Home > Visually Stunning: From Avignon to Nice
Provence is known for its pretty little villages with red tiled roofs, green rolling hills covered in patches of lavender, and a warm, laid-back atmosphere. Though these characteristics are based in truth, Provence is so much more! On this cycling tour, you will ride through low-lying vineyards, the Alps, and toward the Mediterranean Sea. To pack all these dazzling sights into one trip, riders need to be real go-getters accustomed to road bikes. Cyclists can expect to ride 60 to 120 km (37 to 75 miles) a day with a fair amount of climbing (about 1,500 meters/4,921 ft per day).
Though the tour is difficult, riders can still revel in the Provençal sunshine and explore their surroundings as they please. Natural and man-made wonders wait in every corner of the region — we believe wine and cheese fall into both categories!
All joking aside, we cannot recommend Provence enough, and we created this tour to offer visitors a more intense, well-rounded experience in this region.
When planning your arrival in Avignon, we suggest you allow yourself plenty of time to become acquainted with this marvelous city. Upon passing through the city gates, a remnant of Avignon’s medieval fortifications, you will immediately be transported back in time. Tree-lined cobblestone streets take you to the main square, above which the Popes’ Palace rises. You may visit the palace and the grounds next to it, where you can look out over the Pont St. Benezet, the bridge made famous by the song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”.
Spend the night in centrally located accommodations within city walls and prepare for the journey ahead.
Beyond the city walls, the vast countryside and its treasures await you. Heading southwest along the Rhone River, the route takes you to a region called Gard, home of the famed Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard. One can only stare in awe at this marvelous feat of art and engineering — well, that’s not entirely true. As you ride past it, you may actually take your bike up on the bridge! You may also swim or canoe in the river below if you wish. Next on the agenda are the wine-growing regions of Tavel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Cycle through stretches of vineyards and stop by for a tasting; Tavel is famed for its rosé wines, while the Châteauneuf-du-Pape name usually graces red wines. You will recognize the château or castle from which this famous appellation gets its name. Make sure you are well hydrated for the ride ahead! After a visit to the neat little town of Carpentras, you will finish the day’s trip at the foot of Mont Ventoux.
Today you have two options for getting to Sault. The first is a tough ride up the “Giant of Provence”, Mont Ventoux, which is frequently featured in the Tour de France (remember Chris Froome running in 2016?). The 1,910 m (5,700 ft) mountain climb is often a dramatic scene of the race, and the record, held by Iban Mayo, is 55 minutes, 51 seconds. Even if you cannot beat his time, you will surely revel in the magnificent views from the top of Mont Ventoux. Words cannot aptly describe how it feels to see the hills and villages of Provence sprawling out before you!
As it is a challenging ride, you may opt for a route through the Gorges de la Nesque. Though at a lower altitude, the views here are also grand — the surrounding landscape appears to have been untouched by time. The scent of lavender will guide you to serene Sault, the perfect place to wind down after today’s ride.
Peter Mayle became famous for writing about the stunning countryside of the Petit Luberon in “A Year in Provence”; today you’ll have an opportunity to share his experiences. Among the many picturesque settlements on your ride, Gordes will certainly stand out – perched on a hilltop above poppy fields, it lays claim to the title “One of France’s Prettiest Villages”. Just north of Gordes is the Senanque Abbey, which is surrounded by some of the most-photographed lavender fields in Provence. Stop to rest and admire the view...you will need your energy for the ride to Roussillon, yet another of France’s prettiest villages! Here, you will dine and lodge amongst the town’s unique ochre-colored buildings.
As you set out from Roussillon, you will find yourself encompassed by nature – that is, the regional Luberon Natural Park. On your route you will pass Bonnieux nestled high on a cliff, and the hamlet of Buoux, a popular rock-climbing destination. You are perfectly at your leisure to head off the beaten path if you so choose. We recommend stopping in Saignon, another charming hilltop town, for a picnic lunch or a café visit. If time allows, we suggest you climb the Rock of Saigon, an ancient lookout that offers unbeatable views of Mont Ventoux.
Other pause-worthy places include Simiane-la-Rotonde, whose recently restored rotunda boasts some great acoustics, and Banon, where you can sample locally made cheese of the same name. By the time you roll into Forcalquier, you may be well satiated, but a delicious meal and cozy bed await you nevertheless.
From Forcalquier, your journey takes a southeasterly turn toward the coast, though you still have a trek ahead of you! You won’t be able to resist the draw of Manosque for photo ops or window-shopping; despite its walls, it is a friendly, open town. Once you head out into the Durance River plain, you will leave behind the Luberon and enter alpine Provence. With fewer tourists, it will feel like you’ve stumbled upon a more authentic version of Provence. The tiny village of Gréoux-les-Bains was a popular Roman bath site — and it still is frequented for its thermal springs. Continuing onward, you will reach the Plateau de Valensole. Prepare yourself for the unparalleled sensory experience of being surrounded by the fragrance and beauty of lavender fields.
Your destination may be yet another hilltop town — Provence has many! — but Moustiers-Saint-Marie, known for its decorative pottery, is certainly unique. A waterfall cascades from the surrounding cliffs directly into the town center and, according to local lore, a gold-painted star has hung between the cliffs since the Crusades.
The strikingly beautiful natural park of Verdon is the backdrop for today’s ride. The turquoise waters of the Verdon River carve through the limestone, creating one of Europe’s most gorgeous gorges. The route continues east through a quiet valley, one with few markers of civilization. Take a break in the tiny village of Gréolières, whether you need a snack or want to explore the ruins in the area. The next few ”towns” along your route may simply be a handful of houses! If you have not had your fill of gorges on this trip, you are in luck — the ride through the dramatically steep Gorges du Loup is sure to excite you.
We have, however, saved the best for last: nothing can beat the breathtaking view over the Mediterranean Sea as you head south. Enjoy the vistas from the artsy town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence while you sip a cup of coffee or a glass of wine at the end of your trip.
The tour is officially over after breakfast, but you may have a tough time getting back to the real world!
We can arrange a transfer to Nice for a continued vacation — doesn’t relaxing on the beach and eating gelato sound great?
7 nights’ accommodation in 3- and 4-star hotels
This tour can be organized for private groups of 6 or more from April to mid-October 2023