Botany explorations in Provence’s garrigue







Walking eyes closed, alone at the core of the garrigue vegetation, somewhere in the hills around Marseille, may lead you to experience a unique mix of sensations : the varied fragrances of rosemary, lavender or thyme crushed underfoot overwhelming your nostrils; cicada songs and the heat stunning you a little bit on summer days, small branches and prickly little leaves of the diverse bushes tickling your legs when off trail, if wearing short pants. Very long after your hike through Provence’s hills, wherever you live on the earth, you will probably be drawn back by garrigue‘s distinct atmosphere and rough sensuality!

Please note that the following hikes proposed to you to discover the garrigue
of Provence hills are three ones among a dozen on which our guides can lead you.

















Hiking in Massif du Garlaban 

The garrigue in the foothills of the Luberon

On this walk,  you explore the garrigue that can be seen in the foothills to the south of the Luberon mountain. The plants that you will smell easily, termed aromatics, are lavender, rosemary, thyme and savory. You will notice other plants such as curry plant, cotton lavender and Mediterranean heather, especially when in blossom. And, for sure, you will not miss the following shrubs, more or less prickly : kermes oak, mock privet, turpentine tree, prickly juniper and gorse.

This flora is able to survive long periods of draught : the different species can indeed develop diverse strategies for adapting water resources. Your local guide will explain all that to you if you are interested. 

Walking time : 2.5 hours (total : 3.5 hrs)
Rating : moderate
Season calendar : year-round (summer : 8am – 11am only)
Not allowed on fire risk days.

What is called garrigue in the South of France is this type of scrubland that grows on limestone soils after fires and clearcutting. Your local guide tells you about the specific flora composing garrigue and the fauna living there. He (or she) explains to you why garrigue is so common in the South of France, how it appears, how long it lasts, why we can see garrigue in some places, pine groves in some others, oak forest elsewhere. Your guide can also inform you about how garrigue can help men out.


In the garrigue above Calanque de Sugiton

On a balcony trail in the Massif des Calanques, besides the common plants and shrubs that grow among Provence’s garrigues, you see a lot the following ones : Italian buckthorn, narrow-leaved scorpion vetch, spiny broom, Etruscan honeysuckle. And the presence of many screes and steep slopes explain why the Mediterranean scrubland here is less dense than most types of other garrigues. That may allow you to catch sight of Arenaria provincialis, an endemic plant growing only in the Marseille hills. Later, on a rocky platform, high above Calanque de Sugiton, your guide tells you about another type of garrigue, 100m below, much closer to the sea-spray. Down there, kermes oak is absent and rosemary much shorter. And different plants grow on the seaside, such as curry plant, Mediterranean beach daisy and Astragalus Tragacantha. The last one is a rare endangered species that can be seen very close to the sea.

Walking time : 2.5 hours (total : 3.5 hrs)
Rating : moderate (rugged terrain)
Season calendar : 1/1 – 6/15  &  9/15 – 12/31

A scenic hike up to the garrigue
in Massif du Garlaban
Full day

From the small village of Lascours, located at the foot of the eastern part of the majestic rocky ridge of Garlaban, this trail takes you up to the heights above the Huveaune valley. With your local guide, as soon as you leave the back road in the small cultivated valley and start walking on the stony path, garrigue is surrounding you. Once on top of today’s summit, Mont du Marseillais (628m), you first enjoy a spectacular view of the valley below and of the Sainte-Baume mountain facing you. Then, you can take time to observe and take pictures of the dozens of plant species growing around you. Your guide will probably be able to name most of them. Your memories after this hike will be filled up with the aromas overwhelming the denser parts of garrigue in the sunshine !

Trailhead only 40 minutes from downtown Marseille and from Aix en Provence.

Walking time : 3.5 hours (total : 5 hours)
Rating : challenging (rugged terrain, 1,500 feet elevation gain)
Season calendar : year-round (in summer, start at 7 am) 
Not allowed on fire risk days.


The Provençal term garric, from which the French word garrigue
is derived, represents the evergreen shrub on this photograph.




Do you know its name in English ?






If you are interested in learning more about garrigue, please click on:
 what do we call garrigue ?