Where to ride in Provence?

I’ve just returned from Provence and I can confirm that the area qualifies as bikers’ paradise. I am going to give you some ideas, where you might put your fitness to good use and explore some new trails. Because travelling abroad is usually a mix of riding and sightseeing, I am also providing a short itinerary that you might use as well.

First things first:

  • Recommended mode of travel: car
  • Recommended time of visit: June or July (May a bit too cold, Lavenders not yet blooming – forget Instagram pictures 🙂 )
  • Trip duration: 4-8 days (depending on the number of bike rides and sightseeing you wish to make)

Day 1: My fiance and I arrived to Provence by car from Italy (San Remo; sidenote – I really enjoyed the coffe in dei Musicanti bar). Because we’ve already visited the cities of Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes and Saint-Tropez we’ve skipped them this time (you should visit them, if you haven’t already!) and headed straight to the city of Cassis. There we started a nice hike toward Calanque d’En Vau (download gpx here). Unfortunatelly, we started too late in the day so we had to turn around halfway. The hike is not technically difficult (you can easily do it in sneakers), it’s about 12 km long and you accrue ca. 300 vertical meters (vm) along the way. It offers attractive views towards the sea and coast, but I wouldn’t say it’s something you shouldn’t miss. So, do it if you have the time.

Next on our itinerary was the city of Aix en Provence (we’ve skipped Marseilles, which you should visit if you haven’t already). Despite numerous recommendations we didn’t find anything special about this city. Yeah, the city centre is nice, with many old buildings. But the city centre lacked “life”.

Day 2: We headed to the city of Saintes Maries de la Mer early in the morning, where we started our first bike ride (this one was the only where you need a mountain bike). We really liked the city and the ride was beautiful as well. The ride takes you to the Camargue natural park, where you get to enjoy beautiful landscape and observe wildlife (Pelicans among others). We did a complete loop (download gpx here). But if you’re in a hurry, you can only do the most beautiful part – that is from the city along the coast to the Gachole lighthouse, and return the same way.

The afternoon and evening were reserved for exploring the beautiful city of Avignon.

Day 3: We drove to the beautiful village of Gordes. The views of the village from the road, which leads to the village are amazing. If you want to make a photo, I recommend this spot.

After enjoying a morning coffee we headed to the nearby Senanque monastery (Abbaye Notre Dame de Senanque). The monastery is really nice and it would be even more beautiful, have we visited the place at the end of June/July, when the Lavenders are blooming. Still, I highly recommend visiting it.

From the monastery we took a really nice drive through a small canyon on the D177 road to the village of Pernes les Fontaines. I highly recommend you visit this village. It offers plently opportunities to make nice Insta-worthy pictures (old houses with ivy and nice windows).

After enjoying spectacular views from the car I decided to return and ride the roads again – that time with my bike. I’ve already created a gpx bike route and if you’ll have time, feel free to use it. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

An equally nice ride through the vineyards took us to the city of Bedoin. I really liked the city and this was also a place where I started my bike ride to Mt. Ventoux. Most of the riders start the ascent here. The ascent from Bedoin is more famous than the one from Malaucene due to the fact that the Tour de France riders ride the climb on stages ending with the Mt. Ventoux from Bedoin as well. You can download a gpx track here. If your partner is driving a car while you’re tackling Ventoux, I recommend he drives in the mean time to Malaucene so that you can descent to the northern side, which in my opinion offers even more attractive views towards the Alps.

Day 4: After a lazy morning we drove to the city of Riez. There is nothing special about the city. It’s just that the city is surrounded with lavender fields, which must create a magic atmosphere when the lavenders are blooming (end of June/July). Unfortunately, we were doing this trip at the beginning of May, so no blooming lavenders for us :/ We still did a nice bike ride (download gpx track here), which took us through lavender fields to the Sainte Marie monastery and enjoy the views of Lac de Sante Croix along the way.

After finishing the ride we drove through the Verdon canyon (Les Gorges du Verdon). If you only have time to do a one-way drive through the canyon I recommend you take the south rim road (road D19 and later D71), because it offers better views of the canyon considering the direction of the canyon.

If you happen to have a spare day and are in good physical shape, I recommend riding a round-trip of the canyon. I know I will the next time I visit it. You can download the gpx here.

We continued driving towards Cannes, the last city on our journey in Provence.

Written by marko