This magnificent region is shaped like a giant wedge of quiche. From its sunburned crust, fanning out along the Mediterranean coast from the Camargue to Marseille, it stretches north along the Rhône Valley to Orange. The Romans were here in force and left many ruins — some of the best anywhere. Seven popes, artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, and author Peter Mayle all enjoyed their years in Provence. This destination features a splendid recipe of arid climate, oceans of vineyards, dramatic scenery, lively cities, and adorable hill-capping villages. Explore the ghost town that is ancient Les Baux, and see France’s greatest Roman ruins, the Pont du Gard aqueduct and the theater in Orange. Admire the skill of ball-tossing boules players in small squares in every Provençal village and city. Spend a few Van Gogh-inspired starry, starry nights in Arles. Youthful but classy Avignon bustles in the shadow of its brooding Palace of the Popes. It’s a short hop from Arles or Avignon into the splendid scenery and villages of the Côtes du Rhône and Luberon regions.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Near Avignon: Pont du Gard, Nîmes, and Uzès Three worthy destinations, including the stunning Pont du Gard aqueduct; thriving Nîmes with world-class Roman monuments; and pedestrian-friendly Uzès, a refreshing break from power monuments and busy cities.
▲▲▲ Orange and the Côtes du Rhône Starring Orange’s remarkably intact Roman theater, plus the sunny Côtes du Rhône wine road, cozy villages, and fields of lavender, anchored by charming Vaison la Romaine.
▲▲ Arles Once-important Roman outpost, now a bustling town famous for its ancient amphitheater and its artistic draw as a site that inspired Van Gogh.
▲▲ Near Arles: Les Baux, St-Rémy, and the Camargue Several compelling sights: the cliff-topping castle ruins at Les Baux; St-Rémy with Roman ruins and a mental hospital that treated Van Gogh; and the Camargue — a nature lover’s paradise, with flamingos, bulls, and white horses.
▲▲ Hill Towns of the Luberon Boasting the sturdy market town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, delightful rock-top village of Roussillon, crumbled castles, and meditative abbeys.
▲▲ Marseille, Cassis, and Aix-en-Provence Gritty port of Marseille with art museums; the coastal town of Cassis, home of the calanques (Mediterranean fjords); and inland, genteel Aix-en-Provence.
▲ Avignon Fourteenth-century residence of the popes, today a youthful city with atmospheric cafés, lively squares, and a famous broken bridge.