France Hiking – Provence

Trip Length 9 Days
Group Size 4-15
Activity level
Starting from
$4,999 for REI Members
$5,499 for non-members
Departures Oct 2020-Oct 2020

Spend nine days hiking and exploring among picturesque landscapes in Provence.

Provence is a work of art. Great painters like Cézanne, Picasso, and Matisse found inspiration in the lavender fields, ancient olive groves, mountain passes and sun-drenched hilltop towns. The region’s varied landscapes are an excellent place to seek adventure alongside top-notch guides and like-minded explorers.

In the historic, walled city of Avignon we tour the Papal Palace. The wine region of Gigondas invites us to hike in the Dentelles de Montmirail, a series of jagged limestone peaks that jut over the surrounding landscape of vineyards. In Roussillon, we follow the Ochre Trail, soaking in the deep reds, bright yellows, and forest greens. Mount Sainte-Victoire, celebrated in paintings by Cézanne, is a stunning hike that culminates at a limestone peak topped by the 62-foot Cross of Provence. Nearby to Marseille, we kayak the Mediterranean mini fjords of the Calanques National Park. Each day’s adventure is countered with a chance to enjoy the sensorial pleasures of France: Provençal cuisine, world-class wine and olive oil tastings.

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Trip Highlights

  • Hike in the Dentelles and on Mount Sainte-Victoire for fantastic views
  • Explore the hilltop village of Gordes and the ochre cliffs of Roussillon
  • Unwind at lovely accommodations in Avignon, Gordes, Aix-en-Provence and Cassis
  • Discover the gorgeous Calanques by kayak and foot on the Côte d’Azur
  • Indulge in the gastronomic pleasures of Provencal cuisine

Activities

This trip is rated as Moderate [3]. Participants will hike from 3-9 miles most days (2-6 hours a day) on trails that are very rocky, with hills that include steep sections. The most challenging is at Mount Sainte-Victoire (9 miles on rocky trails, short sections where it could be helpful to use your hands, and elevation gain/loss of 2,132'). Note that very warm weather or the Mistral winds can make hiking seem more strenuous. Kayaking in protected waters is suitable for beginners; we recommend knowing how to swim, however all guests will wear a provide PFD.

  • Hiking
  • Kayaking

What's Included

Eight nights of double occupancy accommodations with private baths; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; one glass of wine or beer with included dinners; park and museum entrance fees as noted in the daily itinerary; sea kayaks and related gear; wine tastings on Day 3 and Day 8; olive oil tasting on Day 4; bilingual guides; all transportation as noted in the daily itinerary; gratuities to service providers except trip guides.

Accommodations

Hotels, 8 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Avignon, France.

Arrive by 4pm in Avignon, France, and transfer to our hotel in the historical center of this walled city. Meet your trip leader and group for a 5:30pm orientation in the hotel. We enjoy a short walking tour of the city en-route to a local restaurant for our first Provencal dinner. Dinner included.

Walking: 30 minutes.

Day 2

Tour the Papal Palace in Avignon and hike to Les Baux-de-Provence.

We take a walking tour of historically rich Avignon and visit the Papal Palace, a jewel of medieval architecture, and the famous bridge over the Rhone River, Pont St. Bénezet. Departing Avignon after lunch, we visit two Roman monuments in the heart of the Alpilles, then begin our hike to the rocky village of Les Baux-de-Provence. En route we stop at a former Roman quarry, where the white limestone to build Les Baux originated. Today the quarry houses the Carriéres de Lumiéres, an extraordinary and unique audio visual show that projects the work of artists such as Picasso onto the quarry walls. There is time to experience the art (optional extra expense) or enjoy the village of Les Baux. Following dinner in the village we return to our accommodations in Avignon. All meals included.

Walking tour: 2 hours; Hiking: 3 miles, 2.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 200’/ 330’; terrain: paved and dirt paths.

Day 3

Hike in the Dentelles de Montmirail Mountains; wine tasting in Gordes.

We hike in the world renowned wine region of Gigondas, exploring the Dentelles de Montmirail. Our trail takes us between pinewoods, vineyards and diverse scrubland with a backdrop dominated by a mountain chain of sharp, rocky peaks. After our hike we transfer to a Gigondas winery to visit its cellar, and enjoy a wine tasting. The wine of Gigondas is typically robust, award-winning reds and a few whites and rosés. We transfer to our accommodations in charming Gordes, a village made up of houses of white and gray stone rising up around the hilltop village and its castle. All meals included.

Hiking: 3 miles, 2 hours; elevation gain 1035’/loss: 1,300’; terrain: dirt paths and rocky trails; driving: about 2 hours.

Day 4

Hike to the Senanque Abbey; olive oil tasting and a farm-to-table dinner.

Departing on foot from our hotel, we follow a cobbled and dirt trail through oak forests to reach the still-working 12th-century Senanque Abbey. The abbey is surrounded by lavender fields, which are typically in bloom from mid-June to mid-August. We take some time to enjoy the peaceful setting, where monks still farm the lavender and tend the bees, before continuing our hike back to Gordes. We are rewarded with panoramic views of the Luberon valley, dotted with the maintained dry stone walls that are characteristic of this region. This evening we visit a local olive oil mill to sample different oils, then enjoy a farm-to-table dinner among the olive trees. All meals included.

Hiking: 6 miles, 4.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 820'; terrain: cobblestones, dirt paths and sections of paved road.

Day 5

Follow the Ochre Trail of Roussillon and visit a lavender factory.

We say farewell to Gordes and transfer to Roussillon, a small village situated in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world. We walk the “Ochre Trail” and take note of its brilliant russet-red and yellow colors, set off by green forests of pine and oaks. Leaving the canyon, we walk to the center of Roussillon, one of the most beautiful villages of the Luberon. After lunch and some time to explore, we visit a lavender factory to learn about the distillation process, as well as differences and uses of true lavender and lavandin. The Luberon region of Provence has been associated with lavender growing since it was brought here by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Our day ends with a transfer to Aix-en-Provence and dinner. All meals included.

Hiking: 2 miles, 1.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 985’; terrain: dirt paths and pavement; driving: 2 hours.

Day 6

Hike on picturesque Mt. Sainte-Victoire and discover Aix-en-Provence.

Mount Sainte-Victoire is celebrated for its many appearances in paintings by Paul Cézanne. Beginning in a shaded pine forest, we hike up the mountain to a 17th century Priory and the nearby 62-foot Cross of Provence. We are rewarded with 360-degree views of Luberon, Mount Ventoux, the Alps and the vertical cliff just off Cassis called Cap Canaille. We refuel with a picnic lunch before returning to the tree-lined streets of Aix-en-Provence. Nowhere else in France is l'art de vivre (the art of living) so well established. Meander the wide promenade of the Cours Mirabeau, bordered by fine houses and fountains, or relax at one of its many outdoor cafes. Enjoy dinner on your own tonight. Breakfast and lunch included.

Hiking: 9 miles, 5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 2,132’; terrain: paved and dirt paths.

Day 7

Kayak the clear waters of Calanques National Park, overnight in Cassis.

From Aix-en-Provence we transfer to the Calanques de Port-Miou. This long, narrow waterway has a picturesque marina with hundreds of sailboats; it’s the perfect place to enter the water to begin our kayaking tour. We kayak a mini fjord of clear turquoise waters, passing sandy beaches and dramatic white stone cliffs. On the sea, at water level, is the best way to appreciate these outstanding formations. Following a picnic lunch we check into our hotel in the village of Cassis. This charming fishing port is known for its clay colored buildings and rosé-producing vineyards. This afternoon there is free time to relax, explore the village, or take an optional guided walk to Pointe de la Cacau to visit le trou souffleur blowhole. Dinner is on your own; you may wish to try bouillabaisse, a popular Provençal fish stew. Breakfast and lunch included.

Kayaking: about 4.6 miles, 3 hours; optional hiking: 2.6 miles, 1.5 hours, elevation gain/loss: 92’/33’; terrain: dirt and rock paths.

Note: Day 7 and Day 8 activities are subject to change should the Mistral wind–a strong, gusty, cold, northwesterly wind–cause high seas or close the road to Cap Canaille. Alternate hikes in the area will be provided.

Day 8

Hike on Cap Canaille, the highest cliffs in France, and wine tasting.

​Cap Canaille, located just a few miles to the east of Cassis, are the highest maritime cliffs in Europe. The summit of Grande Tête has a 1,293’ sheer cliff. We reach this remarkable outlook via the Route des Cretes, a road that provides access to numerous panoramic viewpoints. From here we begin our hike along an upper trail, taking in the sweeping views of the sea, cliffs and surrounding mountains. Following our hike we transfer to a nearby vineyard for a picnic lunch, then stroll through the vineyards to a winery to enjoy a wine tasting. We return to Cassis on foot, with the remainder of the afternoon free to discover the shops along the port, take a boat tour to see the Calanques from a new perspective, or go for a swim from the beach. This evening, we gather for a farewell dinner and toast our adventure with wine or pastis, an anise-flavored spirit and aperitif. All meals included.

Hiking: 5 miles, 2 hours; elevation gain/loss: 430'/720'; walking: 4-4.5 miles, 1.5 hours; terrain: dirt and paved paths.

Day 9

Depart from Cassis, or continue to explore on your own.

The trip concludes after breakfast. The Vitrolles Aeroport Marseille-Provence can be reached by train (transfer at Marseille-St. Charles station). All transportation is on your own. Breakfast included.

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Valid Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.