Eternal Arrival
Provence Villages - abbaye de senanque
France

6 Can’t-Miss Hilltop Villages in Provence

There is something magical about France. From Nice and the French Riviera to the lavender fields and hillside villages in Provence, there’s nowhere quite like it. Somehow, Provence manages to feel untouched and undiscovered – despite being a major tourist hotspot. Maybe it’s how the buildings don’t change; how the businesses don’t cater to the whims of tourists; how the Provencal attitude towards fresh, accessible food means that despite being in the most beautiful place in the world, you can still eat a wheel of fresh cheese for under two euros and a baguette for 75 centimes. Ahh, France. They just get me.

Roussillon: Natural Beauty and Nightlife

This town is set aside gorgeous ochre cliffs, and when the sun sets, it sets the cliffs gloriously ablaze. The architecture matches this intense hue with buildings to match. The facades look as if the paint was taken straight from the cliffs.

Provence Villages and Hill Towns - Roussillon

Roussillon is famous for its gorgeous views approaching sunset.

 

roussillon-ochre-cliff

The ochre cliffs remind me of a less intense version of Uluru

Roussillon is definitely one of the livelier villages in Provence in terms of nightlife. When we went, there was a massive assembly of people assembled watching a soccer game, with pop and dance music blaring loudly. There were plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities, but this town seemed to lack some of the charm of the other towns, despite the gorgeous setting and the lovely red brick.

roussillon-night-photo

A night scene in Roussillon

 

Gordes: Hordes of Tourists and Gorgeous Views

This is worth visiting for the stunning vista alone. On your way up the mountain up to Gordes, you get the most beautiful view of the entire town built on the hillside. It’s like something out of a fairy tale (except that most fairy tales don’t include selfie-stick wielding tourists). Still, everyone flocks there for a reason, and despite being filled with tourists this hill town is chock full of charm.

Villages in Provence - Gordes

You can’t help but marvel at the will of people who built this village nearly a thousand years ago

This also has one of the more charming centers, with alleyways that are easy to get lost in, and a beautiful 12th century church. It also has the added benefit of being close to the iconic Abbaye de Senanque, with its gorgeous lavender fields.

Provence Villages - abbaye de senanque

The ethereal Abbaye de Senanque. If there’s one can’t-miss place in Provence, it’s this.

Bonnieux: Upscale With Unbeatable Views

Like Gordes, Bonnieux is one of the most picturesque villages in Provence, though this time the view you get is best upon leaving the city headed towards Buoux. In fact, if you drive towards Buoux, you’ll encounter one of the most beautiful open lavender fields that all of Provence has to offer.

Lavender fields in villages of Provence

Frolic away, but watch for bees – they go nuts for lavender!

There’s also a 12th century church up at the top of Bonnieux, which you usually can’t enter – but it’s worth a walk up to the top to get these views.

Villages in Provence- Bonnieux

It’s definitely worth the walk up to the top of Bonnieux, even in the Provencal summer heat!

However, Bonnieux is definitely a little more upscale than some of these villages, with expensive shopping and pricier restaurants to boot. It’s absolutely worth the day trip, but I don’t know if I’d splurge on staying there.

Fontaine de Vaucluse: The Mouth of the Sorgue River

Of all the villages in Provence, this one has perhaps the most natural beauty. This cute little town is set on the beautiful Sorgue River, which must be seen to be believed. It almost looks as if a jungle has been permanently flooded with the clearest water you’ve ever seen. So much plant life grows at the bottom of the river that it is a vibrant shade of green, both alien and wholly natural. Where the river gets deep, there are spots of brilliant blue turquoise.

Fountaine de Vaucluse - Villages in Provence

The frigid but beautiful Sorgue River

 

Fountaine de Vaucluse - Villages in Provence

Completely unedited – the river is really that colorful!

There is an amazing kayaking trip starting from Fontaine de Vaucluse and ending in L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue that I highly recommend doing while in Provence.

Lacoste: The Birthplace of Sadism

This small town is best known its most famous resident: the Marquis de Sade, the man who gave his name to sadism by garnering a reputation for crapping in young girl’s mouths. His history lives on in the remnants of his burned down castle at the top of this quaint little hill town.

Provence Villages - Lacoste

The burned down remnants of Marquis de Sade’s former chateau

Unsavory history aside, this is a beautiful little town, with a few cafés and not much else. It is also home to an art school, so there are quite a few American and other foreign exchange students. Because of this, it has a younger vibe than the rest of the towns, which skew older. The Café de Sade is a great place to lunch, with gorgeous views looking over the Luberon Valley.

Villages in Provence - Lacoste

Who would have thought that this gorgeous town would be the hometown of literature’s most famous pervert?

Goult: The Just-Right Village

­­­­This small Provencal village lacks the big draws of the other – and therein lies its appeal. It doesn’t have the gorgeous mountainside views of Gordes or Bonnieux, nor the stunning ochre cliffs of Rousillon. So why, then, is this my favorite of all the villages in Provence?

It has a sense of peace and quiet that other hill towns don’t have. Like all of Provence, there are plenty of tourists; you’re just as likely to hear English or German as French. Still, the day-trippers with their selfie sticks seem to have not descended on Goult. It has both everything you need – a boucherie, a boulangerie/patisserie, a fruitier, a café, and plenty of restaurants.It has an amazing épicerie, which is basically a New York bodega, except you can buy duck a l’orange terrine for four euros there (so I guess not like a bodega at all).

Villages of Provence - Goult

The gorgeous former post office in Goult

The architecture is also some of the most beautiful, in its understated way. The facades of the buildings are either limestone brick or pale hues of salmon. The potential monotony of this palette is dispersed with doors and shutters in vibrant pastels.

Villages of Provence - Goult

Beautiful painted doors and shutters give personality to this small town.

Its Thursday market is unreal, a hedonistic celebration of the senses: lavender sachets and spices, crisp soft linens, the ripest strawberries, the softest cheeses…. Had I not been limited by my backpack, half the town would have been coming home with me.

produce in Goult Provence

With produce this amazing, eating at home is a luxury, not a chore – so stay at a rental with a kitchen, for sure!

There are so many quiet places to take in the sunset, without anyone else around. It’s really a magical place, and one I’ll be back to time and time again.

Goult Provence

Not a soul around

 

Sunset in Goult Provence

Complete solitude taking in the sunset at the top of Goult

Recommended Accommodations: In the smaller villages, hotels are few and far between. Use Airbnb for great deals – use my link for a credit towards your first stay!. My friends and i stayed in a gorgeous stone house for $20 each per night. If you prefer a hotel, the towns of Gordes, Roussillon, and L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue have the most options.
Further Reading: A Year in Provence for inspiration; Rick Steves Provence for a guidebook
Useful tips: Provence is best in summer and fall, with especially amazing produce in the summer! It’s great to stay in an Airbnb with a kitchen so you can make the most of the markets. Lavender abounds in the summer as well, so if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s the best time to visit.

Provence: land of lavender and sunflowers, delicious pastries and cheeses, outstanding local wines, and quaint hill towns. There are so many towns to choose from - here are 6 of my favorites from the Luberon area of Provence. Provence: land of lavender and sunflowers, delicious pastries and cheeses, outstanding local wines, and quaint hill towns. There are so many towns to choose from - here are 6 of my favorites from the Luberon area of Provence.

Which village would you stay in? Do you have any favorites to recommend?

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Kelly | A Pair of Passports
    July 31, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Lovely photos! I love the sound of these villages. When I visited Marseille, we did a wine tasting trip through Provence and absolutely loved the countryside; unfortunately we did not have enough time to explore the villages, though. I guess it’s just an excuse to go back 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      August 1, 2016 at 11:52 pm

      Mmm Provencal wine is so good 🙂 I always feel that way when I don’t get to make it to a destination – I just tell myself that now I have a reason to go back! There are so many villages in Provence I didn’t get to see, so I’ll be back for sure one day!

  • Reply
    Mado Reid
    September 3, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    I’ve been to all and spent a week in Goult, using that as a base. Great choices!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      September 4, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      That’s really the way to do it, I think! Goult is best experienced through living there and absorbing its everyday routines – and I think the others are more fun to visit for the day. Glad you enjoyed! Please share if you have any village recommendations for my next trip 🙂

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