Located between the Alps and Provence, our Lavender Route makes the most of both regions. With this exceptional Provençal climate, it is very typical for the region to receive about 300 days of sun per year. The true gem of this region, however, is the unmistakable and calming aroma of endless lavender fields combined with pure Alpine-fresh mountain air, which sets the perfect stage for blending an active holiday with a relaxing wellness pursuit.
Riding through contrasting landscapes, you’ll pass near the Gorges of Verdon (France’s “Grand Canyon”), climb to the hilltop village of Valensole with its spectacular lavender-covered plateau, and meander through hills and valleys bordering the Luberon. You will visit places full of history and tradition, such as Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (famous for its Faience), the medieval citadel of Manosque, as well as the Spa towns of Digne-les-Bains and Gréoux.
This is an extraordinary tour that’s best enjoyed if you bike regularly. The terrain involves some hills and climbs, but the payoff is worth it. Once immersed in this charming landscape, you will have no difficulty understanding why Alain Ducasse and fellow prestigious chefs have chosen this region for much of their culinary inspiration. It’s hard not to be captivated by the variety of local produce and specialties - truffles, olive oil, lavender, honey, rosemary, and thyme.
A minimum of 4 riders is required for this tour. Price for 2 riders on request.
Day 1: Arrival in Forcalquier or Manosque
The two closest towns to your first accommodation are Manosque and Forcalquier. To access either of these towns you can take a coach bus from the Marseille international airport or the Aix-en-Provence TGV train station. Also, you may choose to take the regularly departing trains from Marseille’s train station to Manosque.
Whether you choose to arrive in Manosque or Forcalquier, we will pick you up and transfer you to your first accommodation. Your hotel is located one and a half miles from the center of Forcalquier in a peaceful country location. An early arrival will allow you to visit the citadel of Forcalquier and its renowned open-air markets. Forcalquier is a charming introduction to Provençal living… something you’ll get used to very quickly!
Day 2: Forcalquiers to Digne (approx. 40 km/ 24.9 miles)
After breakfast, you will meet our local representative to go over your itinerary. This is when you’ll receive information for the region, your road book, maps and rental bikes. At this time you can also ask our tour representative any questions that may arise. Although this tour is self-guided, he or she will provide contact information for any questions that may arise while on the road as well.
After this meeting, you’re free to depart at the time of your choosing. You’ll start out at the foot of the Montagne de Lure. The surrounding area exemplifies the rocky countryside of Upper Provence. As soon as you start to cycle you’ll find yourself treated with superb views. You’ll have the Sainte-Victoire Mountain to the southwest, along with the Plateau de Valensole. This plateau will be stretching opposite of La Durance River, which is one of the richest natural bodies of Provence.
Leaving the wild nature behind and reaching the River Durance valley, you’ll be exposed to the iconic, “Pénitents des Mées.” These naturally occurring and picturesque structures consist of a row of columnar rocks that stretch two kilometers across and are 100 meters tall. Spend as much time as you would like in the charming village of Les Mées when you reach it. That’s why we believe in self-guided tours, you’re allowed more freedom to go at your own pace. When you hop back on your bike and cycle along the Bleone River, you will soon reach your accommodation, located two and a half kilometers before the peaceful town of Digne-les-Bains.
Day 3: Digne to Moustiers Sainte Marie – (approx. 51 km/ 31.7 miles)
When you leave Digne-les-Bains behind, for about three miles you’ll cycle a gradual but gentle 7.5% climb to the Plateau de Valensole. The so-called Lavender Plateau, or “Plateau des Lavandes”, is a picturesque and colorful terrain, especially in the summer when the lavender fields are in bloom. From this location you will be rewarded with a 280° view of Provence’s most famous mountains, such as the Sainte-Victoire, Sainte Baume, Mont Ventoux, Montagne de Lure and the Devoluy.
As you cycle down small roads, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded with magnificent lavender and sunflower fields once again reminding you of the France’s subtle beauty. You’ll then cycle through the Roman town of Riez before reaching Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a hilltop village that’s world famous for its faïence, the distinctively hand-painted Provençal earthenware.
Day 4: Rest Day in Moustiers Sainte Marie
On this day you’ll have a chance to relax and enjoy Moustiers Sainte Marie, a charming town in a magnificent natural setting. At an altitude of 630 meters (2,067 ft.), this medieval town sits at the base of two rocky cliffs that overlook the city. The so-called “capital of ceramics” has many workshops producing faïence, and nearly 30 shops highlighting local goods.
If you wish to stick to the seat of you bicycle, you may also use the day to ride a short loop and discover the Gorges of Verdon to admire the fabulous cliff views. The village of La Palud is the start of the “Route des Crêtes” (Crest Road) and it offers many lookout points. One of these viewpoints is an exceptionally beautiful stop among castle ruins at the foot of the Rougon village, which provides a fantastic panorama of “Point Sublime”.
However you choose to spend this day, you should enjoy it at slower, Provençal pace. You’re five senses will thank you later!
Day 5: Moustiers Sainte Marie – Greoux-les-Bains - Two options: 60km (34 miles) via Plateau de Valensole or 37 km (23 miles)*
Shortly after you leave Moustiers you will cycle up a short, one-mile steep climb (18%). Your efforts will be well rewarded, as this will allow you to begin the day riding along the shores of vast Lac Sainte Croix. The waters are typically very calm and will paint a beautiful backdrop for your leisurely ride. You will proceed on minor roads through quaint villages, such as Allemagne-en-Provence with its 13thcentury castle and beautiful fountain.
You will then ride on a small road along a beautiful 2-kilometer long lavender field until you reach a local lavender distillery called Distillerie Angelvin that we invite you to visit. You’ll then proceed on a flat road and cycle past a local goat cheese producer (visiting the cattle & dairy farm is possible) before coasting down a long slope to the spa town of Gréoux-Les-Bains.
“Comfort after effort” is the day’s motto. The ancient Roman town of Gréoux-Les-Bains is a popular destination because of its mineral hot springs (which explains, "bains" in the town name). Take some time during your stay to enjoy the thermal baths, renowned for their therapeutic and beneficial effects. Your accommodation is in close proximity to the baths, only 900 meters away.
*Please note that the shorter option does not take you through the Valensole Plateau. From Allemagne-en-Provence, you’ll reach Greoux-les-Bains via the main road, on mostly flat terrain.
Day 6: Departure Day
After a leisurely breakfast, we will transfer you to Manosque. If you choose to take a train or bus later in the day, we suggest you take the opportunity to visit the medieval citadel of Manosque. One of the greatest French writers of the 20th century was Jean Giono and he spent most of his life in Manosque. The town’s citadel was an important inspiration in his works. Manosque offers several lunch possibilities, as well as an opportunity to visit the l’Occitane Factory, a tour of which includes demos on the use of essential oils.
Price: From 630 euros per person, based in double occupancy. Single supplement is 285 euros.
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