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Hidden Gems of Provence, Cycling the Highlights of Provence

Cycling the Highlights of Provence

Overview

On our Cycling the Highlights of Provence self guided cycling holiday you will discover the pearls of Provence: pedalling from the Côtes du-Rhône Winelands at the foot of Mont Ventoux to the lavender fields of the Luberon and its beautiful medieval hilltop villages, passing by the spectacular ochre cliffs in Roussillon and the Van Gogh country in St Remy de Provence & Les Baux with its olive groves on to Arles and finishing in the wild Camargue by the Mediterranean Sea. Cycle at your own pace with an average distance of 45 km per day, you will have plenty of time for visiting vineyards and sightseeing.

  • Discover Provence’s most famous mountain ranges: Les Alpilles & Le Luberon
  • Follow in the footsteps of the artist Vincent Van Gogh and stay in St Remy, the birthplace of Nostradamus
  • Olive oil and wine tasting opportunities along the route
  • Cycle through beautiful villages: Gordes, Les Baux, Roussillon

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Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vaison la Romaine

Make your own way to Vaison la Romaine, France’s largest Roman archaeological site. We can also arrange an optional private transfer. Spend time wandering through the expansive Roman ruins before crossing a 2000-years-old bridge and up to the Medieval village. Perched dizzyingly on the rock above the Ouvèze River, the cobbled streets lead up to the ruins of the 12th-century feudal castle, from where the view extends to the entire town and to the far-reaching countryside. Dinner on your own and night in Vaison. There is a large market on Tuesday morning in Vaison la Romaine.

Day 2: Vaison la Romaine to Bedoin | 43 km

In the background, all day is Provence’s highest mountain, Mont Ventoux, its barren limestone peak soaring above the plains. Cycling through the beautiful Côtes du Rhône, you reach Gigondas and its world-famous vineyards, with plenty of opportunities to stop at estates and taste their delicious reds. Through olive groves and a sea of vines, you cycle to Beaumes de Venise, a quaint village known for its sweet Muscat wines. Through a succession of tiny and forgotten villages, on back roads lined by oak forest and orchards, you reach Bedoin, a legendary starting point in the Tour de France for the ascent of Mont Ventoux, arguably the hardest climb in all of France. Dinner not included and night in Bedoin.

Day 3: Bedoin to Isle sur la Sorgue | 34 km

The landscapes at the foot of Ventoux are dotted with small villages, where you can explore tiny streets and centuries-old houses. On seldom-used roads, you will pass cherry orchards, Côtes du Ventoux vineyards, and truffle oak plantations. You reach Pernes-Les-Fontaines, a lively town full of cafés, with its 40 ancient fountains scattered around the village. Your destination is Isle sur la Sorgue a town, surrounded entirely by the green and clear waters of the Sorgue River. The town is world-renowned for its antique shops, while the Sunday market fills the entire centre with a display to stimulate all the senses. Dinner on your own and overnight in Isle sur la Sorgue.

Day 4: Isle sur la Sorgue Loop | 56 km

Today you will bike by dry-stone huts and ancient stone walls until you reach two of the most spectacular villages of Provence. First is Gordes, its majestic greystone homes rising vertiginously over the Calavon valley, and crowned by its renaissance castle. Then Roussillon, its colourful homes painted in every hue of yellow-orange-red, with the natural pigments taken from the ochre quarry set just beside the village. Ride back to Isle on a cycle-only path created on a former railway line. Dinner on your own in the village and night in Isle sur la Sorgue.

Day 5: Isle dur la Sorgue to St Rémy | 37 km

The lively town of Cavaillon awaits, filled with restaurants and cafés, and bursting with locally grown fruits and vegetables. There is a market in Cavaillon on Mondays. Through farmlands and endless orchards, you cross the Durance river. You cycle towards the charming village of Eygalières, surrounded by vast olive groves, its beautiful stone houses set atop a hill, and up to the ruins of its castle. You reach Saint Rémy, a second home to Van Gogh and birthplace of Nostradamus, an artists’ town filled with colour and light, bustling with busy cafés. Dinner on your own and night in St Remy de Provence.

Day 6: St Rémy to Arles | 50 km

Great market on Wednesday & Saturday in St Remy de Provence. Just outside St. Rémy, visit the monastery of Saint Paul de Mausole, where Van Gogh spent a year of his life and did some of his best work. Through the pine forests, wildflowers and thyme laden hills of the Alpilles, the village of Les Baux will soon appear, listed among the most beautiful villages in France. The village is perched like a nest, high above the famous olive groves below, sitting atop a rocky crag and crowned by the ruins of its feudal castle. The Alpilles mountains make up the last hills before a final straightaway toward the sea. The landscapes then give way to large expanses of farmland and lone farmhouses, with bull ranches and rice paddies on the horizon. The city of Arles appears out of nowhere, its coliseum and Roman theatre are only two of the many monuments the Romans left behind. Dinner on your own and overnight in Arles.

Day 7: Arles to Saintes-Maries de la Mer | 54 km

Great market on Wednesday & Saturday morning in Arles. Beyond Arles, heading south, you enter the delta of the Rhône river, not more than a few feet above sea level, a neverending landscape of salt-cracked earth and untamed lagoons. This is the Camargue region, a birder’s paradise, where herons, egrets, pink flamingoes, and dozens of other species come to nest and fish in the shallow pools. The lands are devoid of homes and buildings, until Saintes Maries de la Mer appears in the distance, its disproportionate church dwarfing the bunched, whitewashed homes that make up this small town on the sea. The town has a distinct Gypsy influence. It was here that their patron saint Sara drifted ashore 2000 years ago after fleeing Palestine, her remains set in the town’s church. Dinner on your own and overnight in the heart of Saintes-Maries de la Mer. Please leave your bikes and gear locked at the hotel.

Day 8: Departure

End of the trip after breakfast. You can extend your stay in Saintes Maries de la Mer, and enjoy the wild & endless sand beaches on the Med sea or do a 26-km loop ride of easy pedalling up the Petit Rhône riverbank where you can see the lovely typical Camargue houses.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in 2-star hotels and guesthouses in private en-suite double/twin rooms. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour. Some accommodations have a swimming pool. Optional hotel upgrade (charming hotels – 3-star and one 4-star) is possible. Please note that an additional supplement may be applied in July during the Photo Festival in Arles

Click to view default hotels

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Click to view upgraded hotels

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

All breakfasts are included. Lunch packs for the next day can be pre-ordered at each accommodation, or you can buy bread, cheeses and meats as well as fresh fruit and vegetables at local markets. For dinner, you can visit one of the restaurants in the villages or order from the a la carte menu in your accommodation.

Local Markets

  • Vaison la Romaine: Tuesday morning
  • Bedoin: Monday morning
  • Gordes: small market on Tuesday morning
  • Isle sur la Sorgue: Sunday morning big market and a small one on Thursday morning
  • Cavaillon: Monday morning
  • Eygalieres: Friday morning
  • St Remy: Wednesday morning big market and a small one on Saturday morning
  • Arles: Wednesday morning and Saturday morning
  • Saintes Marie de la Mer: Friday morning

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is appropriate for cyclists with an average level of fitness used to regular exercise and who can handle cycling uphill. MODERATE cycling from 30 km to 50 km per day on small roads and tracks with moderate but steady climbs along the way through hilly terrain but with an e-bike accessible to all persons (read more about difficulty grades). We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available on any date from the beginning of March until mid-November. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking. Provence is beautiful in the spring months of March, April and May when the blooming of the wildflowers is stunning. The summers of Provence are hot and dry, with temperatures that often exceed 30°C and relatively cool nights with temperatures between 20°C and 25°C.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Marseille. Alternative airports are Nice, Montpellier, Toulon, Nimes.

By train or bus
  • Arrival: From the nearest international airport of Marseilles takes 2 hours to reach Avignon. You can take the train Avignon – Carpentras (20 min) and then the regular bus line Carpentras – Vaison.
  • Departure: Take a bus to Arles. From Arles you can continue by train to your next destination.

Inclusions

Included

  • 7 nights double occupancy with private facilities, in hotels and guesthouses
  • 7 breakfasts
  • Luggage transfers Days 2 to 7
  • Travel kit with roadbook and integrated maps (1 set per room)
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Lunches and dinners
  • Tourist tax, if due
  • Bike rental
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Entrance fees for attractions and museums
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Hybrid bike or e-bike rental. NB! If you rent an e-bike you need to authorise a refundable guarantee of 800 EUR
  • Extra nights
  • Upgraded charming hotels with a supplement

Bike rental

Hybrid bikes: A lightweight, aerodynamic bike with slightly wider tyres than road bikes, designed to combine comfort and performance on both roads and trails. An ideal bike for touring and riding between 25 and 60 km per day. The HYBRID bikes – Trek or equivalent – are top of the range: equipped with Shimano parts, lightweight aluminium frames, and a triple chainring. Pedalling: 28/38/48 with 11/32 groupset > 27 speeds. The bike frames are UNISEXES: where possible, we provide a comfortable women’s saddle for all women riders. Equipment: helmet – safety waistcoat – pump – bike computer – 1 front bag – 1 side bag – 1 water bottle holder – 1 lock per bike – 1 inner tube per bike – 1 repair kit for two bikes

E-bikes: Provence is hilly, and most of the prettiest villages are perched, which means you have to climb to get there. The E-bike becomes a magnificent compromise: while continuing to pedal, you can access a perched village without being a big cyclist. You can also accompany a more athletic spouse or friend. How it works: when you start pedalling, the electric motor is activated. You can choose between several levels of electric assistance. Equipped with a battery with a range of 90 km, a low frame (easy to get on and off), puncture-proof tyres (reducing the risk of punctures), hydraulic brakes (guaranteeing the highest level of safety). Equipment: helmet – safety waistcoat – bike computer – 1 front map holder – 1 side bag – 1 lock per bike – 1 battery charger. Delivery of the E-bike, with a short briefing by our cycling partner, who will show you how to use the e-bike. During the briefing, you will be asked for a pre-authorisation of 800 € by credit card as a guarantee.

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