Arrive in Avignon and pick up your car. Head for Châteauneuf-du-Pape to walk amongst world-renowned vineyards, then continue to Orange, a walker’s delight, with some of the finest Roman monuments in Europe. Your destination is Vaison-la-Romaine, a bustling town with interesting shops, a romantic medieval quarter, and extensive Roman remains.
Explore Vaison before driving into the rugged Drôme to Nyons, famous for its olive oil. Pass fields of lavender on the way to Dieulefit, with a long history of pottery production, and Le Poët-Laval, officially listed as a Plus Beau Village. Enjoy a walk into the gorgeous countryside before heading for Buis-les-Baronnies, a herb and flower centre known particularly as the central depot for the linden flower harvest. Then it’s on to Mollans-sur-Ouvèze, before returning to Vaison.
Travel through vineyards, ringed by hills and mountains. Walk from Gigondas, a delightful Côtes-du-Rhône wine village, into the spiky Dentelles, limestone mountains eroded by the wind. Then continue to Beaumes-de-Venise, known for its sweet, white dessert wine. From the château ruins overlooking the town, walk to the superb Romanesque chapel of Notre-Dame d’Aubun. Then follow the route through Crillon-le-Brave, Bédoin, St-Didier, and Venasque to today’s destination, Pernes-les-Fontaines.
Today you’ll head for Gordes, a striking perched village that has become an artists’ colony. Along the way visit Fontaine-de-Vaucluse where you can walk to the resurgent spring that is the source of the Sorgue River. Extend your route through Murs and Joucas in the limestone countryside of the Vaucluse. Enjoy walks to a village of drystone huts known as bories and to the magnificent Cistercian abbey of Sénanque, set in a peaceful, remote valley.
Drive into the Luberon, made famous by Peter Mayle. One of the day’s highlights is red Roussillon high on ochre hills. Visit the ochre quarries before heading to Goult, walk to olive terraces dating from the Middle Ages and a ruined Celtic hilltop oppidum. Then on to Lacoste, a beautiful village rising in tiers up a hill crowned by the ruined castle of the Marquis de Sade. Savour the silence at Fort de Buoux, once a stronghold of pre-Roman Celtic Gauls and inhabited right into the 17th century, before returning to Gordes.
Today’s destination is the quiet country town of St-Rémy-de-Provence. Along the way you’ll visit Ménerbes, officially designated a Plus Beau Village. Pause to enjoy the spectacular view from near the church and visit the corkscrew museum. Continue to Oppède-le-Vieux, a fascinating ruined village, where a fragrant, herb-lined path takes you to the dramatic church and the remains of a 12th-century castle. Explore the narrow, winding streets of Eygalière, then head to St-Rémy in time to take a stroll through town and visit nearby Glanum, the extensive remains of an ancient Greco-Roman town. Perhaps visit the village and haunting citadel ruins of Les Baux, south of St-Rémy.
Drive to Arles, where you can easily fill a day. The Roman monuments, the magnificent cathedral of St-Trophime, and the Alyscamps, one of the most famous necropolises in the world from Roman times to the Middle Ages are only some of the sights. Don’t forget to relax with a coffee on the Place de la Republique and watch the passing parade. If you like, head down to the Camargue, a vast flat region of sand dunes, salt marshes, and pastures, where cowboys on native Camargue horses herd black bulls and thousands of migrating birds stop on their journeys.
There’s still time for a café au lait at the Café des Arts before driving to Avignon to return your rental car and catch a train for your next destination. If you have time, detour to visit the spectacular Pont du Gard, a huge Roman aqueduct considered one of the greatest feats of ancient engineering.