Provece: A French Gem
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 summer bucket list, Provence 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 right next to 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.
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 tourists are few. After a visit, continue on to the village of Gordes. This charming village has been deemed one of the most beautiful in France.
Perched on the top of a hillside and surrounded by olive trees and lavender fields, Simiane-la-Rotonde provides a spectacular and unique view of the surrounding countryside. Make your way into the village and be sure to stop at the Sainte Victoire Laboratory. The lab’s team is dedicated to providing information about the benefits of lavender. While you can purchase lavender related items there, you can also just spend some time smelling many oils.
At the base of Mont Ventoux and near the village of Sault, lies Arôma'Plantes. Two hiking loops allow you to explore the countryside and fields. The family also distills lavender, and you can take a guided tour of the distillery. During the harvest season, you can harvest and distill your own lavender.
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After the harvest comes the celebrations. In early August, Valréas celebrates lavender with the Corso de la Lavande. Lavender-covered floats parade through the town. Each year has 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 and guided tours of the local fields and distilleries. Stroll around the market and discover many lavender-based products.
At the Fête de la Lavande in Sault, you can watch the lavender-cutting championships, play 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.