Vaucluse in Provence is a land of sweet scents, lavender fields, olive groves and vineyards. It’s the perfect place to visit and watch the world go by from a terraced café. Visit colourful markets, sip aperitifs under the stars and truly indulge in the famous gastronomy of the region. We look at eleven of the most charming and characterful villages of Vaucluse. But we have to tell you – there are many more, this really is picture-postcard pretty Provence…
Gordes (top photo) has been nicknamed “the most beautiful of France’s most beautiful villages. It’s easy to see why – it is the iconic Provencal village. Reached via a landscape of olive, almond, and fig trees, dry stone walls, and pretty Provencal farmhouses Gordes is like a dream of Provence come true.
The hilltop village, nicknamed the floating village, has cobbled streets and a majestic 16th century castle. The gorgeous old stone houses light up at sunset to create a few truly magical moments.
Seen from the outside, the 1000-year-old village of Lourmarin at the foot of the curved and untamed hillsides of the Luberon, seems like a rather sleepy place. But in reality it is bursting with life, even on Sundays! It’s brimming with pretty boutiques, art galleries, bistros, and restaurants with terraces that spill into the narrow cobbled streets and plane-tree shaded squares of the village. Typically Provence and incredibly pretty.
This village of 1000 inhabitants is unusually situated between two rocks. One bears the church and the other bears the remains of the castle. From its lofty perch you can see for miles. Its winding little streets and squares are lined with enchanting old houses, ancient fountains, cafés and boutiques.
A few kilometres south of Vaison-la-Romaine, Le Crestet is a well-kept secret. It’s a quaint and incredibly pretty little village with a tiny square and 12th century church. Its sloping cobbled streets lead to a partially restored 11th century castle. Discover the charms of this pedestrianised village which is home to steep calades (paved streets), vaulted passageways, stone archways and beautiful restored Renaissance dwellings.
The small village is famous for its 17 ranges of ochre daubed across the facades of buildings and for the flamboyant technicolour trail that is often compared to Colorado. In Roussillon, every shade of, red, yellow, orange and pink merge as you wander the spiralling streets.
Roussillon’s ochre quarry was once a significant production centre and over the years the surrounding fields have turned a reddish orange. Today, the disused quarry is other-worldly. Sculpted by both man and nature there are cliffs and caverns, steeples and ridges. Ochre is a powerful natural colourant, often used in cosmetics. In the past, it was used to stain the rubber seals for glass jars and the skin of Strasbourg sausages. The village is charming, filled with artisan shops, bustling little bistros, and excellent restaurants.
This tiny eyrie with just 50 inhabitants, on the steep north side of Mont Ventoux is like the land that time forgot. A favourite with artists and artisans, wildflowers border the paved streets of this medieval village, whose streets are joined by winding staircases. Twisted almond trees, junipers, Aleppo pine trees and broom shrubs hang over its terraces. The surrounding shrubland is filled with aromatic herbs. It’s a bit of a secret place and a totally captivating little town.
Magnificent Ménerbes, an agricultural and wine growing village, was in the past famous for its stone quarries. The village is full of superb stone buildings in its cobbled lanes, including the citadel, private mansions, fortified gates, and a little castle, where the painter Nicolas de Staël lived. Many artists have been attracted to its beauty including Picasso and Dora Maar, and this is where British writer Peter Mayle spent ‘a year in Provence’. There is a beautiful wine estate you can visit which hosts a corkscrew museum and botanical garden with marvellous views over Mont ventoux and the Luberon hills. This is also where the first local truffle was cultivated.
Venasque, Perched high on a steep ridge, a stone’s throw from the historic town of Carpentras, has given its name to the registered trademark, “Cerises des Monts de Venasque”, which are produced here, at the foot of the village and give the village the nickname the capital of cherries.
In the past, Venasque was named le Pays des Loups, (the Land of wolves). Legend has it that this is due to the bad reputation of the inhabitants! It’s hill top location gives a feeling that you’re on a ship. There are spectacular views over Mont Ventoux and the surrounding countryside. Along the narrow streets and between two fountains, have fun deciphering the dates engraved above the gates. The oldest, opposite the post office, is from 1644. There’s also a 6th century baptistery which is said to be one of the ancient in Europe.
South of Cucuron, perched Ansouis is home to a 1000-year-old castle. If Ansouis looks familiar, it may be because this was one of the filming locations for the film Jean de Florette. The village is beautifully preserved, perfect for wandering. The houses are arranged in a semi-circular pattern on the slope of a small hill. This helps to shelter them from the torments of the Mistral wind. You can visit the castle of Ansouis which was until recently in the ownership of the same family for six centuries!
Séguret with its cobbled streets which must be discovered on foot. The medieval village with its ruined feudal castle is a paradise for artists and photographers. With its cobble stone narrow streets and ancient houses, there’s plenty to make you fall in love – from the views to the 15th century Mascarons fountain. At Christmas it is famous for its superb displays of Santons, little statues of saints, and for hosting a living nativity scene.
Le Barroux is located halfway between Carpentras and Vaison-la-Romaine, not far from the lavender fields of Sault. The village is dominated by a part medieval, part Renaissance castle which was once a stronghold of the Lords of Baux. You can visit the castle, from where there are wonderful views over orchards of olive and pink apricot trees. Reach the castle via a maze of narrow streets lined with pretty houses, as you listen to the soothing sound of water from the village fountains. The castle also houses a whisky distillery and you can take a guided tour and discover how they use local einkorn spelt to make the delicious whisky.
Find out more about the charms, secrets and beauty of Vaucluse at provenceguide.com