Diverse Directions: Self-Guided Cycling Tours in France

Provence Cycling Tour Itineraries

Vineyards & Van Gogh Circuit 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

Moderately challenging to challenging. This is the easiest of our Provence circuit tours, though you will not want for challenging cycling. Day 5's climb to Les-Baux-de-Provence is the most difficult on this itinerary (and totally worth it!) We do, however, provide an alternate route in the event that you wish to have the option to forego the climb to Les Baux. 

Distance

Total: 160 km / 99 miles + Circuit of the Perched Luberon Villages: 42 km / 26 miles, 38 km / 24 miles, or 26 km / 16 miles.

  • Overnight destinations: Avignon, Gordes, Saint-Rémy, and Arles.
  • 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.
  • Some of France's most beautiful perched medieval villages -- Gordes, Roussillon, Ménerbes, Goult, Lacoste, and Joucas -- bathed in the warm Provencal sun.
  • Beautiful Saint-Rémy, home of Vincent Van Gogh, birthplace of Nostradamus, and location of the Roman ruins of Glanum.
  • Les Baux de Provence, one of France's most beautiful villages and commanding one of the most incredible vistas anywhere.
  • Arles, with its web of narrow medieval streets, its Roman amphitheatre, and homages to its most famous resident, Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Vineyards 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.
  • 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, 38 km / 24 miles, or 26 km / 16 miles.

MenerbesToday 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. With a choice of 3 cycling loops from which to choose -- in accordance with your cycling skill and your enthusiasm for climbing -- today's ride is truly one of the highlights of this tour. The options range from 42 km / 26 miles with 5 challenging climbs to 26 km / 16 miles with 2 challenging climbs. Whichever option you choose, you'll cycle through deep Mediterranean forests laced with rugged limestone outcroppings, and each of your climbs will be rewarded with absolutely stunning views.

Depending on the route that you choose, you'll have the opportunity to visit some or all of 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."

RoussillonA visit to Roussillon is included in each of the day's cycling options as it is just too special to be missed. Not only does it occupy the highest point in the area (i.e. unobstructed views), but it is also adjacent to the 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 choose to visit today, with their stone cottages clinging to the hillsides overlooking the majestic landscapes below them.

Day 4: Gordes to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence - 40 km / 25 miles. Spend 1 night.

Saint RemyYou'll get a richly deserved break from climbing today as your ride is one very long descent from the mountains of the Luberon. You'll enjoy miles of easy cycling along tiny, traffic-free roads through orchards and vineyards with continued views of the surrounding hills. Your route takes you through Cavaillon, renowned for its melons and one of the largest towns of the region. And you'll arrive in Saint-Rémy sufficiently early to enjoy all the sights of this extraordinary town.

Saint-Rémy is undoubtedly one of the most delightful towns in all Provence. Encircled by a boulevard of plane trees, the center of the town is a warren of fine old buildings, pretty squares, plant-filled alleyways, and cooling fountains. Its charms inspired Provencal poets as well as novelist Gertrude Stein. The Hôtel Estrine, a fine old mansion, contains the Centre d'Art Presence Van Gogh (closed Mondays) with audiovisual displays and documentation on Van Gogh, and exhibitions of contemporary works.

GlanumA half-mile outside St-Rémy are the ruins of Glanum, a major Roman town, and the remarkable Roman monuments know as Les Antiques, consisting of a well-preserved mausoleum and a triumphal arch by the side of the road. The 60 foot-high mausoleum, with elaborate bas-reliefs on the podium, was erected around AD 30. The triumphal arch, dating from around the same time, was one of the first of its kind in Provence.

Just below the site is the former monastery of St-Paul-de-Mausole, where Van Gogh was hospitalized. It is still a private sanatorium, but you can walk down the main driveway and visit the church and the 12th century cloisters.

The Saint-Rémy Office of Tourism provides a nice list of the town's major attractions.

Day 5: Saint-Rémy to Arles - 32 km / 20 miles. Spend 1 night.

Les BauxToday you'll visit one of the most remarkable sights in all of Provence: the ancient village of Les-Baux-de-Provence, perched atop the beautiful Alpilles mountain range. The climb to Les Baux is challenging, but comes early in today's ride and is breathtakingly gorgeous. The Alpilles rise dramatically from the Rhone Valley and provide unobstructed vistas for miles.

Les Baux is one of the classic sights of Provence, a powerful evocation of the feudal dynasties which once ruled the country. Perched on a barren rock plateau jutting out southward from the Alpilles chain, Les Baux had been a stronghold since Ligurian times, but it first achieved notoriety in the 10th century when it became the power base for the ambitious seigneurs of Baux, who claimed to be descended from Balthazar of Bethlehem, one of the three kings who attended Christ's Nativity. They adopted the Star of Bethlehem for their coat of arms and waged war incessantly. They gained control of over 80 surrounding towns and villages, secure in the knowledge that their eagle's nest at Les Baux was impregnable. Today Les Baux is officially classified as one of "The Most Beautiful Villages in France."

For those who prefer not to make the challenging climb to Les Baux, an easy alternative route is provided.

From Les Baux you'll enjoy a thrilling descent back to the plain. You'll have the opportunity to stop and enjoy the charming villages of Maussane-les-Alpilles and Paradou on your tranquil easy ride to Arles. You'll also pass the remains of a Roman aqueduct that actually crosses your route.

ArlesOnce the Roman capital of Provence, then an important religious center in the Middle Ages, Arles later became a focal point for the Provencal renaissance of the 19th century. For five centuries Arles thrived at the crossroads of trade routes between Italy and Spain (the Domitian Way) and between the Mediterranean and Northern Gaul; was a significant center for the early Christian church; and hosted several major synods. Arles went into decline from the 13th century onward when it was overtaken in political and economic importance by Aix and Marseille.

Most of the sights in Arles are concentrated in a compact area downtown. Arles' star attraction is undoubtedly the amphitheater known as the Arènes, which was probably built around the end of the 1st century AD. It is just a bit larger than the amphitheater at Nîmes, although slightly less well preserved. The Théâtre Antique just to the south, was built during the reign of Augustus, but was pillaged for stone in the 5th century by Christians eager to build churches.

Alongside Cézanne, Van Gogh's towering genius will forever be linked with the light-filled landscapes of Provence and the brilliance of the southern skies. Van Gogh took up painting at the age of 27, having previously been an art dealer, a teacher, and an evangelical preacher. After falling under the spell of the Impressionists he moved to Arles in 1888 and, although he wrote that the town had "a worn and sickly look" about it, (no longer true!) he nonetheless stayed, captivated by the vivid colors around him.

Day 6: Arles to Avignon - 46 km / 28 miles - Spend 1 night.

TarasconThe first half of today's ride is almost completely flat, as you cycle tiny country roads from Arles to the pretty town of Tarascon. 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.

As you continue your way back to Avignon, we'll take you off the beaten path to the enchanting Montagnette, a 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, quiet hollows sheltering olive, almond, and apricot trees, pines, and poplars. Here you'll have one short, steep climb immediately following your visit to the charming, practically tourist-free village of Boulbon.

BoulbonBoulbon is dominated by its ancient defensive castle which for centuries stood as a sentinel for the Counts of Provence against the Kingdom of France. Other sights in Boulbon include the Romanesque Eglise Sainte-Anne, constructed in 1628 and restored in 2009; and the Porte Loriol, one of the remaining gates of the fortified village.

During your final kilometers into Avignon you will no doubt begin to wonder just where the city is. We'll take you in via tranquil rolling lanes that are far from the area's bustle and provide one last opportunity to savor all that is the best of Provence.