When you think of France’s Provence region, you may imagine driving or cycling past vast, bright fields of fragrant lavender, standing out in vibrant purple rows against a quaint Provencal farmhouse in old stone. This image is actually quite realistic: France has a long and rich history of lavender production that stretches back hundreds of years. The aromatic flowering plant, which is actually a member of the mint family, has been used since at least the medieval period to make traditional products from perfume and cosmetics to syrups, honey, and potpourris. It has also long been appreciated for its medicinal powers, and for its proven ability to calm nerves and aid in restful sleep.
Owing to the stunning beauty of the lavender fields and to the high quality of the products that are made from their yields, lavender is a major industry and tourism draw card in this region. On a high-end vacation or honeymoon, it can serve as the theme of a romantic, relaxing getaway. If you’re wondering where to see lavender in Provence, read on. We point you to some of the most luxurious ways to enjoy the mythical botanical, from witnessing the most gorgeous lavender fields to indulging in one of the area’s best spas.
These little blue flowers with their splendidly haunting perfume will make you marvel at the beauty of nature in Provence…
Unfortunately, the window for seeing lavender in bloom at its most stunning is rather narrow: at least during an average year, the peak times are between June and early August. If you’re interested in creating a themed holiday that includes seeing and enjoying the aromatic flower at its peak, you’ll have to plan on a summer getaway.
For even more color, see the sunflowers in bloom at the same time—July is when they’re at their own peak.
One region that’s celebrated for its iconic Provencal lavender fields of bright purple blooms is the Luberon. The nearest large city is Avignon. Plot your trip (or have it plotted for you by an expert) through the famed high plateaux that surround the area known as Sault, then around Mont Ventoux and the Valréas areas. The villages of Simiane la Rotonde, Apt and Gordes feature particularly lovely fields; the old, emblematic farmhouses and production facilities that overlook them are often equally breathtaking.
The Old Abbey at Sénanque
Perhaps most stunning and iconic of all, though, is the Sénanque Abbey, situated near the town of Gordes in the Vaucluse region. This medieval abbey, established in the 12th century, is still occupied by Cistercian monks, who grow lavender and honey as sources of livelihood. This is a place of timeless peace and elegance, and an essential stop on any lavender-centric excursion around Provence.
For those who want a closer look at the history of lavender farming and the production of products such as perfumes and cosmetics, a visit to a distillery can be fascinating. Many are found in the villages mentioned above—see this page for a list by scrolling down. Meanwhile, the Lavender Museum in Coustellet traces the history of the flower known as “blue gold” across 1,000 years, from its early medicinal uses to modern production processes. The on-site lavender fields and old “Chateau du Bois” farmhouse are idyllic sites, and in the boutique you can purchase high-quality essential oils, cosmetics and other products luxuriously laced with the product.
The Luberon is home to several high-end hotels and spas, making an ideal place to unwind after a day of visiting the area by car or bicycle.
La Bastide de Marie hotel and spa in the town of Ménerbes offers a high-end experience from all standpoints; its Pure Altitude spa includes treatments that feature lavender essential oils, while the gastronomic onsite restaurant use lavender in many of their gourmet dishes and desserts. For true gourmets who like a hands-on approach, the hotel also organizes truffle-hunting workshops.
Another place touted as the very best in the region is La Bastide de Gordes, located in the town of Gordes: The Telegraph called it one of the five best luxury hotels in France ever reviewed, giving it a 10/10 rating for its sumptuous rooms, stunning views over the surrounding region, gastronomic menus from Michelin star Chef Pierre Gagnaire and crème de la crème service. The onsite spa uses products from Sisley and features a stunning indoor pool—ideal for the occasional rainy Provencal day.
Last on our list is the Hostellerie du Val du Sault, a tad more rustic, but charming four-star hotel at the foot of Mont Ventoux that features a gastronomic restaurant, Regain. Headed by chef Jeremy Gattechaut, it places a strong emphasis on lavender and other regional products in its highly praised cuisine. Whether or not you choose to stay here, an evening meal here might be the perfect way to end a lavender-centric day in the region.
Doubtless the most famous of the wine-tasting destinations (and producers) on our list, the Chateau Margaux has been attracting wealth and royalty for centuries. In the 12th century, it was known as “La Mothe de Margaux” and was frequented by European royal figures– but it wouldn’t become a wine-making estate until the late 16th century. Since then, and despite a tumultuous history that saw the estate suffer from a fungus that destroyed the vineyards and many different waves of ownership, it has proudly stood as perhaps the most globally prestigious Bordeaux appellation. It is the only Chateau to produce wines that bear its name– a rare honour.
Producing remarkably rich, complex reds and whites that have become staples in auction houses around the world, the Chateau and its surrounding vineyards are lavishly beautiful; the 19th-century, starkly white estate is framed by tall canopies of trees and offer a lush, luxurious setting. It can be difficult to secure a booking for a tasting here, so reserving well ahead is strongly recommended. Having an expert guide arrange the visit will ensure you avoid disappointment.
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