Cycling through ever-changing landscapes in beautiful Provence
Discover the Roman cities of Vaison & Arles, as well as some of France’s most beautiful villages
Cycle through the hauntingly beautiful Camargue wetlands, among white horses and pink flamingos
Finish the tour on the beautiful Mediterranean coastline at St-Maries-de-la-Mer
Optional 1-day extension to attempt the epic climb of Mont Ventoux
Self-guided cycling holiday from Mont Ventoux to the Mediterranean
A complete and diverse cycling tour of Provence: on quiet roads from Mont Ventoux to the Camargue and the Mediterranean Sea
Experience the best of Provence in a week of cycling from inn to inn starting at the foot of Mont Ventoux, passing through the uplands of the Luberon and Alpilles and finishing at the Mediterranean Sea on routes that have been designed to allow time for sight-seeing and relaxing.
The trip starts in the shadow of the famous Mont Ventoux, the highest peak in Provence and scene of many memorable Tour de France stage finishes. It is possible to book an additional night to attempt the brutal climb to the summit (it can be made a lot easier by renting an electric bike!).
Leaving the ‘Giant of Provence’ behind, you will cycle southwards on quiet roads through the famous Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards, passing the Luberon’s most beautiful hilltop villages: Gordes, Bonnieux, Roussillon. Pedal through the olive groves, vineyards, lavender fields and discover the charm of the historic towns and villages, all inviting frequent stops. Cycle onwards to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and discover the Alpilles mountains that inspired the later work of artist Vincent van Gogh. As you make your way steadily south towards the Mediterranean, your penultimate stop is in Arles, the gateway to the Camargue. Perched on the Rhone river, the town possesses many Roman treasures, including its beautifully preserved Amphitheatre. Your last cycling day takes you through the protected region of the Camargue, home of the wild white horses and flamingos, before finally reaching the sea at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
|8 DAYS / 7 NIGHTS||From €850 per person sharing*
*Discounts available for groups of 4 or more. Please enquire for prices
|BIKE RENTAL||Hybrid Bike
If you don’t bring your own, you can rent a bicycle from us. Our touring bikes are top-of-the-line Trek or equivalent. They are equipped with Shimano parts and light aluminium frames, and have a minimum of 21-speed gears. Included with every bike is a helmet, security vest, pump, bike computer, 1 front pannier, 1 water bottle holder, 1 lock per bike, inner tube and repair kit (1 kit per 2 bikes).
It is also possible to rent an electric bike. Provence is hilly. And most of the prettiest villages are “hilltop”, meaning you have to climb to get there. Our E-bikes become a wonderful compromise: while still doing exercise – you still have to pedal to get these things going after all – you can access the hilliest and most breathtaking of what Provence has to offer without being a great cyclist. You can also accompany a more athletic spouse or friend on one of our holidays.
|ACCOMMODATION||All accommodations are carefully selected because of their location, atmosphere and/or unique services.
We choose comfortable 2*/3* hotels and guesthouses. All rooms have private facilities and some of the hotels have swimming pools. Breakfast is included each day. The standard hotels of this trip are listed below. In case any hotels are unavailable, we will book one of a similar standard and inform you of the change.
You can also book additional nights at any of the hotels along the way.
|AVAILABILITY||You can start on any day of the week, subject to availability, between March 1st and November 15th.|
|DIFFICULTY||The overall difficulty level of this trip is rated as moderate. Expect to cycle from 34km to 56km per day on quiet roads, cycle paths and tracks, with moderate but steady climbs along the way through hilly terrain. None of the grades are extremely steep (unless you decide to add an extension to do the Mont Ventoux summit cycle, which is extremely demanding). Some bike riding experience is helpful to make the most of this holiday, but with an e-bike it is accessible for everyone.|
Day 1: Arrival in Vaison-la-Romaine
Make your own way to Vaison-la-Romaine, France’s largest Roman archaeological site. Spend time wandering through the expansive Roman ruins before crossing the2000-year-old bridge and making your way up to the medieval village. Perched dizzyingly on the rock above the Ouvèze River, the cobbled streets lead up to the ruins of the 12th century feudal castle, from where the view extends over the entire town and to far-reaching countryside.
Between the Rhone Valley and Mont Ventoux, Vaison is situated at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail, in a hilly countryside perfumed by vines and olive trees. Within the town you will find little shaded squares, ancient doorways, and narrow cobbled streets dotted with superb fountains. There is a market in town every Tuesday morning.
Day 2: From Vaison-la-Romaine to Bédoin
Distance: 43 km | Ascent: 650 m | Descent: 500 m
Mont Ventoux provides the dramatic backdrop to today’s cycle. The barren limestone peak of Provence’s highest mountain soars above the plains. Cycling through the most prestigious of Côtes du Rhône landscapes, you reach Gigondas and its world-famous vineyards. You will have plenty of opportunities to stop at the wine estates and taste their delicious reds.
Through olive groves and a sea of vines, you cycle onward to Beaumes de Venise, a quaint village known for its sweet Muscat wines. Through a succession of tiny and forgotten villages, on back roads lined by oak forest and orchards, you reach Bédoin. The town is a legendary starting point in the Tour de France for the ascension of Mont Ventoux, arguably the toughest climb in all of France. If you really want a challenge you can stay an extra night in Bédoin to take on the giant!
Overnight: Bédoin (dinner included). There is a great market in town on Monday mornings.
Optional extra day to cycle to the summit of Mont Ventoux
Distance: 56 km | Ascent: 1800 m | Descent: 1800 m
From Mediterranean brush to a moonscape above the tree line. With an average grade of 7.5%, and without a single moment of reprieve, you’re facing 22 km of pure uphill. Often touted as the hardest climb in France, Ventoux is a true test for your climbing legs. The route attracts amateur cyclists from all over the world, and is regarded as one of the word’s epic rides!
Day 3: From Bédoin to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Distance: 34 km | Ascent: 900 m | Descent: 800 m
The landscape at the foot of Ventoux is dotted with small and charming villages, well off the beaten tourist track. You will cycle on quiet roads, among cherry orchards, Côtes du Ventoux vineyards, and truffle oak plantations. We recommend a stop in Pernes-les-Fontaines, a lively town full of cafés, with 40 ancient fountains scattered around the village.
Your destination today is l’Isle sur la Sorgue, a veritable island of a town, surrounded entirely by the green and clear waters of the Sorgue River. The town is world-renowned for its antique shops, while the Sunday market fills the entire centre with a display to stimulate all the senses.
Day 4: Circular cycle route via Gordes and Roussillon
Distance: 56 km | Ascent: 480 m | Descent: 480 m
The sights are endless on today’s ride, so you better get an early start! Amid landscapes dotted with dry-stone huts and ancient stone walls, your route includes two of the most spectacular villages of Provence. First is Gordes, rising vertiginously above the Calavon valley and crowned by its renaissance castle. Then Roussillon, its colourful homes painted in every hue of yellow-orange-red, with the natural pigments taken from the ochre quarry set just beside the village. Ride back to Isle on a bike-only path along on a former railway line.
Day 5: From Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Distance: 37 km | Ascent: 200 m | Descent: 250 m
You cycle first toward the lively town of Cavaillon, filled with restaurants and cafés and bursting with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Through farmlands and endless orchards, you cross the Durance river towards the charming village of Eygalières, surrounded by vast olive groves. The town’s beautiful stone houses are set atop a hill, which is crowned by the ruins of its castle. Finally you reach Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a second home to Vincent Van Gogh and birthplace of Nostradamus, an artists’ town filled with colour and light, and bustling with busy cafés.
There is a market in Cavaillon on Mondays and in Eygalières on Fridays.
Day 6: From Saint-Rémy to Arles
Distance: 50 km | Ascent: 250 m | Descent: 300 m
If starting this route on a Wednesday or Saturday, you will have the chance to buy fresh picnic supplies at the fantastic market in Saint Rémy.
As you cycle out of Saint Rémy, you can visit the monastery of Saint Paul de Mausole, where Van Gogh spent a year of his life and did some of his best work. Cycling on through the pine forests, wildflowers and thyme laden hills of the Alpilles, the village of Les Baux will soon appear. Listed among the most beautiful villages in France, the village is perched atop a rocky crag high above the olive groves and crowned by the ruins of its feudal castle.
The Alpilles mountains are your last hills before an easier final stretch toward the sea. The landscapes soon give way to large expanses of farmland and lonely farmhouses, with bull ranches and rice paddies on the horizon. The colourful city of Arles appears out of nowhere on the banks of the Rhône. Once a metropolis of Roman Gaul, its coliseum and Roman theatre just two of the many monuments the Romans left behind. Vincent van Gogh also lived in in Arles in 1888–1889 and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there.
Day 7: From Arles to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Distance: 54 km | Ascent: 50 m | Descent: 50 m
Remember to pick up some picnic supplies before leaving Arles on the last stage of your cycle towards the Mediterranean. There is a fantastic market in the town on Wednesday & Saturday mornings.
Beyond Arles, you enter the delta of the Rhône river. Not more than a few feet above sea level, you will find yourself cycling through a never-ending landscape of salt-cracked earth and untamed lagoons. This is the Camargue region, a birder’s paradise where herons, egrets, pink flamingos, and dozens of other species come to nest and fish in the shallow pools.
The landscape is devoid of homes and buildings, until suddenly Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer appears in the distance, its disproportionate church dwarfing the bunched, whitewashed homes that make up this small town on the sea. The town has a distinct Gypsy influence. It was here that their patron saint Sara drifted ashore 2000 years ago after fleeing Palestine. The town is now a significant place of pilgrimage for Roma and other ‘gypsy’ peoples. During the Roma pilgrimages, street-cooked pans of paella fuel chaotic crowds of carnivalesque guitarists, dancers and mounted cowboys.
Day 8: Departure
Your cycling holiday comes to an end after breakfast this morning, unless you have booked any additional services with us. If you would like to book any additional nights, then just let us know at the time of booking and we will be happy to arrange it for you. Apart from Mont Ventoux, we also have options for additional loop rides from Vaison, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Please enquire for details.
You can take a bus back to Arles (line A50, departure every 2-3 hours and 35mins journey). From Arles there are onward connections to Marseille, Lyon and other cities in France.