The villages of the Luberon valley are some of the most spectacular in Provence, and indeed France! They’ve hosted artists and celebrities throughout the years. They continue to attract visitors year-round. And they are home to an immense and varied history. And yet, wandering through the cobbled lanes, past dusky shuttered houses and golden stone churches, you get the feeling that life here exists much as it has done throughout the years.
I won’t go into the specifics of what makes each village in the Luberon so special, as I’ve already written about the Luberon Villages in detail. Read The Most Beautiful Villages in Provence post to get inspired, and then head back here to find out how to self-drive your way around Provence for the ultimate Luberon tour!
LUBERON VILLAGES TOUR
It’s somewhat unrealistic to think you can cover all of the best villages in Provence in just one day – unless all you plan on doing is driving! I’d recommend splitting the Luberon into two (or more!) separate day trips. But if you’re really pushed for time and want to see the highlights, I’ve included an option for that below too.
Knowing that most visitors to this area of Provence either stay in Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, the following itineraries originate from both cities. If you’re staying within the Luberon, I’ve also added a map of the Luberon villages and attractions so that you can create your own itinerary.
Villages of the Southern Luberon – From Aix-en-Provence Day 1 (2 Day Tour)
The first day will see you set off from Aix and head towards the beautiful village of Ansouis (pictured below). Here you can visit the château and its manicured gardens, wander past sunbathing cats, rest in a shaded square and then visit the brilliant church that creates a juxtaposition between a hard angular exterior and a shabby chic interior.
Next up is Cucuron, a stunning small village centred around a ruined castle at the top. As with Ansouis, the church is worth peering inside for a peek at the 16th-century wood mural and restored organ. Then head to the village square where you can have a mid-morning coffee beside the beautiful bassin. Leaving Cucuron, you’ll head towards Lourmarin where another lovingly restored village awaits, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Pause for lunch, as Lourmarin is well known for its thriving cafe culture. If you’re interested, a trip to the Lourmarin Château is a unique and insightful visit.
If you take your time visiting these three villages, this may be enough for one day. But if not, continue into the heart of the Luberon valley.
Here you’ll find Buoux, which is most notable for the ruined fort that resides in the hills above the village. It’s a fascinating place that deserves to be explored. And the views over the rock-faced cliffs and dense bush below are breathtaking. Continue on to Bonnieux where you should park your car and continue by foot up to the centre of the village. Browse the boutiques, grab a fresh baguette from the boulangerie, and walk the stone stairway to the 12th-century church at the top.
The final stop on this Luberon itinerary is Lacoste. The grand Château de Lacoste is privately owned by fashion icon Pierre Cardin and hosts an annual festival showcasing dance, theatre and opera. Throughout summer you can tour the inside of the castle, but the rest of the year you’ll be satisfied to see the sculptures that frame the views at the top. Watching the sunset here, or nearby at the Forêt de Cèdres is the perfect ending to day 1.
Villages of the Western Luberon – From Aix-en-Provence Day 2 (2 Day Tour)
On the second day, you’ll set off from Aix in another direction, towards Avignon. Leave the motorway at Cavaillon where you can choose which order to undertake this circular Luberon tour. I would suggest starting by learning about lavender at the Musée de la Lavande, and ending the day with dinner in Ménerbes, but you can absolutely do it the other way around. Perhaps even staying around Gordes to see the sun setting over the valley below.
The lavender museum is the perfect way to gain an appreciation of how important this crop was, and still is today. It won’t take you long to watch the short movie and take a tour of the petite museum, but it’ll leave a lasting impression. You can also stock up on lavender-scented goodies in the gift shop before continuing on to Gordes. On the way into Gordes, make sure you pause to appreciate the iconic village viewpoint. It’s marked, but easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. Then sidestep the village to visit the renowned Sénanque Abbey, which is especially lovely in summer when it’s framed with lavender. After looking around the abbey, carry on back to the village car park which is situated a short walk before Gordes. Visit the Château and the Pol Mara Museum housed within, before wandering the delicate laneways.
Driving on towards Roussillon, you may catch a glimpse of the ochre-coloured hills in the distance. Roussillon is one of the more colourful villages in the Luberon thanks to these rich ochre deposits, and it’s a pleasure to explore. Across the street from the village, signs will lead you to The Ochre Trail – a short but impressive walk through the former mines. Reset with a cool drink in the bustling town square afterwards before driving towards Goult. Goult is one of my favourite villages in the Luberon. It gets less attention than the Luberon villages who are part of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” association, but it’s by no means less attractive! Here you can follow a trail to see the main sites, ending at the reconstituted Jerusalem Mill at the top of the village. If you have time, wander down past the mill to the Conservatoire des Terrasses de Cultures, which will give you a unique insight into the ancient farming techniques of the region. End the day with a stroll and supper in the magnificent Ménerbes before returning to Aix.
Highlights of the Luberon Day Trip -From Aix-en-Provence 1 Day Tour
The third option from Aix-en-Provence will have you covering 167km of lavender laced fields and hilltop villages. You’ll start from Aix early and drive first to Ansouis before continuing on to Lourmarin. From here you drive up into the Luberon valley. You could add a stop at the Buoux Fort, or keep going until you reach Roussillon and the ochre trail. Then pop over to Gordes, and down to Goult, before completing the circle with Ménerbes, Lacoste and Bonnieux. Then it’s just a matter of retracing your steps to Lourmarin before taking the slightly shorter route home via Cadenet. This is a big day, and you won’t have long to linger in each village, but it’s doable. Alternatively, you could follow this route but leave a village or two off of your itinerary to make it more manageable.
Highlights of the Luberon Day Trip -From Avignon 1 Day Tour
This Luberon tour from Avignon will show you some of the highlights of the Luberon, with the least driving time possible. If you wanted to reduce it down a little further I’d suggest leaving Buoux off, as that will close the circle considerably.
Starting off from Avignon in the morning, you’ll drive directly to the Sénanque Abbey. If you are travelling in summer, I’d recommend getting here early, as once the tour buses start to arrive it can get very busy. Continuing on towards Gordes, you’ll want to overshoot the village a little, in order to get to the viewpoint (marked on the map as Town View Point Gordes). Alternatively, you can head straight into the village and visit the viewpoint on the way out, but I find it’s a nice way to get your bearings before entering the village.
After Gordes you can head in the direction of Roussillon, a village famed for its brightly coloured palate. Perhaps this is a good time to stop for lunch, in one of the many restaurants clustered around the town square. Afterwards, pop over the road and walk the Ochre trail – it doesn’t take long, but really shouldn’t be missed! It’s a short onward drive to Bonnieux, and then next door to Lacoste. Both Luberon villages could be lingered over, or briefly explored – it’s up to you. Just don’t miss the sculptures at the back of Château de Lacoste.
A short walk through Goult will show you its best bits, but be sure to walk up to the windmill at the top of the village and to the terraced gardens beyond if you have the time. The last stop is Ménerbes where you can finish the day with dinner in a divine setting.
Luberon Villages Overview
The above map details all of the Luberon Villages I’ve highlighted here and in the Most Beautiful Villages in Provence article, so that you can make up your own Luberon tour itinerary based on what interests you most. I’ve also included the village of Cadenet which is a little off the beaten path, but that has a wonderful ruined castle to explore. And the Forêt de Cèdres near Bonnieux, which has a number of beautiful walks offering unbeatable views over the Luberon.
The Luberon is such a magnificent place to explore, there’s no doubt that you’ll love it, whichever itinerary you choose! From the ruined castles to the flame red ochre mines, and the soft hues of lavender and the habitual scent of the garrigue, the Luberon will forever be imprinted in your memory.
If you undertake one of these tours, please let me know how it goes in the comments below. And remember, if you’re staying in Aix-en-Provence, check out my post on the best day tours from Aix for more ideas about how to spend your holiday in Provence!
To find out more about the Luberon region, visit the Luberon Valley’s official website here.