12 Top-Rated Attractions of Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, Provence
An idyllic piece of rural landscape, the Luberon is a wonderfully off-the-beaten-path area of Provence. The area's enchanting small towns and gorgeous unspoiled countryside are some of the top attractions of Provence. The entire Luberon falls within the boundaries of a regional park based around the Montagne du Lubéron (Luberon Mountain range).
The UNESCO-listed Parc Naturel Régional du Lubéron is a 120,000-hectare nature reserve, which encompasses rugged limestone mountains, gently rolling hills, lush woodlands, and verdant valleys. Medieval villages perchés (perched villages) and charming old farmhouses are scattered throughout the patchwork of lavender fields, orchards, and olive groves.
Exploring this picturesque area requires a car, but a driving itinerary is easy to do since many of the region's best places to visit are only about 10 to 30 kilometers apart. Visitors will enjoy wandering the cobblestone lanes in quaint little towns, soaking up the relaxing Provençal ambience, and savoring the authentic regional cuisine.
Also not to be missed are local specialties, such as the melons of Cavaillon, renowned for their delicate flavor, and the prized black truffles -culinary treasures found on truffle hunts outside the village of Ménerbes and in the surrounding terrain.
Many tourists will discover favorite regional dishes like ratatouille (seasonal stewed vegetables), pistou (similar to minestrone soup), pissaladière (onion tart), tapenade (olive spread), chestnut soup, and cherry clafouti (a custard dessert baked with cherries).
Plan your trip with our list of the best places to visit and things to do in Parc Naturel Régional du Lubéron.
1. Gordes: A Picture-Perfect Hilltop Village
Justifiably listed as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France" (Most Beautiful Villages of France), this picture-perfect hilltop village began to attract artists in the mid-20th century, including Victor Vasarély, Marc Chagall, and Pol Mara.
As a typical village perché (perched village), Gordes stands dramatically on a steep promontory overlooking the landscape (40 kilometers from Avignon). Its nearly inaccessible location protected against invasions during the Middle Ages.
An imposing fortified castle, the Château de Gordes, dominates the village with its enormous defensive walls and crenellated towers. This well-preserved Historic Monument is now a cultural center that displays temporary exhibits. Nearby at the Place du Château are many cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
For an overnight stay, La Bastide de Gordes offers luxurious accommodations amid the landscape of olive groves and cypress trees overlooking medieval Gordes. Guests rooms are decorated in traditional 18th-century style, complete with antiques and fine art. This sumptuous five-star property includes an outdoor swimming pool and several gourmet restaurants.
Five kilometers from Gordes is the Sénanque Abbey. This 12th-century Cistercian abbey is encircled by a peaceful environment of lavender fields and rolling hills. The abbey is still a working monastery, but tourists may visit the church, chapter house, dormitory, and cloister. It is also possible to attend religious services in the chapel.
The Musée de la Lavande in Coustellet (eight kilometers from Gordes) educates visitors about the heritage of lavender farming; lavender-distilling techniques; and the botanical properties of the fragrant flowers. The museum's boutique sells soaps, cosmetic products, and fragrances made with Appellation d'Origine Protégée lavender essential oil.
To continue sightseeing, other recommended stops are at the freshwater springs of Fontaine de Vaucluse (10 kilometers from Coustellet) and the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (12 kilometers from Coustellet), which delights with its scenic canals, traditional Provençal market, and antique shops.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gordes
2. Ménerbes from A Year in Provence
Another of France's "Plus Beaux Villages," Ménerbes clings to a rocky outcrop (about 15 kilometers from Gordes) overlooking the Luberon Valley, Mont Ventoux, and the Vaucluse mountains. Several hiking trails depart from the village into the scenic countryside, alongside cherry tree orchards and vine-covered fields.
Because of its gorgeous scenery and small-town charm, this winsome country village began to attract writers and artists (such as Picasso and Nicolas de Staël) in the 20th century. But it was author Peter Mayle who really put the village on the tourist map with his novel A Year in Provence (published in 1989), which was set in Ménerbes.
The village's atmospheric streets are lined with old stone houses and historic monuments. Highlights are the 16th-century Eglise Saint-Luc; the 18th-century Chapelle Saint-Blaise; and Le Castelet, a medieval château built on the ruins of a 12th-century fortress.
Renowned for its gastronomy, Ménerbes hosts an open-air Provençal market every Thursday morning in the center of town. The village also has a handful of restaurants that serve gourmet fare. There are also a few casual cafés with sunny outdoor terraces.
Several annual events also draw gourmands: the Goat Cheese Market in April or May and a Truffle Market held on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's Day. Other truffle markets are held in Carpentras (40 kilometers away) and in Richerenches (90 kilometers away).
For those intrigued by the idea of truffle hunting, the Maison de la Truffe (an upscale restaurant that serves cuisine based on truffles) may on occasion organize outings to search for the prized Truffe du Périgord - also known as "black diamonds."
About four kilometers away from Ménerbes is the Abbaye Saint-Hilaire, a classified Historic Monument that dates back to the 12th century. In the 13th century, the abbey welcomed Louis IX (Saint Louis) on his return from the Crusades in the Holy Land. This former Carmelite monastery has the calming ambience of a spiritual retreat. Although the site is privately owned, tourists may visit from April through November.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ménerbes
3. Lourmarin: Provençal Festivals and Art de Vivre
In a protected valley at the foot of the Luberon Mountains, Lourmarin is sheltered from the Mistral winds and enjoys pleasant, sunny days. This picturesque community, another of the "Most Beautiful Villages" in the Luberon, offers a taste of the Provençal art de vivre (art of living). A traditional Provençal market is held on Friday mornings in the center of town.
The village is filled with outdoor cafés, bustling bistros, excellent restaurants, and inviting hotels, as well as artisan boutiques and art galleries. Atmospheric cobblestone streets lead to peaceful fountain-adorned squares and historic monuments.
The Eglise Saint-André et Saint-Trophime, a church founded in the 11th century and renovated in the 16th century, is an interesting blend of Romanesque and Gothic style. The village also has a Protestant temple, an austere house of worship built in the early 19th century.
An architectural highlight of Lourmarin is its Renaissance Château de Lourmarin, standing majestically on a hilltop overlooking the Lourmarin Valley, the Durance Plain, and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Views from the château's tower are exceptional.
The château and its art collection are owned by the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Aix-en-Provence, which collaborates with the Robert Laurent-Vibert Foundation to support an Artist in Residence program, bringing talented painters, sculptors, and musicians to the château during the summer months.
During summertime and early autumn, the Château de Lourmarin hosts the Festival des Musiques. This prestigious classical music festival includes piano recitals, jazz concerts, and opera performances.
Near the village, a scenic viewpoint on the crest of the Grand Lubéron Mountain offers a magnificent panorama and fabulous photo-ops. Continuing about seven kilometers away from Lourmarin is the village of Cucuron at the foot of the Luberon Mountain, the starting point of a hike up to Le Mourre Nègre summit.
Other attractions in Cucuron are the Romanesque and Gothic parish church and the Musée de Cucuron (also known as the Musée Marc Deydier), which displays Marc Deydier's archaeology and photography collections in the 17th-century Hôtel des Bouliers (mansion).
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lourmarin
4. Roussillon: A Village Perched on an Ochre Cliff
A stunning village perché (perched on the top of an ochre cliff), Roussillon is another of France's "Most Beautiful Villages." To enter the historic village, visitors must walk through the Clock Tower. From here, it's an uphill walk along the narrow steps of the Rue de l'Arcade to the Place de la Mairie.
Near the village church, the Eglise Saint-Michel, is the Place du Castrum, where a terrace affords spectacular panoramas of the countryside. More amazing vistas can be seen from the Rue des Bourgades.
Roussillon is found between the Plateau de Vaucluse and the Montagne du Lubéron (17 kilometers from Ménerbes and 10 kilometers away from Gordes) in a distinct landscape.
Just outside of the village are impressive ochre rock formations, the Chaussée des Géants (Street of the Giants). Another striking formation is the Val des Fées (Valley of the Fairies).
One of the most fascinating ochre sites is the Colorado Provençal (10 kilometers from Roussillon), found between the Luberon Mountains and the Monts de Vaucluse. Here, visitors can see the old quarries where the ochre deposits were once mined for commercial use (as natural pigments for stucco, paints, and dyes).
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Roussillon
5. Cavaillon: A Melon Festival and Rich Jewish Heritage
In the sun-soaked countryside at the edge of the Luberon Regional Nature Park, the little provincial town of Cavaillon is the center of melon-growing in Provence. The village also has an interesting cultural heritage.
The Cathédrale Saint-Véran, built in the 12th century, exemplifies Romanesque Provençal style. Its exterior is austere, but the interior is beautifully decorated with capitals in the apse and an exquisite cloister.
Cavaillon also has a splendid synagogue (on the Rue Hébraïque), a masterpiece of Jewish-Provençal (Comtadin) architecture. Although it is no longer used as a synagogue, the building has been well preserved and now houses the Musée Juif Comtadin (guided tours only), which illustrates the history of the local Jewish population going back to the 13th century.
Another must-see cultural attraction in Cavaillon is the Musée Archéologique de l'Hôtel-Dieu. This impressive archaeology collection displays artifacts uncovered in the Cavaillon area, from the Gallo-Roman period, Roman era, and the Middle Ages.
To celebrate the melon season, Cavaillon hosts a fantastic Melon Festival in mid-July. The festival includes two days of melon tastings, banquets, recipe demonstrations, a cooking competition, and a parade accompanied by brass bands.
Cavaillon's weekly outdoor market is held on Monday mornings on the main street in the center of town.
6. The Bustling Market Town of Bonnieux
A hub of activity in the Luberon, the hilltop village of Bonnieux is brimming with restaurants, cafés, and hotels. The village is found on the northern slope of the Luberon Mountain, about 10 kilometers from Ménerbes and 12 kilometers from Roussillon.
Tourists should be sure to visit the Vieille Eglise (Old Church), a Romanesque monument built between the 12th and 15th centuries and dedicated to Saint Gervais.
The Vieille Eglise is reached by a flight of steps from the Place de la Liberté. Surrounded by mighty cedar trees, the church stands high above the town with spectacular views of the landscape. The panorama extends from the Bassin d'Apt to Gordes and Roussillon and across the Plateau de Vaucluse to Mont Ventoux.
Bonnieux also has a noteworthy museum, the Musée de la Boulangerie, which explores the history of bread and its role in civilization from antiquity to the present day.
On market days (Fridays), Bonnieux becomes a bustling scene of colorful stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, jams, local cheese, quiches, specialties such as tapenade, and Provençal fabrics.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bonnieux
7. Archaeology and Artisan Crafts in Apt
This captivating little village is perched on a hilltop in the heart of the Luberon and is a good base for exploring the region. The town was on the Via Domitia (the old Roman road), and this heritage can be seen at the Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie, which displays Gallo-Roman antiquities. Apt was also a flourishing commercial town during the Middle Ages and benefited from its proximity to Avignon.
The fascinating layers of history are revealed at the Cathédrale Sainte-Anne, originally a Romanesque church that was altered in the 14th and 17th centuries. In the cathedral's Baroque Chapelle Sainte-Anne is a reliquary of Saint Anne. The Treasury possesses reliquaries from Limoges and illuminated manuscripts.
Apt draws crowds to its open-air Provençal market on Saturday mornings, which is one of the largest and busiest in the region. At the many stalls spread throughout the town's streets and squares, vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables; local food products; as well as flowers, fabrics, soaps, perfumes, and other specialty items.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Apt
8. Tiny Hilltop Village of Gargas in the "Route de l'Ocre"
About five kilometers away from Apt, the tiny village of Gargas is found in the forested rolling hills of the Luberon's "Route de l'Ocre" ("Ochre Chain"), where ruddy ochre cliffs and outcrops punctuate the landscape.
Ochre mining was once an important industry of the area. Although production has declined, ochre deposits from nearby quarries are still used to produce stucco, ceramics, pigments for paint and textiles, and other products.
Tourists can visit the Mines de Bruoux in Gargas to take a guided tour of the ochre caves (650 meters of maze-like galleries) that were carved out by miners while exploiting the valuable mineral.
Other attractions in the town include the 17th-century parish church, the Eglise Saint-Denis, which is adorned with lavish tapestries and paintings, and the stately Château des Condés, now the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall).
Foodies will appreciate the culinary heritage of Gargas. The town is known for its artisanal preserved fruits and jams. Nearby in Beaumettes (17 kilometers away) is the Confiserie Saint-Denis, an exceptional confectionary shop that has crafted fruits confits (candied fruit) in the old-fashioned way since 1873. In fact, candied fruits have been a local tradition since the 14th century.
Another regional gastronomic specialty is Banon cheese. Designated with an AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) label for its guarantee of quality and authenticity, Banon cheese is made from unpasteurized goat's milk and encased in chestnut tree leaves. This unique cheese is prized for its slightly sweet, thoroughly creamy, and delicately nutty flavor.
For those who would like to further discover the local food culture, it's recommended to visit Gargas on a Wednesday, when the town hosts a Provençal market.
Five kilometers from Gargas is the Coquillade Village, a five-star resort hotel tucked away in the vine-covered, rolling hills. This Relais & Châteaux property boasts two large outdoor swimming pools, an upscale spa, and three restaurants.
9. Cadenet: Culture, Cuisine, and Festivals
This medieval hilltop village presides over the banks of the Durance River about five kilometers from Lourmarin. Steeped in history, Cadenet has the alluring ambience of a Provençal village perché with its idyllic views and quiet, old streets.
The village spirals out in concentric circles around the hillsides and is dominated by the ruins of an 11th-century château with Cadenet's 17th-century parish church outside the historic center. The church features a room filled with sacred relics and unique baptism fonts, which were made from fragments of a marble Roman sarcophagus.
Cadenet is a great place to soak up the local culture and savor the cuisine. Throughout the year there are many cultural events and festivals. On Monday mornings, the town's traditional market attracts locals who come to shop for fresh ingredients and artisanal products. A farmers market is held on Saturday mornings from May through November.
Gourmands may want to stop for a meal at the Auberge La Fenière (Route de Lourmarin), a luxury hotel with a Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant. During spring and summer, the restaurant's patio area is a delightful place to enjoy a leisurely meal.
Accomodation: Where to Stay in Cadenet
10. Abbaye de Silvacane
This remarkable 12th-century Cistercian abbey is found in the village of La Roque d'Anthéron (seven kilometers from Cadenet) at the foot of the Montagne du Lubéron. The name of the abbey comes from the Latin words "silva cannorum" (meaning "forest of reeds") and indicates that the area was formerly marshland.
Founded in 1144 and completed in 1230, the abbey is a superb example of architecture blending Romanesque and early Gothic styles. The cloister and monastery buildings were built from 1250 to 1300, while the refectory dates to the 15th century, revealing a later Gothic style with more elaborate vaulting.
Thanks to its inspiring architecture and serene setting, the abbey is popular as a venue for weddings, as well as other events. During summertime, the abbey hosts renowned music festival concerts.
The abbey is open to the public every day except Mondays from October through May (except Christmas, January 1st and May 1st) and every day from June through September.
11. Aristocratic Joucas
The picturesque village of Joucas (five kilometers from Roussillon and eight kilometers from Gordes) is found in a tranquil setting on a wooded hillside. Rich in history, Joucas belonged to a group of noble families who gave their property to the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem (they later became the Knights of Malta) in the early 13th century.
This lovely village perché (perched village) is distinguished by its quaint cobbled streets, pedestrian staircases, and terraces with views of the surrounding landscape. The houses feature characteristic Provençal architecture of stone buildings with pastel shutters and red-tile roofs. Visitors can easily spend a few hours wandering around to discover the charming hidden corners and quiet squares with refreshing fountains.
Looking out beyond the village, visitors can admire a patchwork of farmlands in the plains. For those who'd like to discover the scenery further, there is a trail just outside the town for hiking and nature walks.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Joucas
12. Lacoste: A Dainty Village Renovated by Pierre Cardin
This tiny hilltop village delights visitors with its beauty and old-world charm. A typical medieval village perché, Lacoste features winding pedestrian lanes, ancient stone buildings, and amazing views of the surrounding countryside. Panoramas extend to the Monts de Vaucluse and Mont Ventoux. Several outdoor cafés in the village have scenic terraces.
Lacoste owes much of its present beauty to renovations funded by the famous designer Pierre Cardin. The 11th-century Château de Lacoste, which crowns the village, was purchased by Cardin in 2001. The designer restored the castle from a state of ruin and redecorated the grand rooms in eclectic designer style.
The Château de Lacoste is open to the public for visits in July and August. During August, the Festival de Lacoste, a festival of classical music, opera, theater, and dance, as well as the Festival de Cinema, are held at outdoor performance venues within the castle grounds.
Lacoste is located about six kilometers from Bonnieux and eight kilometers from Ménerbes. From Lacoste, there is a gentle walking path through the Forêt des Cèdres (Cedar Forest).
Where to Stay in the Luberon Region: Best Areas & Hotels
Most of the accommodations are rural retreats that will appeal to travelers who prefer a quiet, romantic countryside destination geared towards relaxation and sightseeing by car. Many of the resort-like properties offer spas and opportunities for outdoor sports. A few of the hotels are found right in villages. Below are recommendations of highly rated boutique hotels and resorts in several different categories.
- Luxury Hotels: Discerning travelers will appreciate the relaxing environment and upscale accommodations at Le Mas des Herbes Blanches, a five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel nestled in a wooded parkland (three kilometers from Joucas). Guest rooms feature terraces with breathtaking views of the bucolic landscape. Amenities include a gastronomic restaurant, spa, and outdoor swimming pool.
La Bastide de Marie gives travelers a taste of the good life in Provence. The four-star hotel occupies a restored 18th-century farmhouse near Ménerbes. Everything about the property reveals the region's famous art de vivre, from the lavender-filled gardens and pleasant outdoor terraces used for al fresco dining to the quaint French country interior.
In a serene pastoral landscape outside of Joucas village, Le Phébus & Spa is a five-star Relais & Châteaux property. The hotel occupies an old stone farmhouse surrounded by lovely gardens. Amenities include a Michelin-starred restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, and tennis court.
- Mid-Range Hotels: La Bastide de Soubeyras is a charming bed-and-breakfast hotel set on a 2.5-hectare wooded domain, overlooking Mont Ventoux and the village of Ménerbes. The property includes an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by a beautiful garden.
Five kilometers from the village of Roussillon, the three-star Hôtel La Clé des Champs offers spacious accommodations in a dreamy setting, surrounded by lavender fields and vine-covered hills. The hotel has a garden, outdoor swimming pool, spa facilities, guest rooms with private terraces, and a restaurant with patio seating.
The four-star Domaine de Capelongue offers guests an authentic Provençal experience at a rural retreat, just two kilometers from Bonnieux. This Relais & Châteaux property occupies a renovated farmhouse with a swimming pool, spa, two-star dining room, a casual Provençal restaurant, and snack bar. Cooking classes are also available.
- Budget Hotels: The Hôtel Le Palais is found in the historic center of Apt, convenient for walking to restaurants and cafés. This two-star hotel provides basic accommodations and a small on-site restaurant. Guest rooms are on several floors, and there is no elevator.
Just outside the village of Ménerbes (about one kilometer away), the Hostellerie Le Roy Soleil feels like a resort because of its tranquil natural surroundings. Nestled amid pine trees and olive groves overlooking the Luberon mountains, the property is a renovated 16th-century farmhouse with a lush garden, outdoor swimming pool, and gourmet restaurant.