Diverse Directions: Self-Guided Cycling Tours in France

Provence Cycling Tour Itineraries

Provence of the Tour de France 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

Circuit tour of 6 days / 7 nights.

Terrain

Very challenging. This is the most challenging of our Provence tour itineraries from the standpoint of the amount of climbing required. Even if you choose to forego the Mont Ventoux climb, this itinerary is as demanding as it is beautiful. Of course, you will be generously rewarded for your efforts. Days 3, 4, and 5 are the most difficult.

Distance

273 km / 169 miles. Average of 55 km / 33 miles per day.

  • Overnight destinations: Avignon, Gordes, Sault, and Vaison-la-Romaine.
  • Some of France's most beautiful perched medieval villages -- Gordes, Roussillon, Ménerbes, Goult, etc. -- bathed in the warm Provencal sun.
  • The climb up Mont Ventoux, the roof of Provence and location of the popular Tour de France mountain stage. You also have the option of being shuttled with your bikes to the summit to begin your cycling from there. There is no additional charge for this service.
  • The sheer beauty of the Mediterranean landscapes and the play of light that so captivated Impressionists like Van Gogh.
  • The charming riverside villages of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Fontaine de Vaucluse.
  • The gorges of the Nesque and the Toulourenc Rivers.
  • Vineyards, wine villages, and free wine tasting opportunities.
  • Avignon, the region's most colorful and cultured city, with its medieval wall surrounding the city and its former Papal palace.

Tour Package Price

  • Per Person Adult Price: $795.00
  • Per Person Child Price (16 years or younger traveling with 2 adults): $375.00
  • Tour Deposit: $250.00 per adult and $100.00 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.

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 6 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
  • Baggage transfers
  • Reservation of your accommodations
  • English-speaking support staff
  • Postage charges for US customers
  • Basic SAG Support: If you choose not to cycle on one or more days due to weather, illness, etc., AND you notify your Diverse Directions support representative in advance so that you and your bikes can be transported along with your luggage, no additional charges will apply.
  • 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.
  • Monitoring of your Mont Ventoux climb. Your support representative will monitor your progress as you climb Mont Ventoux and will be available to give you a ride to the summit if you feel you cannot make it. The price for this additional service is US $95.00 Euros for 1 - 2 persons. If you wish to take advantage of this service you must notify your support representative by 8:30 am of the morning of your Mont Ventoux climb.
  • 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.
Daily Itinerary
Arrive in Avignon. Spend 2 nights.

Arrive in Avignon at the time of your choosing. No activities are scheduled for this day.

Day 1: Free Day in Avignon with Optional Cycling to the Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct)

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.

On this, your first full day in Avignon, you'll pick up your bicycle and have the opportunity to take it for a leisurely spin around Avignon. Alternatively, you may take a scenic 60-km / 37-mile day trip ride to the Pont du Gard, one of Provence's greatest wonders. Constructed by the Romans in the 1st century to transport clean drinking water to the Roman city of Nîmes, this remarkable aqueduct bridges the River Gard today as it has for 2000 years.

Day 2: Avignon to Gordes - 42 km / 26 miles. Spend 2 nights.

photoOn your first required day of cycling you'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. The first half 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. With its blocks of riverside cafes and restaurants, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue makes a wonderful rest stop before beginning the second, more challenging half of the day's ride.

Next you'll visit 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.

photoAfter tearing yourself away from Fontaine de Vaucluse you'll begin your climb in earnest into the Luberon, with ever expanding views and more charming villages as you make your way to one of the Luberon's most magnificent hilltop villages, Gordes.

If the Luberon were a country, Gordes would be its capital. This is the Parthenon of Provence, an imposing edifice born of stone that has always attracted its share of attention because it is just so good-looking. Inevitably, Gordes is officially one of "The Most Beautiful Villages in France." It's not just the stunning view of Gordes as you approach it; Gordes is also a pleasure to explore from within, along its tight alleyways and arcades. There are many restaurants and cafes, from simple to refined; some bakeries and food stores; and a thriving arts scene. Your explorations will take you to the spots where the view outward from Gordes is also spectacular, high over the Luberon plain.

Day 3: Circuit of the perched villages of the Luberon - 42 km / 26 miles.

photoToday you'll have the entire day to delight in the perched villages of the Luberon -- that part of Provence made famous by Peter Mayle in his bestselling memoir, A Year in Provence. Today's ride is truly one of the highlights of this tour as you cycle through deep Mediterranean forests laced with rugged limestone outcroppings, each of your climbs being rewarded with absolutely stunning views. You'll have the opportunity to visit the quintessentially Provencal villages of Lacoste, Roussillon, Ménerbes, Goult, and Joucas. Both Ménerbes and Roussillon are officially classified as among "The Most Beautiful Villages in France."

Your visit to Roussillon includes the opportunity to photovisit the adjacent ochre quarries responsible for the amazing colors of its buildings. From the center of the village you can take the Ochre Walk, an incredible nature walk through ochre-colored hills, a color you've most likely never seen in nature.

You'll marvel at the picturesque beauty of each medieval enclave you visit today, with their stone cottages clinging to the hillsides overlooking the majestic landscapes below them.

Day 4: Gordes to Sault - 60 km / 37 miles. Spend 1 night.

photoOn today's ride you'll turn your sights almost exclusively toward the raw, unspoiled, off-the-beaten path natural beauty of the Luberon. Shortly after your departure from Gordes, you'll skirt the nearby mountains cycling alongside jagged rock walls. Your route today is largely a steady climb, with some exciting roller coaster-like ups and downs.

The highlight of this day's ride however is the magnificence of the Gorges de la Nesque with its expansive vistas, hairpin switchback turns and Grand Canyonesque drama. After leaving the Gorges, you'll soon arrive in Sault, the staging point for your Mount Ventoux adventure.

Day 5: Sault to Vaison-la-Romaine - 57.1 km / 35 miles via Mont Ventoux or 46.6 km / 29 miles via easier alternate. Spend 1 night.

photoFor couples or groups consisting of individuals with different fitness, skill and / or interest levels, the climb up Mount Ventoux, the mountain made famous by its inclusion in many Tour de France races, is optional. The alternative route consists of gently rolling hills interspersed with stretches of flat, effortless cycling and a couple of climbs. The alternative route includes the spectacular scenery of the Valley of the Toulourenc and passes through several beautiful villages as well.

You also have the option of being shuttled to the summit of Mont Ventoux with your bikes so that you can enjoy the tremendous views and exhilarating descent without the extremely challenging climb. If you choose this option you will begin your cycling to Vaison-la-Romaine from Mont Ventoux's summit. To take advantage of this free service we simply ask that you notify your Diverse Direction's support representative no later than 7:00 am on Day 5.

For those willing to make the assault, your climb up Mount Ventoux begins in Sault, the most popular approach to the summit due to its more manageable grade overall. From Sault to Chalet Reynard (the point at which all approaches up the mountain converge) the grade ranges from 1% to 6%. Midway through your climb up the mountain's forested eastern slope you'll encounter an average grade of slightly less than 6% for 7 consecutive kilometers.

photoFrom Chalet Reynard to the summit, the grade ranges from 6.5% to 10.4% with the steepest grade occurring at the very summit for 1.1 kms. By the time you've reached the mountain's barren summit, you will have climbed 1150 meters over 21.1 kilometers. Of course, your descent to Vaison-la-Romaine is a spine-tingling, hair- raising, thrill-a-minute, once in a lifetime experience as well.

Most of the hotels we recommend in Vaison-la-Romaine are located in the medieval upper town, a peaceful quarter with narrow, winding streets lined with beautiful gardens, charming shops and wonderful restaurants. The views are magnificent. Perched above the upper town you'll find the ruins of a 12th century castle and its once mighty fortifications.

After settling in, you'll want to make the short walk / descent to the convivial ambience of Vaison's lively new town. Highly recommended is a visit to the excavated ruins of an extensive Roman settlement, right in the heart of downtown Vaison. You'll get a fascinating look at the homes of its wealthiest residents with their still intact mosaic floors and indoor plumbing. For more information, click to visit Vaison-la-Romaine on the web.

Day 6: Vaison to Avignon - 69 km / 43 miles - Spend 1 night.

photoToday's route begins with a gorgeous ride along the Route du Vin (the Wine Road) through the charming winemaking villages of Séguret, Sablet, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras --and with the constant backdrop of the rugged Dentelles Mountains. From there you'll head west to one of France's most exclusive wine appellations, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a wonderful place to have lunch and explore.

After lunch, you'll cross the Rhone back into the Gard region. Your route takes you down the west side of the Rhone along tiny back roads through fields of sunflowers and apple, peach and pear orchards. Before returning to Avignon we recommend a stop in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon, just across the Rhone from Avignon. It was in Villeneuve that the cardinals settled when upon their arrival in the 14th century they found no remaining place to build in the papal city of Avignon. 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.