Wondering what to see in Provence? The beauty of nature is all around you
Upon setting foot in Provence, the famed southern region of France, it suddenly becomes incredibly clear why it’s so popular with artists, writers, and other creative souls — the surroundings are simply inspiring. From the glorious olive groves, to the fragrant fields of lavender, and the vibrant rows of bright yellow sunflowers, Provence embodies Mother Nature at her very best.
When travelers begin to create their lists of what to see in Provence — from charming cafes to medieval churches to unique art galleries — many fail to realize that some of the greatest sights in Provence are not man-made, but natural creations of the region. Much of Provence’s beauty can be observed anywhere just by opening your eyes, but there are a few areas of the landscape that look like they could jump right off of a postcard; these are the spots that you cannot miss.
When you set out looking for what to see in Provence, make sure your iPhone battery is fully charged because these Instagram-worthy sights won’t need a filter.
If you really want to spend some quality time becoming one with nature, Mercantour National Park — one of the ten national parks protected by France — is the perfect place to hike and explore for the day. With seven valleys spread between the Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Mercantour is 264 square miles of countless plant species, mountain peaks, deep valleys, winding paths, lakes, and streams. Keep an eye out for chamois, which is a goat-antelope genus native to mountains in Europe that visitors frequently spot.
June through August is lavender season in Provence, and there are quite a few places where you can spot this fragrant, purple bloom. Sénanque Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian monastery, is known as a prime location for some of the most spectacular lavender views. The fields of lavender are right in front of the abbey and grown and tended to by the monks that live there.
If you plan ahead of time, you can combine your visit with attending a public service, a guided tour (in French), or shopping in the book shop/gift shop on site. Sénanque Abbey is still an active religious community and does not consider itself to be a museum or tourist site, so be sure to check their website to learn more before visiting.
Les Calanques are breathtaking white limestone cliffs, and there are three main calanques in the Cassis area of Provence: Port Miou, Port Pin, and En Vau. If you only have time for one, go for En Vau — it’s widely considered to be the most stunning (and the hardest to get to). If you are more athletic or adventurous, you can hike the calanques, but daily boat tours from Cassis Marina are also an extremely popular option and offer a unique perspective of these unbelievable geographic formations.
No trip to France would be complete without visiting at least one vineyard, and Mas de Cadenet is one of the prettiest. Located at the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire near Aix-en-Provence, Mas de Cadenet has been operated for over 200 years by seven generations of the Négrel family. The sprawling vineyards cover about 111 acres of the property and are best enjoyed with a cool glass of rosé in-hand.
If you have some extra time, stop by artist Paul Cézanne’s former studio, located about 25 minutes away from the vineyard in Aix-en-Provence. Why? The beautiful mountain backdrop at the winery is the same mountain that inspired Cézanne and appeared in several of his paintings.
Visiting Provence is not a one-day affair — it is an entire region, slightly larger than the state of Massachusetts. You need a comfortable, reliable home base from which you can take off on daily excursions, but return to for relaxation and repose.
WIMCO’s villa rentals in Provence are nestled amid the towns of St. Rémy de Provence and Aix-en-Provence, and most have pools and are in close proximity to area vineyards. Our villa specialists will handle everything for you from start to finish, and even help you decide what to see in Provence and how to maximize your time there.
If you could suggest what to see in Provence, what would your favorite places be?