What do the smell of lavender, the sound of crickets, the sight of old men playing petanque and the feel of a southern summer breeze have in common? The answer is Provence, one of France’s most loved road trip destinations. Experiencing Provence in a motorhome is the best way to see for yourself what makes this region in southeastern France so special. Ready to take in some of France’s finest sights? This Provence road trip itinerary will guide you right to them.
Provence Road Trip Itinerary
Provence lies in the southeastern region of France. It stretches from the river Rhône in the west, to the Italian border in the east, to the French Alpes in the North and the Côte d’Azur in the South. This explains its more official geographical name: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
From snow-capped mountains to the glistening Mediterranean Sea, Provence is incredibly diverse. However, the picture that comes to most travellers' minds when thinking about that sought-after Provence experience is one of the rolling hills — often covered by blooming lavender, picturesque hilltop villages and deep gorges carved out by rushing rivers. This Provence Itinerary will take you through those pictured, more inland areas, with a gem of a coastal spot as the cherry on top.
So grab your flip-flops and sunscreen, jump in one of our motorhomes available for hire in France and head for those dreamy deep-purple hills just in time for bloom season.
Stop 1: Avignon
The first stop on your ultimate Provence road trip itinerary is a city break, but not your average one, as Avignon is hardly an average town. If a little lyric that goes something like “on y danse, on y danse” has popped into your head, you have it right! We’re undeniably talking of the town that’s home to the famous Pont d’Avignon, a beautiful bridge which is part of UNESCO World Heritage, that reaches from the city centre across the gorgeous river Rhône.
Once, in its medieval glory time, the Pont d’Avignon did span the Rhône. Over the years multiple wars, floods and the erosional force of the river took its toll on the structure, which was rebuilt and rebuilt until the people of Avignon finally gave up. The best place to admire the iconic half bridge? Stay the night at Camping Pont d’Avignon, where if you’re lucky you can park your campervan on the pitches right in front of it — and get to giggle at the passing tour boats that blast the renowned tune through their speakers. On y danse!
The town of Avignon is so much more than its famous bridge or the colossal Palace of the Popes that looms over the rampart-ringed city. That’s right, former popes of the Catholic Church once lived in Avignon, before they set up camp in the Vatican. The palace is definitely worth a visit (book in advance!) but also be sure to go on a stroll through the rest of the lively city centre.
Avignon is an ideal place to get your first (literal) taste of Provence. Wander over slick marble-tiled squares shaded by a leafy canopy, sit down at one of the many restaurants, indulge in Provençal cuisine and let the smell of its classic herbs such as rosemary, oregano and thyme wash over you.
Stop 2: Villages of Luberon
In the eastern direction from Avignon, head towards the Massif du Luberon. This mountainous yet fertile stretch of land is famous for its grape vines, wheat and lavender fields, olive groves and bright orange ochre mines. Where the northern region of Luberon has more of an Alpine feel, the southern slopes lean towards a Mediterranean climate.
A highlight of this whole region is that it’s dotted by quaint hilltop villages that date back centuries. Favourites are Gordes, Bonnieux, Roussillon, Lacoste and Ménerbes. Each is alike with their impossibly narrow cobbled streets and colourful shuttered houses, but different in personality and character. Don’t miss out on Fontaine de Vaucluse. This exceptionally scenic spot is where France’s largest natural spring wells up from the earth.
Our main tip for experiencing the beautiful region of Luberon by road trip is to take your time. Unless you want to spend all day behind the wheel, don’t rush from village to village in a single day. Rather take a couple, and soak up Luberon’s Provençal charm at a slower pace. Driving through Provence should be part of the fun, not a means to an end.
Stop 3: Plateau de Valensole
Better open those campervan windows and take a good whiff, because where in Luberon the scent of lavender is a bonus, on the Plateau de Valensole it is the essence. At an average altitude of 1600 feet, the Valensole Plateau is where the concentration of lavender fields in the Provence skyrockets. Endless waves of purple, interrupted by the occasional yellow of a sunflower field, the Valensole Plateau has earned its rightful place at the heart of your Provence road trip itinerary.
Want to experience the region at its peak beauty? Make sure to plan your road trip during the blooming season, which stretches from mid-June to early August. Do you want to visit hotspots such as Lavendes Angelvin — the most photographed lavender field in Provence? Try and get there early in the morning to beat the crowds. Although we must admit, nothing quite beats the sunset as a lavender backdrop.
Stop 4: Gorges du Verdon
Prepare to be wowed! The Gorges du Verdon is one of France’s most visited river gorges and with good reason. It’s the longest river canyon in Europe, which has been eroded by the mighty river Verdon into a massive chalk plateau to a depth of more than 2000 feet. Aside from its dazzling depth, which is best admired from atop the gorge’s cliffs (not for the faint-hearted), it’s the bright blue colour of the water that will leave you stunned.
A network of incredibly beautiful D-roads wraps itself around the Gorges du Verdon, and although some sections are quite steep, we highly recommend exploring them for an unforgettable view. Check out our tips on How to Drive a Motorhome in the Mountains if the thought has you a little shaky at the knees. Rather stay closer to sea level? Take a different — and more refreshing — kind of plunge into the pristine Lake Sainte-Croix, which sits at the foot of the gorge.
Stop 5: Aix-en-Provence
To get to the next stop on your Provence Itinerary, make your way south to Aix-en-Provence. Nicknamed ‘The city of a thousand fountains’, Aix-en-Provence loosely translates to ‘waters in the Provence’, referring to the city’s ancient water sources that were used by the Romans.
Just like Avignon, Aix-en-Provence bursts of Provençal charm, and to some it’s by far the most attractive city in the whole region. Enjoy the backdrop of 16th and 17th-century architectural treats that are scattered over the city. Stroll along boulevards lined with towering Plane trees, their camouflage-pattered bark just as iconic to Provence as lavender. Sip a glass of chilled rosé aside many of the moss-covered fountains. Shop for souvenirs in colourful boutiques or grab some produce from the bustling markets, which some say are the finest in Provence.
Stop 6: Calanques National Park
After experiencing the best inland Provence has to offer, it’s time to head towards the coastline. Head south for about an hour towards Marseille, where the stunning beaches of the Massif du Calanques await you.
The beautiful Calanques National Park is wedged between the cities of Marseille and Cassis and consists of numerous coastal inlets surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. Pebble and fine sandy beaches are nestled in miniature fjords, which allow access to the turquoise water. Whether you explore the area from above on one of its many walking trails, from below the surface in its diverse marine ecosystem or from the comfort of your sunlit beach towel, the Calanques are well worth visiting.
An important thing to remember when visiting the Calanques on your Provence road trip is that the National Park is not easily accessed by road. Access is regulated, as local authorities intend to keep this unique natural landscape well preserved. If you intend to visit, it's worth setting up camp at one of many campsites in the area and then consulting the tourism office for the latest information on how to access the Calanques.
And with your toes in the sand, your Provence road trip itinerary has come to a close. But it doesn’t have to end here! Keen to keep going or looking to extend your route through your new favourite French region? Follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest military generals in history on this Itinerary for the Napoleon Road Trip through France.