Though the tour is difficult, rides can still revel in the Provencal sunshine and explore their surroundings as they please. Natural and man-made wonders wait in every corner of the region – we believe wine and cheese fall into both categories! All joking aside, we cannot recommend Provence enough, and we created this tour to give you a more intense, well-rounded experience in this region.
Day 1: Arrival in Avignon
When planning your arrival in Avignon, we suggest you allow yourself plenty of time to become acquainted with this marvelous city. Upon passing through the city gates, a remnant of Avignon’s medieval fortifications, you will immediately be transported back in time. Tree-lined cobblestone streets take you to the main square, above which the Popes’ palace rises. You may visit the palace and the grounds next to it, where you can look out over the Pont St. Benezet, the bridge made famous by the song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”. At the appointed time, you will meet one of our fantastic representatives who will outfit you with your bikes and materials. Spend the night in centrally located accommodations within city walls and prepare for the journey ahead.
Day 2: Avignon to Bédoin or Mazan (approx. 110 km or 70 miles)
Beyond the city walls, the vast countryside and its treasures await you. Heading southwest along the Rhone River, the route takes you to a region called Gard, home of the famed Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard. One can only stare in awe at this marvelous feat of art and engineering – well, that’s not entirely true. As you ride past it, you may actually take your bike up on the bridge You may also swim or canoe in the river below, if you wish. Next on the agenda are the wine-growing regions of Tavel and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Cycle through stretches of vineyard and stop by for a tasting; Tavel is famed for its rosé wines, while the Chateauneuf-du-Pape name usually refers to red wines. You will recognize the chateau or castle from which this famous appellation gets its name. Make sure you are well hydrated for the ride ahead! After a visit to the neat little town of Carpentras, you will finish the day’s trip at the foot of Mont Ventoux.
Day 3: Bédoin to Sault (two options: via Mont Ventoux - approx 60 km or 37 miles; via Gorges de la Nesque - approx. 42 km or 26 miles)
Today you have two options for getting to Sault. The first is a tough ride up the “Giant of Provence”, Mont Ventoux, which is frequently featured in the Tour de France. The 1910 m (5700 ft) mountain climb is often a dramatic scene of the race, and the record, held by Iban Mayo, is 55 minutes, 51 seconds. Even if you cannot beat his time, you will surely revel in the magnificent views from the top of Mont Ventoux. Words cannot aptly describe how it feels to see the hills and villages of Provence sprawling out before you! As it is a challenging ride, you may opt for a route through the Gorges de la Nesque. Though at a lower altitude, the views here are also quite grand; the surrounding landscape appears to have been untouched by time. The scent of lavender will guide you to serene Sault, the perfect place to wind down after today’s ride.
Day 4: Sault to Roussillon (approx. 68 km or 42 miles)
Peter Mayle became famous for writing about the stunning countryside of the Petit Luberon in “A Year in Provence”; today you’ll have an opportunity to share his experiences. Among the many picturesque settlements on your ride, Gordes will certainly stand out – perched on a hilltop above poppy fields, Gordes lays claim to the title “One of France’s Prettiest Villages”. Just north of Gordes is the Senanque Abbey, which is surrounded by some of the most-photographed lavender fields in Provence. Stop by for a photo op if you’d like, or continue to Fontaine de Vaucluse, a quiet village surrounding France’s largest spring. Relax by the cool blue water before riding to Isle sur la Sorgue, the “Venice of Provence”. Waterfront cafes and ancient-looking water wheels make Isle sur la Sorgue a great place for lunch. You will need your energy for the ride to Roussillon, yet another of France’s prettiest villages. You will dine and lodge amongst the town’s unique ochre-colored buildings.
Day 5: Roussillon to Forcalquier (96 km or 60 miles)
As you set out from Roussillon, you will find yourself encompassed by nature – that is, the regional Luberon Natural Park. On your route you will pass Bonnieux nestled high on a cliff, and the hamlet of Buoux, a popular rock-climbing destination. You are perfectly at your leisure to head off the beaten path if you should so choose. We recommend stopping in Saignon, another charming hilltop town, for a picnic lunch or a café visit. If time allows, we suggest you climb the Rock of Saigon, an ancient lookout that offers unbeatable views of Mont Ventoux. Other pause-worthy places include Simiane-la-Rotonde, whose recently restored rotunda boasts some great acoustics, and Banon, where you can sample locally made cheese of the same name. By the time you roll into Forcalquier, you may be well satiated, but a delicious meal and cozy bed await you nevertheless.
Day 6: Forcalquier to Moustiers Sainte-Marie (approx. 80 km or 50 miles)
From Forcalquier your journey takes a southeasterly turn toward the coast, though you still have a trek ahead of you! You won’t be able to resist the draw of Manosque for photo ops or window-shopping; despite its walls, it is a friendly, open town. Once you head out into the Durance River plain, you will leave behind the Luberon and enter alpine Provence. With fewer tourists, it will feel like you’ve stumbled upon a more authentic version of Provence. The tiny village of Gréoux-les-Bains was a popular Roman bath site – and it still is frequented for its thermal springs. Continuing onward, you will reach the Plateau de Valensole. Prepare yourself for the unparalleled sensory experience of being surrounded by the fragrance and beauty of lavender patchwork fields. Your destination may be yet another hilltop town – Provence has many! - but Moustiers-Saint-Marie, known for its decorative pottery, is certainly unique. A waterfall cascades from the surrounding cliffs directly into the town center and, according to local lore, a gold-painted star has hung between the cliffs since the Crusades.
Day 7: Moustiers Sainte-Marie to Saint-Paul-de-Vence (approx. 120 km or 75 miles)
The strikingly beautiful natural park of Verdon is the backdrop for today’s ride. The turquoise waters of the Verdon River carve through the limestone, creating one of Europe’s most gorgeous gorges. The route continues east through a quiet valley, one with few markers of civilization. Take a break in the tiny village of Gréolières, whether you need a snack or want to explore the ruins in the area. The next few ”towns” along your route may simply be a handful of houses! If you have not had your fill of gorges on this trip, you are in luck – the ride through the dramatically steep Gorges du Loup is sure to excite you. We have, however, saved the best for last: nothing can beat the breathtaking view over the Mediterranean Sea as you head south. Enjoy the vistas from the artsy town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence while you sip a cup of coffee or a glass of wine at the end of your trip.
Day 8: Departure
The tour is officially over after breakfast, but you may have a tough time getting back to the real world! We can arrange a transfer to Nice for a continued vacation – doesn’t relaxing on the beach and eating gelato sound great?
Price: From 1,020 euros per person sharing a room. Single supplement is 615 euros.
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Europe France Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring
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