Guide to Provence France
What to see:
Lavender and flower fields Valensole (flowering during July/August only and ideally first week of July is best) – There are Lavender fields all over during peak season, but we saw the most and best spots in Valensole. Here is where you will see the rolling hills of purple/blue that take over the mountain side. You really cant miss them! The flower fields were a lot harder to find but we did manage to find some off the side of the road! This one may take a bit more exploring. Along the roads you may also come upon lavender shops where you can buy lavender products like lavender honey.
Cool off at Gorges du Verdon. It can get super hot during peak season in Provence and it’s super nice to spend a day by the water. Gorges du Verdon is a beautiful, bright-teal lake surrounded by limestone cliffs. I honestly thought it was photoshop in photos until I got there and saw for myself how bright teal it is. There are companies at the edge of the water where you can rent boats and kayaks for a decent price. You can also hike in this area which will take you to beautiful views, but its so hot! I think it’s really nice and relaxing to just enjoy the water. This place was 100% worth it and I’m so happy we went to check it out. You can see more photos of this spot here.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – If you are a fan of homes, architecture and history, add this to your list. This villa is Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur. It is an absolutely stunning villa on the coast with mind-blowing views surrounding it. I was surprised by how large and stunning the garden area was. It was a nice, relaxing walk through it. It’s very close to Eze Village so I highly recommend checking these out on the same day. Tickets are $15 and under.
Stay in Cassis and kayak to the hidden Calanques– We spent one night in Cassis just so we could check out the Calanques (small coves on the beach surrounded by limestone rocks). It was absolutely beautiful. You can only get to them by hiking or kayaking. We chose kayaks because it was hot and we wanted to be by the water. There are plenty of spots to rent right by the harbor. Cassis itself is also a charming town with cute restaurants and a little beach. It’s quite small though so all you need is one night.
Explore the cute town! There are so many charming towns it’s hard to narrow it down. Of course you have the ones in the South of France that are epic like St. Tropez, Cannes, etc but here are the ones you also can’t miss: Gordes and Roussillon which are both super cute, picturesque towns. They both have beautiful views of the valley and charming towns to walk through. The town of Gordes is a medieval, grey stone town with beautiful cobblestone and Roussillon is a charming, colorful town with oranges, yellows and reds overlooking a large canyon. You can grab lunch here, explore the little shops or just pass through. You can definitely do both in one day and just drive by and enjoy as they are both small! For photos I would suggest going earlier in day before shops open (less crowds) or later in afternoon to get the afternoon glow for beautiful photo. If you want to explore the cute shops you may want to get there earlier in the afternoon as they tend to close shop early.
Eze village and St. Paul de Vence are also two other adorable towns you should definitely check out. I’m adding them in the same paragraph because I feel they are very similar but both worth visiting and charming in their own individual way. St. Paul is so charming and has great little shops to check out and Eze has the most gorgeous view of the coast! Both places have very nice restaurants. I highly recommend you take a cocktail at the top of Eze Village at the Chèvre D’or outdoor patio and snap a pic of the epic view.
Where to Stay:
There are plenty of places to stay that are adorable, but I found that staying at an airbnb with a kitchen was the most cost effective. I love being able to have a fridge with snacks and just make breakfast and dinner there– not to mention be able to wash my clothes. We stayed at this Airbnb in Aix-en-Provence which was a good starting point to explore all the other spots and the host was great. It also has its own parking spot and a market less than a block away as well as a pharmacy which was super convenient. We also stayed at an airbnb in Nice for the second part of our South of France trip and that location was perfectly central. It was clean and a great place to crash but definitely had the bare minimum as far as soap, towels and toilet paper. It did have a nice comfy bed, shower, kitchen and was perfectly located. I’m going to be fully honest with you though, it was a rather large home with our airbnb being on the bottom of it (as a separate apartment) and I couldn’t figure out if it was abandoned or not which made me uneasy. The host, however, was very nice. If you are comfortable with that here is the link.
There are also so many charming hotels to stay at throughout. Many were fully booked by the time I looked them up so definitely reserve with time! Some that I had my eye on were: Hotel Lou Pinet in St. Tropez, Le Bergerie St Antoine, Maison dotes Bastide St Victor, La Rivayne , La Mauresque , Arielles Gordes La Bastide (dream!!)
How to Visit:
While you can rent taxis, renting a car when traveling around this part of France is honestly the best option. You will definitely want to explore and stop along the way. Driving was not as scary as I thought as they have normal highways and everyone drives pretty calm.
We went initially from Paris , so we took a train from Paris to Lyon to get started. Then we rented our car in Lyon and drove it all the way down and dropped it off at the Nice airport before we returned to the US. It was so easy this way. A lot of people do prefer to travel directly into Marseille, which is great if traveling within Europe but you may need to find a connecting flight from Paris if coming from US.
A few more cost effective options: visit by bus (check out flixbus ) or or go all the way by train. I recommend booking things (especially the train) way in advance because things do sell out.
Things to know:
- It can get super hot during peak seasons so take sunscreen, hats, sunnies and maybe even a fan.
- If you plan on going to the flower fields there are bees everywhere! They aren’t too bothered by humans as they are distracted by the lavender, but if you are allergic you may want to keep that in mind.
- I personally think 4-5 days is a perfect amount of time to explore and also relax and enjoy everything.