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Le Luberon à vélo © Rathay

Le Tour du Luberon – by road

ENCOUNTER ALL THE COLOURS OF PROVENCE

Calling all road cycling enthusiasts – how does a tour of the Luberon sound? Between hilltop villages, broom-lined roads, lavender fields… you’ll cycle through stunning scenery filled with colour!

facile

intermédiaire

difficile

Duration:

5 days

Distance:

236 km

Pratice:

Bike rides

Type:

Loop

BRILLIANT CYCLING AND HIKING IN A UNIQUE SETTING

Here’s an itinerary for stretching your legs and getting your calves (a bit) stronger

With its loop from Cavaillon to Manosque passable in both directions, we opt for the “Autour du Luberon” (Around the Luberon) itinerary. Cavaillon is the start and end point of this journey, which is spread over 3 days. This sounds like a lot but the circuit is mostly very manageable for honed calves and people who enjoy longer routes. And there’s plenty of chance to make a stop!

Did you know?

Vaucluse really is the land of cycling. EuroVelo routes, greenways, Espaces VTT (mountain biking areas), bicycle touring, long-distance itineraries and charging points for electric bikes… the possibilities are endless, and there’s something to suit everyone!

Luberon en Vaucluse @ Coquard

Day 1 Stage Cavaillon / Manosque

Cavaillon – the Cavare city

Cavaillon is home to one of Provence’s most popular Via Ferrata courses

Day 1 Stage Cavaillon / Manosque

Mérindol – between garrigues and the Durance

Mérindol offers pathways where you can clear your mind (and get lost?) on a mountain bike, or even horseback if you’re tempted one day…

Day 1 Stage Cavaillon / Cucuron

Lauris – the garden with 1000 colours

The Conservatory Botanical Garden, located on the terraces of Château de Lauris, is officially classified as a ‘Remarkable Garden’ and boasts trays of colourful plants. A must-see!

Day 1 Stage Cavaillon / Cucuron

Lourmarin, its castle and picturesque lanes

One of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” (Most Beautiful Villages of France), Lourmarin charms visitors with its authentic atmosphere, castle and sunshine.

EASILY ORGANISED

A mine of practical info within reach

Along with our physical preparation, the information available on topography, places to pass through and services en route helps a lot. We find maps to download showing points of interest (castles, major natural sites etc.) It’s always nice to have a quick look at lunchtime! 😉 The itinerary is signposted in both directions and linked circuits allow you to change course if you wish.

Lacoste en Luberon @ Hocquel

We’ll be passing through 4 hilltop villages (Lauris, Bonnieux, Lacoste, Oppède-le-Vieux) and 2 which are classified among the most beautiful villages in France (Lourmarin and Ménerbes)

THE BEST THINGS TO SEE BEFORE SETTING OFF

Before reaching Cavaillon, the starting point, we decide to visit a couple of celebrated villages that are typical of the region. In the heart of the Natural Regional Park, market towns display their light-coloured stone and splendid bastides perched on hilltops. We take a leisurely stroll down the narrow lanes and enjoy a refreshing pause in the shade. Artisans, boutiques with lovely scents and gourmet flavours… we’re falling under their spell!

Gordes en Luberon @ Hocquel

Worth the detour

the village of Bories (stone huts); the Cistercian Sénanque Abbey; Bouillons Mill and the Glass and Stained Glass History Museum; Festival des Soirées d’Été (Festival of Summer Evenings) in August

Colorado Provençal @ Verneuil

KEEN AND MOTIVATED TO CYCLE

The big day has arrived: it’s time to hop on our bikes for 3 days of exploring!

And we’re off with the knowledge that this big “Autour du Luberon” (Around the Luberon) loop boasts spectacular views over the Durance Valley and the plains and hills that make up the surrounding landscapes. With 2,900 metres increase in altitude, the route is sometimes a little uneven but the highlight is certainly making the most of being high up and admiring the views of nature mixed with Provence’s clear blue skies!

For the children…

The Luberon is best discovered with the family along the Calavon greenway. Lead the troops along 37 km of a flat, safe and protected route from Robion to St Martin de Castillon.

Cyclistes devant un fontaine @ Hocquel

Stage 1 : CAVAILLON – Cucuron

Up at 7 o’clock for an early morning departure – we hop on our bikes and begin the journey along the limestone massif of the Petit Luberon, rising up between the plains of the Durance and the Calavon, vineyards and orchards. A little slope as we enter Cheval-Blanc to warm us up, followed by more slopes which become steadily bigger up to Beaumont du Pertuis. We pass the national forest, then follow alongside the pretty St Julien canal which proves to be a refreshing ride up to Mérindol. We timed it just right because Wednesday is market day! Hooray! We browse the market stalls and buy seasonal fruit and veg for our lunchtime picnic. Each food item we come across smells even better than the last! It’s still early in the morning but the heat of the sun is beginning to make itself known.

Tour du Luberon à vélo @ Hocquel

Did you know?

The Petit Luberon’s national forest is made up of live oaks, Aleppo pines and Atlas cedars. A real haven of scents!

Cheval Blanc en Luberon @ Hocquel

Day 2 : Cucuron – Manosque – 53 km

Back on the road through the vineyards and orchards, and we reach Lauris, 10 km further up from Mérindol. We’re truly captured by the charm of the Provençal village (although our calves are starting to feel a little tired!). Here, we can see a beautiful panoramic view over the Durance Valley from the Château de Lauris, and admire its Remarkable Garden which is devoted to growing plants whose pigments are used in dyes.

15 km further on, we recommend making a little stop at Lourmarin. Its fountain offers a welcome respite from the sun and a good opportunity to take a photo of its Renaissance castle, nicknamed no less than the Villa Medici of Provence!

It’s past noon by the time we arrive in Cucuron for a well-deserved lunch break. With its lake and multi-coloured buildings, the entrance to the village is certainly inviting! Here we’ll make a stop to devour our market purchases.

Lauris en Luberon @ Hocquel

Did you know?

The south Luberon often serves as a film set! In 1994 JP Rappeneau brought his cameras to Cucuron for the film adaptation of J Giono’s “The Horseman on the Roof”.

Cucuron à vélo @ Hocquel

HEAD TO MANOSQUE

3:30 pm – time to leave the shade of Cucuron’s big plane trees and get back on the road

Only 35 km left to go, which equates to around two hours. Vaucluse towns and villages come one after the other – Cabrières d’Aigues, St Martin de la Brasque, Vitrolles en Luberon, Bastide des Jourdans… There aren’t any particular difficulties to note in this area and the terrain is a fairly downhill slope towards Manosque where we’ll be staying overnight with some friends ;-).

Bastide de Jourdans @ Hocquel

Don’t miss Bastide-des-Jourdans, the remains of the 13th-century castle, the 16th-century church and Notre Dame de la Cavalerie de Limaye.

Day 3 : From MANOSQUE to APT – 85 km

After a good night’s sleep on the comfiest of beds, we’re ready to tackle the next 85 km!

Dressed and ready, we pick up the sandwiches (full of vitamins!) that Laurence and Fred have kindly prepared for us 🙂 which we’ll eat later for our lunchtime picnic in Céreste. We’ve also made sure that throughout the entire journey we’re stocked up on high-protein drinks and energy bars (and to give us ultimate endurance, Sylvain nougat) to crack the whip a little.

On the road between the lavender fields on the way towards Forcalquier, we see a few more characterful villages such as St Maime and Dauphin. Such pretty names… And during the descent towards Reillanne the wind blows through our hair. That feels good!

Firm favourite

Inseparable from Provence, the lavender fields paint the scenery with colour in July. In Vaucluse, lavender even has its own museum in Coustellet, located on the road between Cabrières and Maubec.

Champs de lavande en Luberon @ Hocquel

APT – CAPITAL OF CANDIED FRUIT

And here we are in Apt – historic town founded by the Romans and now… the world capital of candied fruit! Subprefecture of Vaucluse, this town has loads to offer:
– earthenware;
– an exceptional Provençal market on Saturday mornings, recognised for its authenticity and variety of local produce;
– a number of remains including Pont Julien and an archaeological museum;
– a notable religious heritage with the Cathedral (‘cathédrale Sainte-Anne’), one of the oldest churches in Provence and the oldest in the western world dedicated to the Mother of the Virgin Mary… In fact, the feast day of Saint Anne is in July, bringing the opportunity to see gospel performances – a delight for the ears! 🙂 Staying at the hotel of the same name (Sainte Anne), we leave our bikes to go and take a closer look at all these gems. And also to give our calves a bit of a rest! 😀

Cathédrale Sainte-Anne @ Office de Tourisme Apt

worth the detour

11 km north-east of Apt, Rustrel’s Provençal Colorado is the proud home of ochre quarries and natural scenery that resembles that of the American West. Walk on reddish-orange reliefs in a lush, green setting. Incredible, an absolute must-see!

Fruits confits d'Apt @ O'Brien

Apt’s treasures in pictures

A heritage full of history

The capital of the Luberon, Apt is very much alive. A combination of expertise and quality produce will send you travelling right into the heart of Provence. A must-see!

Apt’s treasures in pictures

‘Le Musée de l’aventure industrielle’ – Apt’s industrial history museum

From the art of earthenware to candied fruits, by way of the exploitation of ochre, this museum recounts the economic activity and expertise of the Pays d’Apt.

Apt’s treasures in pictures

The Colorado Provençal

Apt’s treasures in pictures

Riaille Lake

On the road to Saint-Saturnin-d’Apt, this artificial lake offers an oasis of freshness for swimmers and fishermen. A free, supervised, floating swimming pool has also been recently installed.

Apt’s treasures in pictures

The Blachère Foundation

An outstanding exhibition space dedicated to African art, the Blachère Foundation is the most recent creation of the family-owned business of the same name which is internationally recognised for its illuminations.

Day 4 : Apt – Cavaillon – 47 km via BONNIEUX, LACOSTE

This final stage is more demanding, but beautiful hills and spectacular panoramas have been saved till last. Prepare to pass through a series of wonderful… hilltop villages. The climbs may be a little more challenging, but the effort won’t seem as intense when you lose yourself in the view of the Ventoux, behind the Vaucluse plateau. Here on the northern side of the Luberon, our first two hilltop villages are ahead of us: the ‘Catholic’ Bonnieux, and Lacoste.

We finally reach the top of the first without difficulty. After stopping for some photos of the beautiful church tower, we continue towards Lacoste. This is something else, and our calves are certainly beginning to ache a little more! Never mind – the incredible view from the top is worth all the effort. And in Lacoste, an extra bonus is waiting for us: its castle and inspiring sculptures. I would call them ‘surrealist’, because personally I can see a little bit of Dali in them…

We allow ourselves a well-deserved break out on the terrace. I mean, have you seen this unbelievable panorama?

Château de Lacoste en Luberon @ Colombe

Did you know?

The village of Lacoste, in which the couturier Pierre Cardin has invested heavily (cultural festival, restoring the heritage), is also home to the Château du Marquis de Sade.

Lacoste en Luberon @ Hocquel

…THEN MENERBES and OPPEDE-LE-VIEUX

Only 29 km remain before getting back to Cavaillon and completing the loop! The changes in altitude begin to get lesser in terms of frequency and size, although there are still a few slopes to climb: Ménerbes, and Oppède-le-Vieux, perched on its rock. This village seems like it’s come straight from a Middle Ages film set. However, like always, the view is spectacular once you’re up there and we are so pleased (and admittedly, proud of ourselves) to have earned this panorama through the strength of our calves. Oppède is a very shady, mineral, and peaceful village – its old stone buildings make it a very charming place, like travelling back in time to the olden days.

Ménerbes en Luberon @ Verneuil

Did you know?

The aromatic and botanical garden at Domaine de la Citadelle in Ménerbes is an absolute must-see. And its owner is none other than Yves Rousset-Rouard, the film producer of the cult comedy ‘French Fried Vacation’ (among others). He’s also Christian Clavier’s uncle!

Oppède-le-Vieux @ Verneuil

Almost there!

Prepare to pass through a series of wonderful… hilltop villages.

Prepare to pass through a series of wonderful… hilltop villages. We planned to break up the journey with a stop for food at Café de France in Lacoste. The first chunk: Bonnieux and Lacoste / Break / Then we’re back on our way towards Ménerbes, Oppède-le-Vieux, Robion, and finally Cavaillon. The climbs may be a little more challenging, but the effort won’t seem as intense when you lose yourself in the view of the Ventoux, behind the Vaucluse plateau.

Firm favourite

Whatever the time of year, the hilltop villages never cease to be magical. A unique atmosphere can be found there, enabling you to escape time through the narrow streets and fountains…

Château de Lacoste @ Hocquel

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Contact Vélo Loisir Provence to find out more: 00 33 (0)4 90 76 48 05 / info@veloloisirprovence.com

Dépliant Autour du Luberon à vélo @VLP