A small country inhabited by diehards who captivate the greatest ... Artists, writers, famous chefs, philosophers and the wealthy have all fallen in love with the Luberon. For its luminous palette that ranges from lavender blue to the coppery hues of the ochre cliffs; for the soft stone heart of the high perched villages; for the sometimes rough, always abrupt nature of the mountains, or for its soil and climate suspended between a high and a water. But no need to be a great man to succumb to the beauty of the five listed villages, to agree on the preciousness of the listed natural park, a biosphere reserve, and to enjoy this art of living, praising simplicity

A radiant palette

The Luberon is truly the jewel of Haute-Provence, with an astonishing diversity. Sometimes it is enough to take a bend in the road for a radically different landscape to emerge, although the perimeter does not lead wide with its small 60 km by 30 km! The vegetation is composed of a jumble of oak groves, rosemary-scented garrigues, forests of white or green oaks, lavender fields and lawns covered in spring with grasses and orchids. The rocky formation also allows itself some cabrioles: caves, arid peaks, canyons, gorges and cliffs which carry to the naked its cabinets of curiosity like this forest of cedars coming from the Atlas Mountains at the top of the Petit Luberon. Without a doubt, this is a remarkable region; a term that does not flatter the literature since it refers to territories labeled by the State, of which the Luberon Regional Nature Park is a part. This natural enclosure preserves a biodiversity of 1,500 plant species and 500 bird species, a list of achievements that has earned it the rank of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1997. The Maison du Parc, in Apt, has all the necessary information for walking and cycling. The little queen has 450 km of marked trails that criss-cross the region along four major routes. The main one wraps itself around the Luberon challenging even the skinniest calves; it passes the relay in the west to the country of Forcalquier, then to that of Aigues in the south and, in its final sprint, allows itself a magnificent loop in the region of the Ochres. The old ochre quarries of Roussillon, or more confidential those of Rustrel, make up the same scenery as the American West

The light iridesces the rock from blond reflections to burgundy hues revealing colours that one would not have thought natural. A radiant palette of natural heritage, just like the gardens of Château Val Joanis, which are also classified as Remarkable. The 400-hectare estate houses an astonishing formal garden, laid out in terraces that are put into perspective by an arbour of flamboyant roses and a carpet of vines. The nature of the Luberon reveals itself in a raw and wild beauty.

The most beautiful villages in France

One has the impression that the villages were built like terraces to appreciate all the beauty of nature... Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is certain: to the pretty ladies, stones have always been offered, and to this one, bories were offered. As early as the 15th century, these small dry-stone buttressed huts were built to serve agricultural and pastoral purposes. They were used in turn as threshing floors, apiaries and ovens; some were used to house shepherds, others were used as a wheeled cistern, the equivalent of a cistern. These "bad huts" - a Provençal translation - have a good heart and today form two exceptional sites: L'Enclos des Bories in Bonnieux and the village of Les Bories de Gordes, classified as a national monument.

From ranking to ranking, let's go to the villages: five are considered here among the most beautiful in France. Gordes, for the best known, impresses by far, when you see its blond houses clinging to the rocky side, when they do not rush into it entirely. From the castle and the opulent church, the calades tumble down the cliff and rush towards the breathtaking views of the valley. We won't leave from there without having a little Alexion - understand energy drink in monastic language - at the Abbey of Sénanque, a valiant witness to the Cistercian architecture of the 12th century. Not far away is Roussillon, the village of the Ochres which give it such a singular patina, and continuing southwards, one reaches Ménerbes. Rougher and less pleasant, it is nicknamed in foggy weather "the ghost ship", a ship with some curiosities such as the dolmen of Pitchoune which, from the top of its 1.50 m, has imposed itself as a historical monument. The imposing silhouette of the castle does not crush the village of Lourmarin which, for once, stands in front of its majesty. It is said to have been the first Renaissance castle in Provence and has known some unfortunate epics, like its village which was a martyr in the Wars of Religion. It is hardly believable that this torture is unbelievable when you dawdle today between its temple, its fountains, its belfry or when you laze on the terrace while toasting to Camus who had chosen to live there. The village of Ansouis has its medieval castle at the end of the alleys. Here are the headliners, but no need to be a star in the Luberon, we discover behind the scenes absolutely charming unvarnished villages. So, go on a trip to Cucuron, Bonnieux, Oppède-le-Vieux, Saignon or Lacoste, which no longer has to blush at the escapades of the Marquis de Sade...

A fertile land

A land of character and yet... The dryness of the limestone soils nourishes an abundant vegetation benefiting from the climatic heat and oceanic humidity. Thyme, rosemary, truffle oaks, olives, almonds, orchards, lavender and a ribbon of vegetation have thus been able to flourish with the help of man's hand. And, by plunging your hand into the earth, you will discover what the Luberon has the most precious thing: the truffle. Although it is associated with the Périgord, two thirds of the "hollowed out" truffles come from the Vaucluse. You can therefore take part in cavage courses, learn how to cook it, choose it on the markets, take part in its ban, taste all its derived flavours and finally visit a museum dedicated to truffles and wine.

The wine of the Luberon has long been neglected, by forfeiture of appellation obtained only very recently, in 1988. Affiliated to the big and happy family of the wines of the Rhone, the AOC Luberon is based on the grape variety of its ancestors, the Syrah, which it personalizes with the Grenache, the Cinsault and the Carignan for the reds representing 70 % of the production. In order not to spoil anything, many winegrowers work the vines in a "natural" way.

Who says red says goat cheese that we were advised to fetch at the market. And they share their stalls of biquettes with everything that perfumes Provence: olives to be crunched, in oil, in tapenade; honey of all kinds, candied fruits and milling bread from Apt, herbs and aromatic plants, melon from Cavaillon, asparagus from Villelaure, lamb from Sault and bouquets of lavender that even embalm the farmers' markets, on Saturday mornings in Apt and on Sundays in Coustellet

Smart Info

When? Every season is interesting, but to enjoy the region's gentle way of life it is best to visit between May and October.

Get there. By car, you can get there by the A7, exit Avignon-Nord or South depending on where you come from, and by the A9, exit Remoulins. By train, Avignon has two train stations. It takes 2 hours 40 minutes from Paris, 1 hour from Lyon and 30 minutes from Marseille

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