Diverse Directions: Self-Guided Cycling Tours in France

Provence Cycling Tour Itineraries

The Many Faces of Provence Hub & Spoke Tour


General Information

Tour Highlights

Tour Dates

Anytime between April 1 and October 31. Please note, however, that bike pick-up and return cannot occur on a Sunday. See Scheduling Your Bike Tour for blackout dates and tour scheduling considerations.

Location

Located in the far southeast of France, Provence is known for its lovely Mediterranean climate, fields of sunflowers, vineyards, the Impressionists, its Papal palace and Roman ruins. In the deep south of France, the tour begins and ends in Avignon, 3 - 4 hours from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport by express train. The vegetation, light, and ambiance is Mediterranean.

Format & Length

Hub & Spoke tour of 3 days / 4 nights to 5 days / 6 nights.

Terrain

Easy to moderately challenging. The terrain, like everything about this region, is diverse. While there frequent ups and downs on this tour you'll also enjoy long, relatively flat stretches of effortless cycling.

Distance

Choose from 5 day-trip rides ranging from 41 - 61 km / 25 - 38 miles in length.

  • Overnight destination: Avignon.
  • Roman ruins as impressive as those of Italy; particularly the grand aqueduct of the region, the Pont du Gard; and the Triumphal Arch and amphitheatre at Orange.
  • The sheer beauty of the Mediterranean landscapes and the play of light that so captivated Impressionists like Van Gogh.
  • An incredibly varied geography including mountain ranges, semi-arid garrigue, rolling vineyards, and cliff-studded river valleys.
  • Enjoy free wine tasting opportunities nearly everywhere along your route.
  • Perched medieval villages bathed in the warm Provencal sun.
  • The colorful city of Avignon with its medieval wall surrounding the city and its former Papal palace.

Tour Package Price

  • 5 Days - $300.00 per adult & $150.00 per child*
  • 4 Days - $275.00 per adult & $125.00 per child*
  • 3 Days - $250.00 per adult & $100.00 per child*
  • Tour Deposit: $150.00 per adult and $75.00 per child. Deposits are charged when tour materials are sent and hotel availability has been confirmed.
  • Discounts are available for parties of 5 or more adults.
  • See Terms & Conditions for Diverse Directions' payment terms, cancellation policy, and all terms & conditions.

*Children age 16 or younger traveling with 2 adults.


Tour Package Price Includes...

Tour Package Price Does Not Include...

  • Tour documentation: Route instructions, maps, Pre-trip Preparation Guide, On-Road Quick Reference Guide, and Sights Guide.
  • Bike Rental for 3 - 5 Days: Excellent quality hybrid bike with handlebar bag, map carrier, cyclometer, water bottle cage, rear rack, lock, repair kit, and helmet. Optional pedal cages. Road / racing bikes and mountain bikes are available for a supplemental charge. Tandem bikes are also available and may be substituted for 2 standard hybrids at no additional charge.
  • GPS navigation files
  • Reservation of your accommodations
  • English-speaking support staff
  • Postage charges for US customers
  • Accommodations: You're free to determine your own budget for accommodations. A complete list of accommodations options (with website links) is available upon request.
  • Meals: You're free to determine your own budget for meals.
  • SAG support
  • Transportation from your home to Avignon and from Avignon to your home
  • Insurance & personal expenses
  • Postage to destinations outside the US (generally $20.00 - $45.00)
  • Expedited shipping of tour materials, if required.
The Tour's Base and Day Ride Descriptions
Hub: Avignon

photoAvignon is a vibrant, sunny, southern city, full of historical sights. Must-sees include the Palais des Papes, the palatial residence of the Popes who moved here from Rome in the 14th century when Rome was politically unstable, and the city's collection of art museums and Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance churches. You'll be fascinated by Avignon's centuries old ramparts which completely surround the city's medieval center, as well as the 12th century bridge which partially spans the mighty Rhone River. You'll be staying within the city's walled center, just a few short steps from a multitude of fabulous restaurants and shops. For more information, click to visit Avignon on the web.

Spoke 1: Vintage Vaucluse: Isle-sur-la-Sorgue & Fontaine de Vaucluse - 61 km / 38 miles.

Isle sur la SorgueYou'll depart bustling Avignon on a series of new bike paths and bike routes -- nicely protected from city traffic -- and will soon find yourself on quiet country roads winding through the famous vineyards of the Rhone river valley. Most of today's route is almost completely flat with the exception of a climb to the sleepy village of Jonquerettes. You'll continue easy cycling through the lively market town of le Thor and on to Isle-sur-le-Sorgue, often referred to as the Provencal Venice owing to its being traversed by five branches of the River Sorgue.

More town than village, with tall plane trees and green streams, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is "the island on the Sorgue" a few kilometers from the river's source at Fontaine de Vaucluse. Over the last 40 years Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has become famous as the antiques capital of Provence, indeed of France, if you don't count Paris. There are many permanent antique shops, art galleries and interior décor shops here, grouped in several "villages." Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a pleasant walking town. The bars and cafes retain their authenticity, little footbridges take you over the water, and narrow, winding streets tunnel into the old centre of town, and the courtyards lined with antiquaries.

Fontaine de VaucluseBefore you end your cycling day, however, you'll continue a bit farther to the charming village of Fontaine de Vaucluse. Squeezed into the sharp end of a narrow valley, the village takes its name from the beautiful and mysterious spring feeding the river Sorgue. This spring comes from deep underground - nobody knows how deep. In the 1950s, Jacques Yves Cousteau came with a submersible to explore the depths but did not find the bottom. Gushing out of a 230 meter high cliff, the underground spring is the world's fifth most powerful resurgent river. This extraordinary phenomenon forms the crystal-clear Sorgue river, which soon turns a startling emerald; and it's this vivid hue that dominates the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse. To get an idea of its splendor, take a look at this YouTube clip of the village and river.

You'll return to Avignon by way of a slightly different route, enjoying more quiet roads and gorgeous scenery.

Spoke 2: Papal Grapes & Orange: Chateauneuf-du-Pape & Orange - 41 km / 25 miles.

photoThis day trip takes you through the vineyards that belonged to the papacy when, during the 14th century, the popes resided in Avignon and maintained a summer residence near Châteauneuf-du-Pape. You'll leave Avignon by way of the Isle de la Barthelasse, an island in the middle of the Rhone River with splendid views of Avignon. The route takes you down tiny roads through beautiful orchards, along the cliff-studded Rhone River to the village of Roquemaure, and then to the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Châteauneuf is a world renowned center of wine making, as the Châteauneuf vintage is one of the world's most exclusive appellations.

OrangeFrom Châteauneuf you'll cycle through beautiful vineyards to the historic city of Orange. Orange has a long history that goes back to the days of the Romans. In fact, the Roman Theater (Théâtre Antique) is the best preserved in the whole of the Roman empire, and is justifiably the pride of the city. In the second half of the 12th century Orange became the seat of a small principality called Comtat Vanaissin, which became a part of the Netherlands in the 16th century. It was not until 1713 that Orange became part of France. All of Orange's principle sights are located in the lovely old town center. Orange is a lively, colorful city that will seduce you with its charms.

The route is mostly flat except for the areas around Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

You'll return to Avignon by train with your bike. All trains permit bikes, the trains are frequent, the ride takes approximately 20 minutes, and bikes travel free of charge.

Spoke 3: Vintage Heights: Tavel Wine Region & Villeneuve-les-Avignon - 46 km / 29 miles.

photoThis day trip takes you to the lovely wine villages of the Cotes du Rhone appellation in the uplands of the Gard Department. The route begins with a long, tough climb to the village of Sauveterre, a small village with a maze of narrow streets built along the foot of a steep escarpment. With your elevation gain behind you, you're on to Pujaut, another charming village and your entry into the highland vineyards of the Gard. From Pujaut you'll continue west to the village of Tavel, celebrated for its world-renowned rosé wines. From Tavel you'll make a loop through the surrounding vineyards, feeling very much as if you're atop the world.

Turning back towards Avignon, Villeneuveyour route takes you over tiny roads, through more vineyards, and then onto the Route des Falaises (the Cliffs Route) for several kilometers of dramatic mountain beauty -- with no climb required. Then you cycle onward to Villeneuve-lez-Avignon by way of another series of gorgeous, winding, tiny lanes that feel more like bike paths than roads. Avignon's sister city, Villeneuve-lez-Avignon is an historic city that was established by the cardinals in the 14th century when the papal city of Avignon had no remaining living space. In addition to its many splendid sights such as the massive citadel known as Fort St André, the Papal Monastery of Val de Benediction, and the Tour Philippe le Bel, Villeneuve commands incredible views of Avignon and Mount Ventoux.

Spoke 4: The Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct) - 60 km / 37 miles.

Pont du GardThe route to the Pont du Gard is a wonder of tiny, beautiful roads almost completely free of vehicle traffic. The journey is a joy in and of itself, passing through a number of charming medieval villages like 16th century Aramon, Théziers, and Remoulins. If you're visiting in September, you may even experience Aramon's running of the bulls!

Of course, the day's primary destination is the Roman aqueduct called the Pont du Gard. Constructed by the Romans in the 1st century to transport clean drinking water to the Roman city of Nîmes, this remarkable aqueduct bridges the Gard today as it has for 2000 years. The Pont was in use for 1000 years, of which 500 were without maintenance; it survives today in nearly intact condition. The area surrounding the Pont du Gard is a park, complete with riverside beaches and a lovely picnic area.

You can cycle across the aqueduct, and you will definitely do so if you're making the optional side trip to the magnificently perched village of Castillon-du-Gard. This detour adds 11 km / 7 miles to your cycling day, and a very long climb. Your efforts are rewarded by one of France's most beautiful villages and extraordinary views.

Spoke 5: Tarascon & Beaucaire - 59 km / 36 miles.

BoulbonOn the way to this ride's primary destination you'll cycle through a lovely region known as La Montagnette, after the range of hills that parallels the Rhone as it flows southwest from Avignon. The setting is beautiful -- a typical Provencal landscape of rock escarpments; hillsides fragrant with wild flowers and aromatic herbs; and quiet hollows sheltering olive, almond, and apricot trees, pines, and poplars. Your route takes you through the Montagnette village of Boulbon, a lovely historic village dominated by its ancient defensive castle which for centuries stood as a sentinel for the Counts of Provence against the Kingdom of France.

From Boulbon a series of quiet, scenic roads -- one of which follows an ancient protective levy -- takes you on to Tarascon and Beaucaire. Facing one another on either side of the Rhone River, they have been centers of commerce since antiquity. 

TarasconTarascon boasts a fairytale 15th century chateau, considered to be one of the finest fortified medieval castles in the whole of France. Tarascon is a lively, authentic town with no pretention and is a wonderful town for strolling or enjoying a sidewalk cafe. The streets of Tarascon -- lined with rose, lemon, and ochre houses with pots of geraniums in the windows and laundry flapping in the breeze -- make for a delightful place to wander around. In addition, Tarascon boasts a castle that doesn't even require a climb! Rooted in a limestone rock over the Rhone, Tarascon's castle gleams like white satin between the sun and water, a storybook feudal castle with crenellations and moat. Its location on the banks of the Rhone, its massive appearance which contracts with its inside architecture, and its exceptional state of preservation make the building one of the finest medieval castles in France. In the 13th century the castle, opposite the royal city of Beaucaire, defended Provence's western boundary.

Beaucaire has a beautiful waterfront. In addition to the Rhone on its eastern border, its southern border is framed by a wide canal that connects the city with villages to the west. The principal part of town lines the quays along the canal. Beaucaire also has a castle -- dating back to the 11th century -- though very little of it can be visited apart from the gardens. Like Tarascon, Beaucaire's medieval center is a maze of narrow streets that are great for exploring.

Your return route to Arles follows the wooded shores of the Rhone and passes through the medieval village of Vallabrègues. You also have the option of returning to Avignon from Tarascon by fast, frequent trains that permit bikes at no additional charge.