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12 Top-Rated Attractions of Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, Provence

Written by Lisa Alexander

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.

Ménerbes

Ménerbes

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 top attractions in Parc Naturel Régional du Lubéron.

1. Gordes: A Picture-Perfect Hilltop Village

Gordes: A Picture-Perfect Hilltop Village

The perched village of Gordes

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 ancient fortress, the Château de Gordes, dominates the village with its immense fortifications and crenellated towers. Open to the public for visits, the château now houses the Pol Mara Museum. Near the castle at the Place du Château are many cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

A must-see attraction outside of Gordes (five kilometers away) 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 are welcome to attend the religious services in the chapel and explore the grounds. Visitors can also see the abbey on a guided tour. A top tourist site nearby is the Musée de la Lavande (Lavender Museum) in Coustellet (eight kilometers from Gordes), which educates visitors about the heritage of lavender use since Roman times, explains lavender farming and lavender-distilling techniques, and celebrates the botanical properties of the fragrant flowers. The museum also sells a special line of soaps, cosmetic products, and fragrances made with pure essential oils sourced from Appellation d'Origine Protégée (Protected Geographic Origin) lavender.

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

Ménerbes From A Year in Provence

Ménerbes from A Year in Provence

Another of France's "Plus Beaux Villages" (Most Beautiful Villages), Ménerbes is a characteristic Provençal hilltop village (about 15 kilometers from Gordes) overlooking the Luberon Valley and Mont Ventoux. Several hiking trails depart from the village into the scenic countryside. Because of its beautiful scenery and small-town charm, the quiet 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 14th-century Parish Church; the 18th-century Chapelle Saint-Blaise; and Le Castelet, a medieval château built on the ruins of a 12th-century fortress. Ménerbes is a vibrant community with many local artisan shops and lively events and festivals throughout the year. At the end of July and in early August, there is an Italian film festival. In November, the Salon du Santon gets the town ready for Christmas with a market of traditional manger figurines and nativity scenes.

Renowned for its gastronomy, Ménerbes hosts an outstanding Provençal market every Thursday morning in the center of town. 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."

3. Lourmarin: Provençal Festivals and Art de Vivre

Lourmarin: Provençal Festivals and Art de Vivre

Lourmarin | decar66 / photo modified

Lourmarin, yet another of the "Most Beautiful Villages" in the Luberon, offers a taste of the Provençal art de vivre (art of living). In a protected valley at the foot of the Luberon Mountains, Lourmarin is sheltered from the Mistral winds and enjoys pleasant, sunny days. 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, such as the Eglise Saint-André et Saint-Trophime. Founded in the 11th century and renovated in the 16th century, the church 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, the château also hosts concerts and music festivals, which are popular with locals and tourists alike. Another event on the list of tourists' favorite things to do in Lourmarin is browse the traditional Provençal market held on Friday mornings in the center of town.

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 the Mourre Nègre viewpoint. Other attractions in Cucuron are the Romanesque and Gothic parish church and the Musée de Cucuron (also known as the Musée Marc Deydier), housed in the Hôtel des Bouliers, a gorgeous 17th-century mansion.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lourmarin

4. Roussillon: A Village Perched on an Ochre Cliff

Roussillon: A Village Perched on an Ochre Cliff

Roussillon at sunset

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. It's worth a stop at the Castrum observation platform to take in panoramas of the surrounding woodlands, the Plateau de Vaucluse, and Mont Ventoux. 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

Cavaillon: A Melon Festival and Rich Jewish Heritage

Cavaillon | jean-louis Zimmermann / photo modified

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) that dates to the 15th century. Renovated in the 18th century, the synagogue is a unique example of Jewish-Provençal architecture. Its ornate Rococo sanctuary is richly adorned with gilded details in the Louis XV style. Although it is no longer used as a synagogue, the building has been well preserved and now houses the Musée Juif Comtadin (open to visitors through guided tours), which illustrates the history of the local Jewish population. Another must-see cultural attraction in Cavaillon is the Musée Archéologique (included with an entry ticket to the Jewish Museum), which displays artifacts 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

The Bustling Market Town of Bonnieux

Beautiful Bonnieux views

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.

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. The Vieille Eglise is reached by a flight of steps from the Place de la Liberté.

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 (Friday mornings), Bonnieux becomes a bustling scene of colorful stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, jams, local cheese, quiches, specialties such as tapenade, and Provençal fabrics.

7. Archaeology and Artisan Crafts in Apt

Archaeology and Artisan Crafts in Apt

A cobbled laneway in Apt

This captivating little village is perched on a hilltop in the heart of the Luberon. 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 has an excellent collection of Gallo-Roman antiquities. Apt was also a flourishing commercial town during the Middle Ages and benefited from its proximity to Avignon (53 kilometers away). 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. Apt is also known for its artisan crafts such as hat-making, ceramics, and handcrafted fruit preserves.

8. Tiny Hilltop Village of Gargas in the "Route de l'Ocre"

Tiny Hilltop Village of Gargas in the

Route de l'Ocre | Patrick Gaudin / photo modified

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 tradition of crafting preserved fruits and jams. Nearby in Beaumettes (17 kilometers away) is one of the region's best confectionary shops, the Confiserie Saint Denis, which makes artisanal candied fruits in the old-fashioned way.

Another gastronomic specialty of the region (from the town of Banon, 36 kilometers from Gargas, and its surroundings) 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.

9. Cadenet: Culture, Cuisine, and Festivals

Cadenet: Culture, Cuisine, and Festivals

The medieval hilltop village of Cadenet

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 delightful place to enjoy a leisurely meal.

10. Abbaye de Silvacane

The Abbey of Silvacane

The 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. 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.

Silvacane - Cistercian Abbey - Floor plan map

Silvacane - Cistercian Abbey Map

11. Aristocratic Joucas

Aristocratic Joucas

Stone buildings in Joucas | Scott Brenner / photo modified

The picturesque village of Joucas (five kilometers from Roussillon and eight kilometers from Gordes) is found in a rural 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 winding cobblestone streets, pedestrian staircases, terraces with views of the surrounding landscape, and elegant old houses adorned with potted flowers. 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 are plenty of opportunities for hiking and nature walks.

12. Lacoste: A Dainty Village Renovated by Pierre Cardin

Lacoste: A Dainty Village Renovated by Pierre Cardin

Lacoste

About six kilometers from Bonnieux and eight kilometers from Ménerbes, Lacoste owes much of its present beauty to renovations funded by the famous designer Pierre Cardin. Overlooking the majestic Monts de Vaucluse and Mont Ventoux in the distance, this enchanting little village delights visitors with its old-world atmosphere and inspiring views. Lacoste is a medieval village perché with tightly packed winding lanes and ancient stone buildings.

The village is crowned by its 11th-century Château de Lacoste, where the infamous Marquis de Sade lived in the 18th century. Pierre Cardin purchased the castle in 2001 and later restored and redecorated the grand rooms in eclectic designer style. The Château de Lacoste is open to the public for visits in July and August and hosts the Festival de Lacoste in July. This prestigious festival brings music, opera, theater, and dance performances to outdoor venues at the château, as well as to a nearby 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater. The village also boasts many art galleries and several pleasant outdoor cafés with scenic terraces. 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: For travelers who are seeking the ultimate in luxury accommodations, La Bastide de Gordes is a perfect choice to enjoy pampering, refinement, and relaxation in the historic village of Gordes. Standing on a hillside at the edge of the town, the hotel treats guests to an authentic, historic experience in a renovated 16th-century aristocratic mansion. The sumptuous guest rooms and reception halls feature opulent decor, which gives the feel of a historic château, complete with antiques and fine art. The property includes part of the town's 12th-century ramparts and terraced gardens with outdoor space offering panoramas of the Luberon's rolling hills. Guest may take advantage of indulgent spa treatments and an outdoor swimming pool. Gourmet food lovers can choose from the hotel's four restaurants, including a Michelin-starred restaurant, another gastronomic restaurant, a romantic dining room, and a more casual bistro.

    Discerning travelers will appreciate the relaxing environment, upscale accommodations, and gourmet cuisine at the Hôtel Le Mas des Herbes Blanches. This five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel is nestled in a wooded parkland three kilometers outside the village of Joucas. The plush contemporary-style rooms feature terraces with breathtaking views of the bucolic landscape. Other amenities include an outdoor patio where breakfast is served, an elegant gastronomic restaurant, a rejuvenating spa, and an outdoor pool open from May through October.

    The Coquillade Village is a five-star resort hotel tucked away in the vine-covered, rolling hills near Gargas (five kilometers from the historic town). This Relais & Châteaux property boasts outstanding amenities: a Kids' Club with babysitting and fun activities for children, a cycling center for embarking on bike rides, an amphitheater with cultural events, two large outdoor swimming pools, a gastronomic restaurant, and other dining options.

    In the countryside outside of Ménerbes, the Hôtel La Bastide de Marie gives travelers an authentic taste of the good life in Provence. The hotel occupies a restored 18th-century farmhouse, decorated in vintage style and surrounded by Mediterranean landscaping such as cypress and olive trees. With an exceptional attention to detail, 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.

  • Mid-Range Hotels: Le Phébus & Spa is relatively affordable for a five-star Relais & Châteaux property. Just outside (within walking distance) of Joucas village, the hotel occupies an old stone farmhouse surrounded by lovely gardens and a serene pastoral landscape. The plush guest rooms are decorated in contemporary French country style. Gourmands will appreciate the hotel's Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant, which serves Provençal cuisine, as well as the cooking classes taught by the restaurant's renowned chef. Other amenities include an 18-meter outdoor swimming pool, a tennis court, walking trail, and a spa with Jacuzzis.

    For a romantic and relaxing getaway, the Hôtel La Bastide de Soubeyras is sure to delight. This boutique bed-and-breakfast hotel, encompassing 2.5 hectares of pristine woodlands, dazzles guests with its sublime natural scenery and outdoor swimming pool in a beautiful garden. The property offers stunning views of the walled village of Ménerbes, as well as Mont Ventoux. The guest rooms are decorated in a sweet, simple style. For a touch of luxury, the hotel offers the finest linens, bathrobes, and towels for the pool.

    In the heart of the Luberon region, five kilometers outside of Roussillon and near Gordes (10 kilometers away), the three-star Hôtel Clé des Champs offers spacious, contemporary rooms in a relaxing environment. The peaceful three-hectare estate is surrounded by lavender fields and vine-covered hills with the Vaucluse mountains in the distance. The hotel has an expansive garden with a swimming pool, rooms with private terraces, and a restaurant with patio seating.

    An excellent choice of accommodations near the village of Bonnieux (two kilometers away), the four-star Domaine de Capelongue is an authentic Provençal retreat in a romantic, rural setting. Guest rooms are decorated in a simple, contemporary style with rustic touches. For a completely pampering experience, the hotel has a swimming pool, spa, and two gourmet restaurants. Cooking classes are also available.

  • Budget Hotels: A great place to stay in the center of Apt and a good base for exploring the Luberon region, the Hôtel le Palais is convenient for walking to restaurants and cafés. The hotel is also in the heart of town where the famous Provençal market of Apt is held. In a characteristic pastel-blue shuttered building, this two-star hotel packs a surprising amount of charm considering the budget-friendly price. The accommodations are basic (and there is no elevator), but the hotel does have a casual restaurant, which features homemade local specialties. A typical French continental breakfast buffet is available.

    Just outside the village of Ménerbes (about one kilometer away), the Hôtel Nulle Part Ailleurs feels like a resort because of its tranquil natural surroundings. Overlooking the Luberon mountain range (the foothills of the Alps), the property features a beautifully landscaped garden with a swimming pool (open from May through September) and picnic areas. A continental breakfast is included.

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