In the vicinity of Avignon :
strolling on the hills along the Rhône River
This gentle hike leads you uphill above Villeneuve les Avignon. This town faces the Palais des Papes in Avignon, on the other bank of the Rhône, second longest river flowing through France. During this nature walk, you will stroll through pine groves, garrigue scrubland and pass by one or two dairy goat farms. On a bend, the landscape opens and you see Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail in the distance. But the best views are over the river, especially the ones from the Château Pointu built on a cliff towering the Rhône valley : you can admire the river and the Ile des Papes at your feet, the Fort St André in Villeneuve les Avignon, and can make out a little farther the towers of the Palais des Papes. An easy and pleasant hike to get some fresh air just outside Avignon.
Walking time : 2.5 hours
Rating : easy
Season calendar : year-round (summer : 8am – 11am only, not allowed on fire risk days)
A half-day trip from Gordes to Roussillon
Gordes and Roussillon, along with Bonnieux, Ménerbes and Saignon, are among the most beautiful of the Luberon hilltop villages. There, you enjoy life by walking down cobbled streets or savoring a terrace lunch. Midway between the towns of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Apt, they have contributed to the reputation of this Provence region all over the world. On this gentle walk from Gordes to Roussillon, you wend through pretty rural villages with your hiking guide. You roam delightful landscapes, made of rolling hills, vineyards, olive or truffle groves and pine woods. Along the way, you hike at the foot of the Monts de Vaucluse. And you keep in sight on your right the range of the Luberon mountains on the horizon.
Walking time : 3.5 hours (not including the visit of Roussillon former ochre quarries)
Rating : easy
The Rocher des deux trous
In the footsteps of Van Gogh near St. Remy
This beautiful hike starts in the old town of St. Remy de Provence, that lies only 12.5 miles from Avignon. Its name comes from the fact that you walk to many of the places where Vincent Van Gogh set up his easel. The Dutch painter spent one year in St. Remy. He painted there more than 70 works, transfixed by the luminous nature sceneries. You leave the town through plains carpeted by vineyards and olive groves. Then, you walk amidst a Mediterranean vegetation, surrounded by a diverse avifauna. As you climb through a pine grove up to the Alpilles crest, you soon enjoy outstanding 360-degree views. This nature walk could also have been called “Le Rocher des Deux Trous” (the Rock with two holes) because of a stone formation : at its base, two big holes, visible from far away, disappear as you are getting closer, before reappearing suddenly. Close to the finish, you pass near the ancient site of Glanum: there can be seen Greco-Roman remains of a city that developed 2,600 years ago.
One of the loveliest day trips from Avignon !
Walking time : 3 hours
Rating : moderate (steep slopes and rugged sections of terrain)
Van Gogh’s Provence
Photographs of sceneries that could have inspired the Dutch painter
In the footsteps of Cézanne
Mont Sainte Victoire is a nature landmark of the countryside around Aix en Provence. Its impressive white limestone cliffs are 10 kms long, with a drop over 470 m (1,500 feet) on its south-facing side. The rocky mountain has not ceased to inspire artists, before and after Paul Cézanne. This one is probably the painter who has the most intensely immortalized it. Trying to capture the ever changing contours, he painted more than 80 pictures of the mount. With your local guide, all along this trail, you too have the opportunity to admire the different views of Mont Sainte Victoire, like the famous painter used to.
Walking time : 3 hours
Rating : leisurely (rugged terrain)
A circular walk from St-Remy to Les Baux
through the Alpilles
This loop hike is, for its first half, the same than the one described above in the half-day hike section. After walking one mile away from Les Baux, a lookout allows you to get a last attractive view of the rock spur where the medieval village and ruined castle lie. Later, on your way back to the little town of St-Remy, you have to recross the small range of the Alpilles. Your local guide leads you on different nature trails than the one taken earlier in the opposite direction. The vision of olive trees’ silvery leaves is the sign that you have reached the lower slopes. But the route through orchards and olive groves is another half hour long to see the first town squares. Then, you can finally enjoy the ambiance of the café terraces, shaded by plane trees!
Walking time : 6 hours
Rating : challenging (long itinerary / rugged sections of terrain)
Climbing the western ridge of Mont Sainte Victoire
In the surroundings of Aix en Provence, this beautiful hike takes you up to the western ridge of Mont Sainte Victoire. You reach the altitude of 767 m (2,500 feet), as compared to 1,011 m for the top, in the central part of the mountain. Without requiring the physical necessary efforts needed to get to Croix de Provence, the most famous summit, it offers an outstanding panorama. Starting from Le Tholonet, at the southern foothills of the mountain, you firstly undergo one hour of warm up. Then, you climb a steep slope for half an hour. Once on the Costes Chaudes ridge, you can enjoy a fabulous 360° view. In front of you, the sight of the famous triangular rocky peak that so much fascinated Cézanne is visible. But you have to leave it behind you and follow the ridgeline down towards the Bimont Dam and its lake. Finally, you walk back to Le Tholonet through the Nature Reserve of Sainte Victoire.
Walking time : 5 hours
Rating : challenging