Updated June 30th: The words Provence & lavender have become so synonymous with each other over the decades that you can hardly mention one without the other: The dusky purple shades and delicate fragrances that decorate its fields every summer are now so emblematic of the region, and even of France itself, that the Provence lavender fields have very much become a tourist attraction in their own right.
Lavender is not exclusive to Provence or even to France; there are lavender farms to be found in many parts of the world, as far afield as New South Wales & Western Australia, Tuscany & Sicily, Italy, and even in fact in some southerly regions of the UK., but none of these regions can compete with Provence in terms of tradition, and of sheer scale.
Provence Lavender Season 2020: Where & When?
The main lavender fields of Provence are centered on, and to the north, of the Luberon and Verdon plateau regions to the north of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, and to the east of Avignon, with the flowering season in the lowlands being generally from mid June to mid July, though it can vary slightly from year to year depending on rainfall and temperature.
The map here will give you a general idea of the best areas. You will also though find many lavender fields outside these zones, just possibly not to the same magnitude.
Higher up on the plateau, around the town of Sault for example, the colder weather means the blooming season is slightly later, i.e. roughly speaking from late June/early July to late July/early August.
Provence Lavender Season 2020: Best Places To Visit.
Le Musée de la Lavande
For those of you who’d like a bit of background on the subject, you could take in a trip to the Le Musée de la Lavande: The Museum of Lavender, in the quietly charming dry stone village of Cabrieres d’Avignon. You’ll find much information about the industry, both past and present here, about the planting, harvesting and distillation of lavender and from the start of July to mid August they showpiece Provence lavender distillation techniques from the early 1900’s using a traditional open flame still. And they sell many lavender products too, having a range of their own natural cosmetics and essential oils.
Notre-Dame de Senanque
Notre-Dame de Senanque might be considered a must see in Provence in lavender season. It is a Cistercian abbey near the spectacular hilltop village of Gordes in Vaucluse-en-Provence. The Abbey was founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks and is a interesting and rewarding visit all by itself, made all the more rewarding by its position in a lovely valley and by the acres of gorgeous lavender that surround it.
Visitors are welcome, but are told to be aware that it is first and foremost not a tourist site; it’s a fully functioning monastery, so you’re advised to be respectful; no wandering in and out or taking photos or videos during church services for example, and try to maintain a respectful silence as much as possible.
Be warned that though almost every photo of the abbey during lavender season shows it miraculously devoid of tourists, the reality is somewhat different. Unless you’re adept at photoshop, get there early in the morning to have a chance of getting a perfectly clean shot. That is general advice though of course; in 2020 you’ll find Covid-19 will have already pretty much cleared the place for you.
Sites aside, if you (sadly!) haven’t got a lot of time to explore the entire region, some of the best concentration of, and most scenic, lavender fields can be found around two main points, and at two different times: The first is the gorgeous little town of Valensole, which also hosts a very famous lavender festival (see below) and sits on a scenic plateau on the eastern edge of the Luberon.
Being at a medium altitude its fields are generally harvested slightly later than most of the Luberon; in late July. Valensole is as charming and lovely as any village in Provence, with or without its surrounding lavender fields, and a great place to base yourself for a few days.
Across the Luberon, on its western edge lies the town of Sault. and its namesake plateau. This is among the highest, and coolest, areas of the Luberon and so its fields are harvested the latest, mid August in most cases. It also has a Lavender Festival (see below) and is a charming, typically Provençal village with a lovely setting high on a rocky outcrop.
Lavender Farms & Distilleries:
Journeying around the Luberon you’ll find quite a few lavender farms & distilleries that you are welcome to visit, all of them also selling ranges of their own Provence lavender products; at the very least essential oils and scented waters. Here are a few that we’d recommend:
Distillerie Les Agnels
Distillerie Les Agnels is an organic lavender farm & distillery along Route de Buoux south of Apt, in the village of Les Agnels. It opens all year, and does its own range of organic essential oils. Visitors are welcome to tour the farm and the production lines.
GAEC Aroma’Plantes is another organic, eco-friendly farm open all year with free visits and tours of the farm. They produce lavender oils for therapeutic and medicinal purposes which you can buy on site. You’ll find them on Route du Ventoux just outside Sault.
Ho! Bouquet de Lavande
Just to the north east of Sault beside the little village of Ferrassières is the intriguingly titled Ho! Bouquet de Lavande farm. It opens from the end of April until the middle of November, farm tours are available every day in the lavender season, and outside the season every day except Wednesdays and Sundays. They too have a wide range of their own, nicely packaged, lavender products for you to buy.
La Ferme de Gerbaud
In the village of Lourmarin, in the south of the Luberon you’ll find much the same thing at the organic La Ferme de Gerbaud which also has a number of farm animals including horses. They are open for guided farm tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from April to October, and on Sundays only from November to March.
Distillerie les Coulets
Distillerie les Coulets is a lovely old style distillery, which uses traditional open fire methods to produce its own Provence lavender products. It’s a fascinating process to watch and you get a nice feeling of being taken back in time a little. You can visit year round to buy its nice range of lavender products, but the distillery itself is only open for tours in July and August. You’ll find it just outside the town of Apt. They don’t have a website but you can reach them on Tel: 04 90 74 07 55.
The above are just a few examples; you will find many, many more lavender farms and distilleries just by driving the roads and looking out for signs. Tourism is an integral part of lavender farming in Provence and almost all will be open to the public, at the very least on an informal basis.
Provence Lavender Festivals 2020:
There are quite a few lavender festivals in Provence worth looking out for if you’re in the area at the time, most of them are one day events and can make for an entertaining day out.
The theme is lavender of course and so there’ll be a huge amount of locally produced lavender products to sample and to buy, but they also extend to an energetic celebration of more general local traditions; food, folk music, arts & crafts etc.
The first of the year in the town of Ferrassières, on the Plateau D’Albion, which is on the first Sunday of July (July 5th in 2020) and is a quite relaxed low key affair. The town of Valesole hosts possibly the most famous Lavender festival in Provence on the third Sunday of July every year (19th July in 2020), while Sault celebrates on August 15th each year.
The popular spa town of Digne les Bains in Haute Provence, to the north east of Valensole, drags it out for a full five days with its own lively festival called the ‘Corso of Lavender’ happening from the 31st of July to the 4th of August in 2020.
Finding accommodation around any of the above places, especially Valensole, during festival time and indeed at any time during the summer, can be very difficult so you’re advised to BOOK WELL AHEAD OF TIME! You can take a look at some of your accommodation options by clicking below:
All through the summer months you’ll find lots of mini festivals and farmer’s markets too that have a big lavender component and it has to be said that there is a general, very noticeable, festive atmosphere throughout the region during lavender season.
Where to Stay: Recommended Accommodation around the Lavender Fields of Provence.
(Note: Most accommodation is booked out well in advance in rural Provence during lavender season so bookings should be made as soon as possible.)
Le Mas de la Rose has luxury accommodation in a tastefully renovated 17th century farmhouse between the Luberon and Alpilles Regional Parks and less than 30km south of Avignon.
It has 75 acres of grounds to explore with fields of lavender, pine and olive trees, and some very good outdoor facilities; a nicely designed swimming pool, a hot tub and tennis courts.
There is a very well known restaurant at Le Mas de la Rose too, and the food is outstanding.
You can rent bikes out for free at the farmhouse and if you tire of exploring the farm itself you can take a ride or a walk out into the classic Provence countryside that lies in wait just outside the gates.
Near both Gordes and Ménerbes, in Provence’s Luberon region, La Bastide du Marie is a gorgeous property; a beautifully restored 18th century manor house surrounded by 57 acres of vineyards, gardens, olive trees and lavender groves.
It offers very much a luxury experience but rooted in authenticity; the entire space, both the building and the grounds are immaculately kept and display a great deal of historical elegance. There are two swimming pools here, spa facilities, a winery and an excellent restaurant.
If you have an affinity for Provencal cuisine you may also be pleased to know that you can join cooking classes with the chefs and learn many interesting local recipes.
La Bastide de Marie is a vineyard hotel so wine here is also a great attraction. The enthusiastic winemakers are always happy to show guests around the vineyards and wine cellars, which of course also means plenty of samples of their reds, whites and rosés.
If you feel like splashing out, one of the most renowned hotels in the lavender fields region, and in Provence generally, is La Coquillade; a luxury 5 star hilltop vineyard hotel with a top quality bistro restaurant, and amongst other things a winery, a swimming pool, a spa, gym and wellness center.
It also has 90 acres of vineyards and offers a full program of wine tourism. La Coquillade is just outside Gargas and, though it’s more about wine than lavender, it is pretty much at the heart of the Luberon lavender fields region.
If La Coquillade seems like it has, well, too much going on and you would like to stay in middle of nowhere Provence, then you may appreciate Le Hameau de Pichovet, which has a beautifully isolated hillside setting at the eastern edge of Luberon.
It offers 5 self catering (though meals can also be prepared for you) apartments in a restored traditional farmhouse gite, surrounded by fields of sunflowers and lavender.
It also has two swimming pools and lots of outside space to enjoy the peace and tranquility. The views are lovely, the property is charming, and you’ll find this side of Provence much more of a get away from it all, tourists being much fewer in number.
All of the above could only be described as luxury accommodation but for those of you looking for something even more unique and special you could also try castle or chateau stays in Provence, details of which you can find at manorcastles.com.
To browse all hotels in Provence via Booking.com, click below: