The Luberon region of Provence is famous the world over, for its outstanding natural beauty, with craggy limestone hills, olive groves and forested valleys but above all for the numerous beautiful medieval hilltop villages.
It is above all the Luberon villages that we recommend you explore for it is in these villages and the scenery you pass through when travelling between them that the highlights of this beautiful region of the French countryside are to be found.
Several of the villages are listed among the 'most beautiful villages of France', and although they are often small each village has its own particular appeal and character - and almost all are very worth visiting!
The Luberon is also well known because of the books set in the region by the Luberon's most famous resident - Peter Mayle - such as 'A Year in Provence'.
This region of Provence is about 40 kilometres east of Arles and Avignon and to the north of Aix-en-Provence and falls in two departments of Provence: Vaucluse to the west and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence to the east. To help your planning we look at each area separately:
The Petit Luberon region, a 'sub-region' that includes several of the main highlights, contains many of the most visited perched villages within about 30 kilometres of each other, and is situated here in the Vaucluse.
The source of the Sorgue river at Fontaine de Vaucluse (not a perched village), most dramatic in spring when the river flow is at its peak but beautiful all year around, while the very popular and very visited Gordes is perhaps the most attractive of the Luberon villages when seen from the approach road.
The Luberon Regional Natural Park contains a small road that runs east to west and en-route passes by four very attractive villages - each also has exceptional views across the Luberon countryside: Oppède-le-Vieux; nearby Ménerbes, strung out along a hilltop; Lacoste, one street town leading to the castle of the Marquis de Sade; Bonnieux, tumbling down the side of a hill at the eastern end of the road.
Don't miss also the ochre mines and orange houses at Roussillon, best seen at sunrise if possible. A little way south is the ancient village of Lourmarin, also in a very attractive setting, and the small villages of Cucuron and Ansouis are nearby, and Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt is north of Roussillon
Some of the villages and places to visit in the 'petit Luberon' include:
Ansouis, in the shadow of an ancient castle, is one of the smallest villages in the Luberon
Being less developed (and visited) than many of the villages in the region make Bonnieux an interesting village to discover
Cucuron is a small fortified village in the shadow of a medieval castle
The big attraction in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is the source of the Sourge river and picturesque valley below
Gordes is often said to be the most beautiful of the villages in the area - quite an accolade given the competition!
Lacoste is small but exceptionally scenic, and overlooked by the castle of the Marquis de Sade
It is a great pleasure simply strolling along the narrow streets and alleys in the heart of ancient Lourmarin
Menerbes, one of the most lovely villages in the region, also has exceptional views across the Luberon countryside
While Oppède-le-Vieux is less visited than some of the Luberon villages its historical authenticity make a visit highly recommended
As well as the beautiful and colourful village at Roussillon you should also explore the impressive ochre mines below the village
More extensive than many of the villages nearby there is a great deal to explore in St-Saturnin-les-Apt, leading to an ancient castle
Further east the region attracts less visitors than the more westerly 'petit Luberon' but still has a great deal to enjoy.
Although it is true that there are less 'exceptional' towns and villages here there are also less tourists so it is a chance to see a more authentic Provence.
Among the highlights are the market town of Forcalquier, the nearby small villages at Lurs and the village of Mane, dominated by its citadel, the town of Manosque at the east of the region, and the hill town of Oppedette, best known for its scenic gorges.
The traditional Provençcal town of Forcalquier has exceptional views and a popular weekly market
The perched village of Lurs is in a lovely setting surrounded by olive groves
Despite its roman origins it is the 16th century heart of mane that now attracts the visitors
Manosque is now quite a large town, although the historical centre remains small and largely intact
Although very small, Oppedette certainly deserves exploring when you are passing
This region is exactly how you imagine Provence to be, especially if like me you are a lover of 'Jean de Florette' or 'A Year in Provence' (who isn't?) and you will not be disappointed when you visit.
The close proximity of the villages to each other means it is easy to visit several in one holiday.
While visiting the Luberon area is highly recommended, for both the villages and the magnificent scenery, I would suggest that you avoid high summer if possible, when the crowds of tourists can become a little intense at times.
Spring and autumn usually have very pleasant weather and are ideal!
All markets in morning unless otherwise stated
Below we show most of the important markets that are held all year around - but be aware that many of the smaller towns and villages will also have markets, in particular during the summer months.
Night markets are also popular, and great fun, but perhaps a more recent innovation than the more traditional Provençal markets!
Avignon: every day except Monday
Le Thor: Saturday
Les Mees: Friday
French version: Luberon (Francais)