In Provence, the fairy tale is real!
Provence is popular for a reason. An abundance of picturesque villages emerge from another century. Cobbled alleys, centuries-old towers, cliffside towns overlooking lush valleys of olive and cherry groves… What’s not to love?
Here’s a short list of places you won’t easily forget (though there are dozens more.) They’ll be grouped geographically, so you can create your very own road trip!
Most of them (the first 9) will be in the Luberon area east of Avignon. I’ve already created a road trip for this area, so you can use that as a framework and adjust as you like! Or create your own trip from scratch.
Fairy Tale Villages in the Luberon Area of Provence
If you arrive in Avignon from another city or from Paris, you can spend a couple of days there, then head out to find your fairy tale! These towns are grouped close together, so you can easily get from one to the other. After that, other villages in other
Gordes: Blessed by ochre deposits, this town has more of a golden than reddish cast to the buildings (as in Roussillon, following.) It’s one of the most photographed villages in Provence, and some film footage for A Good Year was shot here.
Roussillon: Here, the ochre deposits yield more red, yellow, and orange tones to the buildings. It’s a clifftop village that’s very popular. A must-see town. Market day is every Thursday.
Saignon (near the town of Apt) is a quieter village surrounded by lavender fields and without hoards of tourists. Flower boxes enhance the colorful buildings and coordinating shutters. Walk the Rue de l’Horloge up a hill to the chapel then on to amazing views of the plains below.
Bonnieux: As you wander around the narrow streets of this hilltop village, you’ll enjoy the smells of fresh-cooked bread (and visit the bakery museum.) Climb up toward the 12th-century church for a view of the lush valley below, nearby Vaucluse mountains, and fields of olive trees and lavender. The market day is Friday morning.
Lourmarin: This enchanting village, along with Ansouis (the setting for the film, Jean de Florette), lies eastward outside the circle of towns mentioned, but most distances in this area aren’t too far.
Enjoy the cafés, medieval architecture restored to quaint beauty, and a castle built between the 12th and 16th centuries. Market days are Friday mornings, and there are several festivals in the summer months.
Lacoste: You may wonder if there’s a connection with Pierre Cardin. There is one because Cardin purchased the crumbling château and some other buildings in the beautiful village. Part of the château is open to the public in summer. In July there’s a festival dedicated to dance, theatre, and opera.
Next, you can travel west to Ménerbes and then north to Goult, or the other way around.
Ménerbes: This hillside village is surrounded by grapevines. Its streets bear its history, though it’s one of the best preserved in the region. Flowerboxes and charming cafés line the town square. And where there are grapevines, there’s usually wine. The Domaine de la Citadelle is a vineyard where you can enjoy a tasting amidst timeless beauty. The town was the setting for A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle.
Goult is a hidden treasure, not overrun by tourists. Appreciate its old town and shady walkways. Market day is Thursday, and jazz and craft festivals take place in August.
Oppède-le-Vieux is another small, village that escapes the tourist crowds that flock to some other towns. You’ll see terraced gardens on this hilltop location. It has just 2 restaurants, and a small centreville, along with castle ruins and many lovely places for strolls. Market day is Saturday, and there are music concerts in summer.
Here are three more in the Luberon area, south of those listed above. They are all worth adding to your trip!
East of the Luberon Area
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie: A picturesque village close to the Gorge de Verdon, a stunning natural enclave with turquoise waters. Enjoy both, the Gorge and the village. Pairs well with hiking and canoeing! Find this village due north of Toulon, east of the Luberon area.
Cotignac: This village lies roughly midway between the coastal city of Hyères (near Toulon) and Moustiers. This medieval village nestled near a cliff welcomes visitors to its shady square lined with cafés, boutiques, and 16th-century homes. Market day is Tuesday.
Aiguines is another lovely village south of Moustiers.
Saint-Croix-du-Verdon sits alongside a gorgeous lake, where you can swim or hike.
If you’re near Nice, check these fairy tale villages:
Bet you never imagined so many fairy tales in the real world…in Provence!