight on your 7 days Provence itinerary and use Moustiers-Sainte-Marie as a base for visiting the nearby Gorges du Verdon.
Day 5 Provence Itinerary: Gorges du Verdon
Drive: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to the Gorges du Verdon (40 minutes)
For the sheer splendour of seeing the colour of the water, a Provence itinerary must include the Gorges du Verdon. Spending a day at the Gorges du Verdon adds an element of the great outdoors and relaxation into a busy 7 days in Provence. It is a south of France vacation, after all! The Gorges du Verdon is only a short drive from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Follow the twisting highway and pay attention to the curves in the road as the turquoise hues of the Gorges du Verdon are very distracting! Plan a day of hiking along the trails or rent a kayak and paddle through the stunning waters.
After relaxing on the shores of Lac Sainte-Croix return to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and enjoy a late afternoon stroll. The day crowds head home right about now and it is the perfect time to enjoy Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
Day 6 of 7 Days in Provence: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie & Cassis
Where To Stay In Cassis France: Right here!
Drive: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to Cassis (2 hours)
A trip to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is not complete without a hike up to the Chappelle Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir. This little church perched on a cliff overlooking the town has seen countless pilgrims and tourists alike visit. An early morning hike avoids the crowds and is a tranquil way to start the day.
Next up – the last stop on this South of France itinerary, the fishing village of Cassis on the Mediterranean Sea.
Cassis, known for its beaches and white Cassis wine is a gateway to the Calanques. The Massif des Calanques are a series of rugged cliffs that run between Marseille and Cassis.
But what on earth is a Calanques you ask?
The Calanques are the inlets of water running between steep-walled limestone cliffs. Each Calanque, formed by natural elements, is slightly different from its neighbour. We hopped on a boat right at the main port in Cassis and decided to see these Calanques for ourselves.
The towering limestone cliffs along with azure skies and the salty spray of the Mediterranean Sea are a spectacular vista. Could this week in Provence get any better?
The Vieux Port (old port) is bustling in the evening with bars and restaurants at capacity, even in June. Sitting right by the sea, there are plenty of seafood options in Cassis. Try a platter of fresh French oysters as you ponder life by the shimmering sea. Beware…the prices reflect Cassis’s nickname “Little Saint-Tropez.”
Day 7 South of France Itinerary: Hike the Calanques & Bestouan Beach
Read More | Wait a minute… do you love the sea? Here are two island destinations in France that you might enjoy: Ile de Ré and Ile aux Moines
Hiking the Calanques was a highlight and something that had been on this South of France itinerary from the initial stages of planning. However, the hike is often closed in the summer or by the end of June to avoid forest fires in the intense dry heat. Luckily, in the third week of June 2019, the trails were still open to the public for hiking.
Start out early as it is extremely hot and bring plenty of water. The trail is rocky and rugged and worth every step! The views through the pine forests to the stunning water below make this day one of the most memorable.
Find a rocky outcrop and have a picnic, or hike and return to Cassis with a stop at the Plage de Bestouan (Bestouan Beach) for some suntanning, relaxation and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.
Day 8 Provence Itinerary: Cassis & Return to Paris
Heading to Paris? Read what to expect from the Parisians and their culture. This page is full of tips and information to enjoy the best of Paris.
Where To Stay in Paris: Right here!
Drive: Cassis to the TGV Station, Aix-en-Provence (50 minutes) – allow plenty of time for the car drop off. We were sent by google maps on a long, winding route back to the station!
What better way to wrap up our Provence itinerary than a visit to another Provençal market. Wednesday morning is market day in Cassis and as usual with French markets, it was hard to pull ourselves away. Merchants were engaging and the stalls were full of clothing, local artisanal goods and delectable food and wine.
Cassis Market Days: Wednesday and Friday mornings
A week in Provence flew by. It was with heavy hearts that we left Cassis, having finished our south of France itinerary, to return to Paris. That is saying a lot as Paris is my favourite city in the world!
7 days in Provence barely scraped the surface of this glorious region but it is enough time for the Provençal charm to get under your skin. I’ll be back for another week in Provence – or maybe longer.
More Travel Info…
Resources For Other Regions of France:
Normandy is another beloved region of France for locals and visitors alike. Read 19 Wonderful Things To Do in Normandy France to help you plan your itinerary in this region.
Brittany France is on many people’s France Bucket List! Here are 13 Reasons to Fall in Love with Brittany France.
The Dordogne Valley is a little less-discovered and a fabulous region to plan a holiday.
The Loire Valley in France is dotted with magnificent châteaux (castles). Chaumont-sur-Loire is a great one to add to your itinerary.
My Paris posts will help you get off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and corners in Paris that most tourists never see. Uncover Paris right here. Paris By Season: Spring in Paris – A most glorious time to visit Paris when the magnolias and cherry blossoms are blooming. Have you ever thought of visiting Paris in the fall? Fewer crowds, sunny, crisp days (and rain) and leaves crunching underfoot…And then Christmas arrives. These French Christmas traditions make Paris even more magical. Do you know about the Christmas tradition of the 13 Desserts (Les treize desserts) in the south of France?
Robin Browne says
so breathtaking! what a trip!
Alison Browne says
Such a fabulous itinerary!
Beautiful. We adore Provence and have spend a good deal of time here. ait is lovely to rekindle our memories reading your post. Still some spots to visit in our next trip. kx
Alison Browne says
It is such an amazing region I feel like I could revisit all the places I visited and then explore some more!
This region is one of my favorites in France and really cant wait to get back. I love the natural aspects of the area, the gorges, the mountains, the lakes but the towns are truly amazing as well. I fell in love with the area back in 2010 and have been back every year since. Great tips for first timers here and love your photography 🙂
Alison Browne says
Thanks, Danik! Lucky you going back every year for the past 9 years. I can’t wait to go back and explore further.
Emma | MY RIG Adventures says
This looks like such a great itinerary. I’ve never been to France, but I’d love to explore not only the mountains and scenery, but mostly I want to wander those old medieval streets!
Alison Browne says
You will love those old medieval streets… I never tire of them!
The lavender fields are beautiful I am a horticulturist so this would be a must see for me. I also love paddling the GORGES DU VERDON… Great tips!
Sandra Papas says
I never tire of seeing photos of this part of the world. It’s so beautiful and just quintessential France. Haven’t heard of Bestouan Beach either so there’s one for our next visit!
Alison Browne says
It’s quite a small beach and on a hot June day was crowded but lovely all the same! Provence is just captivating.
Oh so beautiful!! I’m visiting France for the first time in March, but we’ll be staying in the northern part of the country. I already know I want to go back again and visit Provence That market in Aix-en-Provance sounds heavenly!
Alison Browne says
The market was AMAZING…. I had wanted to go to Provence for a very long time and it was everything I had hoped for and more!
Mel Butler says
Just like your daughter I love lavender too. Those lavender fields looks so pretty and must smell so nice when you are there? In regards to the Gorges du Verdon I really want to go there next time I am in France, especially to do the kayaking through it. If I can’t I would definitely do the hiking around there. Another amazing in France that has gone on my bucketlist.
Alison Browne says
France is so full of wonderful things to do. And the lavender and the Gorges du Verdon are right up there! I hope you get to go.
Tania Muthusamy says
What a beautiful itinerary. I went to Aix-en-Provence, the city of a thousand fountains, many years ago and your post has made me yearn to go back, as I only spent a couple of days there. The local French markets are truly wonderful and I really need to see those lavender fields.
Alison Browne says
Aix-en-Provence is one of those places where you could just spend a lot of time… I also need to go back!!
The south of France has always called me, especially Provence. I’d love to stay in Aix-en-Provence. It’s so close to the Luberon and the lavender fields of Valensole. Heaven on earth!!
Alison Browne says
It really is heavenly. I had wanted to go to Provence for years (Aix-en-Provence since I was 15!) and it exceeded all expectations.
Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions says
Based on what you’ve shown, I can totally see why you could spend an entire lifetime exploring Provence and still find new and amazing things all the time. The variety in just one part of France is stunning. I’m sure I’d be constantly pulling over to the side of the road to admire the lavender fields, but Gordes looks especially enticing to me.
Alison Browne says
There are so many things to discover! Lavender fields, artist havens, cities, towns, hiking and more… !!! Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is a beautiful region. of France.
Your photos and writing make places come alive. Makes me want to go back to the places I know and discover those I don’t.
Alison Browne says
Thank you, June! Provence is a real delight to uncover. I love going back to places I have been because you see things differently the second time.