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Luberon, France. Le Lubéron. Is that where we were going?
I thought we were going to Provence, an area of France known for its unique hilltop towns, endless lavender fields, French country charm and artists such as Cézanne. And that barely touches on the characteristics of this region’s appeal.
When researching where my daughter and I wanted to go in Provence, I kept coming across le Luberon.
Le Lubéron. I’d never heard of this.
Provence. I thought that was the destination.
Vaucluse. Hmm. Sounds interesting. But how do you pronounce it?
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Were we going to the Alps?
Why were there so many names? The saying I once heard in Bangkok came to mind, “Same, same but different.” Were these places the same? Or were they different?
So I decided to investigate.
1. Luberon France: Location, Location
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur: In 2016, France reorganized its administrative regions in 13 large ones that still stand today. Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is an administrative region in Southeastern France. So all three areas that I have heard of as a foreigner, Provence, the Alps and the Côte d’Azur, are grouped into one region. Got it.
And just Provence on its own? That pinpoints which part of the large administrative region is being referred to.
But what about Vaucluse?
Vaucluse: Each large administrative region in France is subdivided into departments. Aha! Vaucluse is one of six departments in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. I already knew that Gordes, Vaucluse and Gordes, Provence, for example, were the same place. This tidbit of information helped my curious mind make sense of it all.
Where does Luberon France fit into the picture?
Luberon: Le Luberon France it turns out, is part of the Vaucluse department. It is an area of about 600 sq kilometres in the heart of Provence. Much of Luberon France is a national park made up of a massif. Geology is not really my thing, so I investigated what a massif is. A massif is a group of mountains and in fact, le Luberon has 3 ranges: the Lesser Luberon (le Petit Luberon), the Greater Luberon (le Grand Luberon) and the Eastern Luberon (le Luberon Oriental).
Many of the unspoiled medieval villages in Provence are clustered in and around the valleys and plateaus of Luberon France.
A little sleuthing can do wonders to understanding a destination better. I was ready to explore le Lubéron!
2. Le Lubéron France: Planning Advice
My daughter and I chose to base ourselves in Aix-en-Provence, which we absolutely adored. Read here about what to do in Aix-en-Provence. However, if the towns of Luberon France are your main focus, I would suggest basing yourself closer to the area. Avignon and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue are much closer to the Luberon villages. Or, stay in one of the hilltop towns and enjoy the relatively tourist-free evenings and early mornings. The Luberon villages are a popular tourist destination in the summer.
Plan which Luberon villages you want to visit and figure out a route that allows time to relax and saunter. Figure out how much time you want to be in the car and leave yourself a full day (minimum) to visit the villages of le Lubéron. Embrace a slow pace.
Coming from Aix-en-Provence, we decided to take our time and visited only two Luberon villages, just enough to know we will have to return and continue our explorations.
3. Luberon France: The Village Of Gordes
Approaching the Luberon village of Gordes, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road. Picturesque is an understatement. The town cascades down a cliff surrounded by panoramic views. It’s been perched there for centuries.
Wander through Gordes’ maze of cobbled, impossibly narrow streets past ancient stone buildings.
Stop at a local restaurant and savour the ambience of this hilltop town in the Luberon region.
Find the outskirts of Gordes and admire the views over the countryside. It’s Provence at it’s best (and Vaucluse and le Luberon).
4. Luberon France: L’Abbaye de Sénanque
Only 4 km from Gordes is the 12th century l’Abbaye de Sénanque. A Cistercian monastery founded in 1148 the abbey sits in a stunning, secluded valley.
Wind your way down from Gordes on an impossibly narrow road hugging a rock cliff and you will be rewarded with a most peaceful vista. Sitting amongst fields of violet lavender, depending on the time of year, is the graceful silent monastery still inhabited by monks today. Does Luberon France get any better than this?
We arrived the third week in June and the lavender was only hinting at its purple hue. We arrived early in the morning well before the crowds of tourists who visit the Abbey.
5. Luberon Villages: Roussillon
An astounding village in le Lubéron, Roussillon sits on the world’s largest known ochre deposit. With its warm shades of yellow, red and orange, Roussillon invites you to wander the maze of slender streets and enjoy cafés, art galleries and souvenir shops.
Wander away from the clock tower up to the summit and admire the splendid landscape of Luberon France.
Don’t miss the Sentier des Ocres (Ochre Trail) where two pathways lead through the ochre landscapes amongst groves of pine trees. This area was long quarried and finally returned back to nature.
In 2002 it was listed as a conservation area. The weathered cliffs are otherworldly. The two pathways, one a 30-minute walk and the other 50 minutes, are guaranteed to ignite your imagination, because really – what planet did you land on?! White shoes? They might not be so white when you leave. Entry Fee: €3
Luberon France is captivating. A little taste of this part of France leaves a lasting impression and the desire to return.