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Provence Winter Sun Escape

Provence Winter Sun Walking Escape in Style

Overview

Provence can be just as exciting in winter as during the busy hot summer months. Boasting over 300 days a year of sunshine, the natural light of Provence has inspired many artists. Its mild temperatures and bright blue skies reveal a very different kind of charm in the low season, and the places are less crowded than during the busy hot summer months.

On this six-day easy self-guided walking holiday you will explore Provence’s two most beautiful mountain ranges: Les Alpilles and Le Luberon. Your trip starts and finishes in medieval Avignon, easily accessible from Marseille airport or Paris. A wine expert will take you on a half-day wine tour uncovering the secrets of the Cotes du Rhone wines before transferring to the artistic town of St Remy where you’ll spend two days and walk literally through Van Gogh landscapes. The route takes you along centuries-old paths to picturesque hilltop villages Les Baux de Provence & Gordes.

The trails gently descend through olive and almond groves to quaint medieval villages shaded by ancient trees, where colourful markets, fountains, and narrow cobbled lanes invite exploration. Accommodations offer the signature Provençal hospitality and style, as well as the authentic Mediterranean flavours of fresh local cuisine and wine. For foodies, you have the option to add an extra cooking class or a truffle hunting tour.

  • Avignon medieval town and the Papal Palace
  • Half-day wine tour with a wine expert (1 or 2 wine estate visits & tastings)
  • The windswept crest of the Alpilles mountains
  •  Walking through Van Gogh’s landscapes
  • Provencal Venice, Isle sur la Sorgue, with its canals and waterwheels
  • The thousand-year-old perched village of Les Baux de Provence
  • Fontaine de Vaucluse, spring of the Sorgue river
  • The most famous hilltop villages of the Luberon

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Itinerary

Day 1: Avignon

Arrive in Avignon and explore the medieval town and its cobbled streets, famous Papal Palace and St Benezet Bridge. Dinner in town is included.

Day 2: Chateauneuf du Pape Wine Tour / St Remy de Provence

Today you will participate in a half-day wine tour (non-private, maximum 6 participants) of the Southern Rhônes premium wine villages (pick up and drop off from Avignon). A local wine expert will reveal a wealth of secrets about the vines and explain the critical elements of the wine-making process as you visit the cellar and taste four to five wines at a local wine estate (depending on the wine expert you visit one or two wine estates). The tasting characteristics, ageing potential and varying influences of the terroir and cellar methods will all be described (full day tours can also be arranged upon request with supplement).

In the afternoon, a taxi will transfer you to St Remy de Provence (20 min), where you’ll spend the next two nights. Free afternoon in St Remy, with the option to follow Van Gogh’s walking trail. Take the time to explore the town, and taste local specialities (candied fruits, olive oil, wine); we give you many insider tips in our roadbook. Visit the Roman ruins and walk up the Van Gogh trail, lined with reproductions of his paintings facing the very scenes that inspired them. Dinner on your own and overnight in Saint Rémy.

Day 3: Van Gogh’s Provence | 10-18 km

From St. Rémy, you pass St. Paul de Mausole, the former monastery where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life. From there, you head up a quiet valley, following a botanical path,  to the ridge of the Alpilles mountains and the Rocher des Deux Trous, from where the views are outstanding. You then have two options: either a stroll back down the mountain or a breathtaking path on a rocky crest, adding a bit of adventure to the day’s walk (followed by the same stroll back down the mountain). Note that the second option is a more challenging walk in an otherwise relaxed walking holiday. You may not feel comfortable completing it unless you have some walking experience on jagged and uneven paths. Dinner on your own and overnight in Saint Rémy.

  • Accommodation: Hotel du Soleil 3* or similar
  • Walking for the day: 10 km, 2.5-3 h (optional extended walk: 18 km, 6 h, ↑550m ↓550m)

Day 4: Saint Rémy to Les Baux | 10 km

Once again, you leave St. Rémy by foot and walk up to the crest of the windswept Alpilles mountains. A rolling track atop the ridge is complete with awe-inspiring 360° views: these accompany you as the trail gently undulates towards the medieval village of Les Baux de Provence, set atop its rocky perch. It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. Visit the village before an afternoon transfer (1 hour) to the Luberon mountains and the village of Isle sur la Sorgue (also called the Provencal Venice with its many waterwheels and canals) for a two-night stay. Dinner on your own and overnight in Isle sur la Sorgue.

  • Accommodation: La Prévôté or similar
  • Walking for the day: 10 km, 2.5-3 h

Day 5: Fontaine de Vaucluse or Cabrieres d’Avignon to Gordes | 10-13 km

After breakfast, a short taxi transfer takes you to the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse for the start of your walk. If you would rather have an easier day, you can ask the taxi driver to take you directly to the village of Cabrières d’Avignon. We strongly recommend doing the whole walk, as the first section is the most stunning, especially the views from the Mur de la Peste. Your path climbs through the pine and cedar forest on seldom-used trails, and up to a plateau from where the panorama extends to far-reaching hilltop villages. You follow the 300-year-old Mur de la Peste, constructed when the plague hit Marseille in 1720, as a means to protect the Provence of the Popes (where you now stand) from the ravaging disease. Your journey ends at the magnificent village of Gordes, perched upon its rocky crag, its majestic greystone homes rising from the valley below. Afternoon transfer back to Isle. Dinner on your own and overnight in Isle sur la Sorgue.

  • Accommodation: La Prévôté or similar
  • Walking for the day: 13 km, 4 h, ↑450m ↓200m (easier option: 10 km, 2-3h)

Day 6: Departure

After breakfast end of the trip in Isle sur la Sorgue (you can catch the train from Isle to Avignon or Marseille airport).

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in charming 3 and 4-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.

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  • Avignon (Day 1): Hotel Horloge 4* – located just a few steps from the Papal Palace, ideally situated to explore the town.
  • St Remy de Provence (Days 2 and 3): Hotel du Soleil 3* – a small and charming hotel, close to the centre of the village with elegant, refurbished rooms and Spa (hammam, treatments, massages, etc).
  • Isle sur la Sorgue (Days 4 and 5): La Prévôté – well hidden in a quiet backyard right in the centre of Isle, your deluxe guesthouse with restaurant La Prevote is the insider tip in town; with only 5 unique guest rooms you will be treated like a royalty and charmed by the comfort and decoration. Check in from 17:00 h

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, as well as a welcome dinner in Avignon. 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

  • St Remy de Provence: on Wednesday and Saturday morning
  • Isle sur la Sorgue: Sunday morning big market and a small one on Thursday morning
  • Gordes: small market on Tuesday morning
  • Avignon: Les Halles indoor covered market every morning except Monday

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is appropriate for a broad range of walkers and families with children; the average walking time is 2-3 hours per day with minimal elevation gains, and the only longer walk (6h) is optional (read more about difficulty grades). We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never 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 end of October till the beginning of April. 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. Surcharges may apply during France bank holidays (e.g. Christmas and New Year). Please note that the trip can start on any day except Saturday, as no wineries are open on Sundays in Chateauneuf du Pape for the wine tour.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

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By plane

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

By train or bus
  • Train journey by TGV from Paris to Avignon is 3 hours, while a local train from the nearest international airport of Marseilles takes 2 hours to reach Avignon. Avignon is 5.5 hours by rail from London St Pancras (see details).

Inclusions

Included

  • 5 nights double occupancy with private facilities
  • 5 breakfasts
  • 1 dinner in Avignon excluding drinks (starter, main course, dessert)
  • Luggage transfers days 2 to 4
  • Day 2: Taxi transfer from Avignon to St Remy (30 min)
  • Day 4: Taxi transfer from Les Baux ( end of the walk ) to Isle (45 min)
  • Day 5: Taxi transfer from Isle to Fontaine to the start of your walk (10 min) and from the end of your walk in Gordes back to Isle (15 min)
  • Travel kit with roadbook and integrated maps, vouchers for restaurants & transfers
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Flights and airport transfers
  • Lunches and 4 dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Tourist tax, if due
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses such as 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)
  • Extra nights before or after the holiday
  • On request, the tour can be booked with accommodation at 2-star and 3-star hotels at a discount. Standard hotels: Avignon: Hotel Boquier 2*, St Remy: Villa Glanum 3*, Isle sur la Sorgue: Les Terrasses by David & Louisa 2*
  • Avignon cooking class (9 am to 3 pm; not possible on Mondays): meet your local chef and visit the Les Halles indoor market, discover local specialities and buy your ingredients for the cooking class. Then head back to the restaurant for the cooking class. Enjoy lunch with your chef (wine included).
  • Truffle tour (2 pm to 5 pm; local transfer to truffle farm arranged by the hotel and not included in the price, payable locally): Take a tour of a Provençal truffle plantation, learn how truffles are cultivated and truffle dogs are trained and go on a hunt for France’s elusive “black gold” with professional hunters who know all the tricks of the trade. You’ll learn to tell the difference between a real Provençal tuber melanosporum and its inferior Chinese counterparts. You’ll also learn how to properly clean, store and cook with truffles. Tours are followed up by a sampling of fresh truffle hors d’oeuvres, Champagne and a tasting of organic Les Pastras olive and truffle oil.

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