The hilltop villages of Provence are legendary: cobbled streets, colorfully-painted doors and window shutters, plants growing in a tangle of vines all throughout the village.
But the Provence region is massive: when you talk about Provence, you’re talking about the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France, which could mean anything from Marseille to Cannes to Aix-en-Provence to Avignon.
Though really, when you think of Provence, you probably think of a particular landscape: hilly with sprawling lavender fields and sunflower fields, interspersed with tiny villages with narrow streets and cafés spilling out the sidewalks.
And there’s nowhere in France better to find that than in the Luberon region of France!
The villages of the Luberon Valley are spectacular: there’s a reason the writer Peter Mayle found himself so enraptured with this region that he settled down in Ménerbes and wrote A Year in Provence, a memoir of his first year living there.
Here, we’ll go into my favorite Luberon villages and also where to stay in each!
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Quintessentially Provençal, the hilltop town of Gordes deserves its laurels as one of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France — an association of France’s most beautiful villages.
In this charming town, a labyrinth of cobbled lanes weave their way up to the top of the hill, where Le Château de Gordes — first completed in 1031 — towers above the town.
Below the castle and under the feet of the tourist crowds of Gordes, the Caves of Palais Saint Firmin offer an intriguing peek into the town’s history, with its subterranean world of ancient cellars and olive presses.
Another Gordes landmark, the L’Eglise Saint Firmin is absolutely worth seeing while in town. Constructed atop a 12th-century church and later refurbished in the 18th century, the church strikes an impressive balance of old and new.
Just outside of town, the postcard-famous Abbey de Sénanque grows its lavender fields each year, tended to by the monks who still live there. A visit there is a must.
Tip: Gordes has its weekly market on Tuesday — that’s when this already-busy town becomes positively heaving with crowds, but it may be worth it to experience the Provencal experience of perusing fresh produce and finding special local products to bring home.
So-named because of its rust-red ochre cliffs, Roussillon is another one of the most beautiful villages in Provence’s Luberon Valley.
Rousillon is a wonderful place to while away a few hours in the center, with its cheery, mustard yellow Church of St.-Michel and Place de la Mairie, the square where you’ll find the picturesque town hall.
Another cool part of the village to explore is Castrum, which is its old fortified center, demonstrating the old historical importance of this Provence village.
If you’re looking to incorporate a little hiking into your Provence trip, the Ochre Trail (Sentier des Ocres) is a beautiful place for a stroll along an orange, red, and white almost-otherworldly landscape.
There are two ways you can walk the trail, one taking about 60 minutes and the other about 40 minutes… or you can take both, as they both loop to the same start and finish point.
It is a little crowded here as this is one of the most famous of the Luberon villages due to its panoramic views and unique rust-red landscape, but it’s still worth it to pop by for a visit.
My personal favorite of the Luberon villages, Goult doesn’t have anything that these other villages don’t… but that’s part of why I like it.
Goult exudes a tranquility and serenity unmatched by its other Luberon villages. Despite its undeniable charm, the hordes of tourists you’ll encounter elsewhere in Provence aren’t as present here.
Goult remains delightfully immune to the influx of day-trippers and tour buses, a town built for its people rather than for tourism.
The town itself caters to all the needs you’d have as a local — a butcher, a boulangerie and patisserie, a greengrocer, an épicerie, and a charming bistro — making it a great place to stay on a self-catered Provence trip.
The architectural beauty of Goult is breathtaking in its subtlety, with its limestone brick architecture punctuated with pops of color in its painted doors and window shutters.
If you’re looking to experience a market day, the Thursday market in Goult is perfect, as the town isn’t generally too busy, so the market is a little more sedate (this is a good thing).
The stalls burst with fragrant lavender sachets, soft cheeses, gauzy linens, and the ripest strawberries you’ll ever eat: all the hallmarks of a Provence summer.
Among all the charming villages dotting Provence, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse has perhaps the most beautiful natural scenery. Nestled on the banks of the Sorgue River, this town is home to the river’s source.
The water flows nonstop from the karst spring, the largest in France (and fifth largest in the world!).
Its depth is almost unfathomable (pardon the pun) — it was the subject of speculation amongst technical divers for decades.
The spring even brought the likes of the father of scuba diving himself, Jacques Cousteau, to investigate its depths, who maxed out at 243 feet without reaching the bottom.
Later attempts with divers using trimix reached a maximum depth of 673 feet — and still never reached the bottom. Finally, a robot settled the score when it reached the bottom at 1,010 feet. Sorry for the tangent — I’m a huge dive geek.
Moving on: the river it creates is simply beautiful, a pure kaleidoscope of all shades of green and blue possible.
The town built along the river is extremely charming, but gets rather busy with crowds of tourists and lots of boutiques catering to them.
To get away from it all, you can rent a kayak and explore the River Sorgue, even taking the kayak all the way down to L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue!
Allison Green is a former teacher who has been travel blogging since 2016. She has a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her background as an educator with her experience traveling to 70+ countries to encourage ethical, meaningful travel. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now a full-time traveler, she has lived in Prague, Sofia, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area.