Lavender fields of Provence
Below the brilliant blue sky lies a sea of purple. You close your eyes, breathe in the heavenly scent and feel the heat of the sun warm your body. It’s summer and you are standing in the middle of a lavender field in Provence, France. If you put one destination on your bucket list, Provence in summer must be at the top.
Where and when to go
There are seven regions of Provence with lavender fields; however, the two main areas of lavender cultivation are the Plateau de Sault and the Plateau de Valensole. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact date when the blooms will be at their fullest, normally the best viewing times are late June through July. Harvesting of lavender typically takes place between late July and September.
If you plan on visiting during the July-August time frame, you may be in for another beautiful surprise. Many lavender fields grow side by side with sunflower fields. Imagine seeing vast rows of blooming lavender alongside the tall sunflowers. No wonder the Impressionists were drawn to this area to paint the landscapes.
It’s not just a pretty flower
Two major types of lavender are cultivated: fine (lavande) and a hybrid (lavadin). Lavidin accounts for 90 percent of production and is used for soaps and detergents. Lavande is cultivated for its essential oils, and its flowers are made into bouquets that are sent all over the world.
Have an insect bite? A bit of lavender oil will take the itch out of the bite. Trouble sleeping? Try placing a bouquet of flowers by your bed. Dried flowers repel moths, and drops of oil applied to your temple will soothe a headache.
Located four kilometers north of the village of Gordes is the Notre Dame de Sénanque Abbey, home to a community of Cistercian monks. Set against the backdrop of the 12th century structure, this single lavender field should be visited in the morning when the light is best and the tourists are few. After a visit, continue on to the village of Gordes. Perched on the southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, this charming village has been deemed one of the most beautiful villages in France. Its stone beige buildings against the base of cliffs seem to glow orange in the morning sun.
Perched on the top of a hillside and surrounded by olive trees and lavender fields, the village of Simiane-la-Rotonde provides a spectacular and unique view of the surrounding countryside. Make your way into the village and be sure to stop in the castle, now the home of the Sainte Victoire Laboratory. The lab’s team is dedicated to providing you with information about the benefits of lavender. While you can purchase lavender related items there, you can also just spend some time smelling many of the different types of oil.
At the base of Mont Ventoux and near the village of Sault, lies Arôma'Plantes. This organic lavender farm has something for everyone. Two hiking loops allow you to explore the countryside and fields. The family also distills their own lavender at the farm, and you can take a guided tour of the distillery. During the harvest season, you can even harvest your own lavender, distill it and take home your own oil.
After the lavender harvest comes the lavender celebrations. In early August, the village of Valréas celebrates lavender with its Corso de la Lavande. Lavendar-covered floats parade through the town. Each year is a different theme with lavender bouquets distributed throughout the town, the crowning of Miss Corso and evenings of music and dance.
Fête de la Lavande in Valensole also boasts a parade of lavender covered floats and guided tours of the local fields and distilleries. Stroll around the lavender market and discover many lavender-based products.
At the Fête de la Lavande in Sault, you can watch the lavender-cutting championships, play lavender games, taste lavender ice cream and watch performances of local folk groups wearing traditional Provençal costumes. The tourism office also offers seven guided tours of local fields.