Provence is beautiful in any season, but summer is an especially striking time to visit for one major reason – lavender!
Heralded for its beneficial properties, this “purple gold” has lent its fragrant and beneficial uses to soaps, honey, desserts, olive oils, cosmetics and more for centuries.
Lavender grows in abundance in many parts of the world, but Provence – a province of southeastern France – is widely regarded as having the highest concentration and some of the most spectacular vistas. As such, every year visitors flock in droves, so much so that the region and the pretty, purple flower have become synonymous.
Pictures online are plentiful, but actually experiencing the rows of vibrant lavender blooms – organized in breathtaking symmetry on Provence’s rolling hills – and feeling and smelling the breeze softly blowing its delicate fragrance, is a truly incredible experience.
When to visit Provence for lavender season
Lavender blooms in Provence from June through August, but when is the best time to see it?
Peak bloom usually occurs in early July, but consider going in June – the flowers will be well on their way, and you’ll be more likely to beat the tourist season (as well as the French flocking to the South for summer holidays).
If you’re intent on seeing Provence lavender season in its fullest bloom, know it is harvested as early as mid-July, when the oil can be extracted at its most potent. If you’re keen on visiting France in August, mountainous areas of higher elevation – Sault, Ferrassières and Aurel, to name a few – tend to grow an alpine breed that blooms a bit later.
From a lighting (and crowd) perspective, the best time of day to see the fields is early morning and dusk – catching the sunrise or set across the rippling fields is spectacular.
As blooming is weather dependent, it’s always a good idea to check when the region will warm or reach out to the local tourist office when planning exact dates for a trip.
What to do
Provence offers plenty of options to visit lavender farms and distilleries, as well as an endless amount of shops peppered throughout offering their goods for your travel takeaways.
You’ll find an entire museum dedicated to the region’s emblematic flower in Luberon. Based in the old stone village of Cabrieres d’Avignon, it offers guided tours, workshops, activities and events. You can further celebrate the season with one of Provence’s numerous summer festivals.
Best places to see the lavender
Our favorite places in Provence to see the blooms? The lovely town of Valensole is home to some of the most famous lavender fields (including one with a tree that you’ve likely seen on the internet). Particularly concentrated and scenic, it hosts the most famous Lavender Festival in Provence on the third Sunday of every July.
Another favorite spot among lavender fans is the Plateau d’Albion – at the peak of the season, you’ll be treated to a sea of purple flowers stretching over 11 acres. Here, you’ll also find fields mixed with golden wheat.
Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint Rémy de Provence, a monastery that previously hosted Van Gogh, also boasts a kaleidoscopic view. And we’d be remiss not to mention the Abbaye de Senanque near Avignon, which is flanked by luscious fields in endless watercolors of purple. You can also take a tour of this beautiful Cistercian Abbaye (just be sure to bring a coverup – it’s still functioning!)
Where to stay in Provence in lavender season
Château de Massillan
Fancy a stay somewhere fit for a king? Nestled in a setting of lush parkland, Château de Massillan was originally the hunting lodge of King Henri II and Diane de Poitiers. This 4-star royal lodging features 26 rooms and suites, an outdoor swimming pool and a celebrated restaurant with an organic kitchen.
730 Chemin de Massillan, 84100 Uchaux
Le Jas de Gordes
A hotel in the heart of Luberon. This recently renovated property was built with local dry-stone and is surrounded by natural beauty, making it perfect for visiting Provence in lavender season. Its 22 rooms, most of which have a terrace and garden views, are outfitted in a mix of modern and traditional decor. Guests can relax around the heated pool and at the decadent buffet breakfast that can be enjoyed indoors or out, where the nearby wooded park wafts in sweet scents of lavender, thyme and rosemary.
Route de Cavaillon, 84220 Gordes
Villa La Coste
Conveniently located between Aix-en-Provence and the beautiful Luberon Nature Park, this picturesque hotel and spa lies within the epitome of a Provencal landscape. Perched on the hillside of a private domain, this contemporary villa – constructed in light oak wood, marble and natural stone to blend seamlessly into its natural setting – offers 28 suites with terraces and expansive views over its vineyard and valley. Extensive gardens, a selection of indoor and outdoor dining areas, a bar, a library, a spa with a pool and a lobby gallery complete the luxury guest experience.
2750 Route de la Cride, 13610 Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade
We hope this will inspire you to discover the beauty of Provence in lavender season! For more of this wonderful region, you can still purchase our past print July-August 2019 issue – the Provence Special!
All photos © Teddy Verneuil