Vaucluse lays in southeast France in the heat of Provence, and it is named after the famous and historical spring the Fontaine de Vaucluse. Sometimes referred to as Haut-Vaucluse, Vaucluse is a landscape that has inspired writers and painters due to its beauty and perfection. Both Chagall and Cezanne were drawn to the sun-drenched countryside to create some of their most stunning work. The landscape is like a patchwork quilt of orchards, olive groves and verdant green farmland. The region starts around Orange, spreads east of Avignon then south to the Luberon Mountain range and then north towards Mont Ventoux. Vaucluse is very much a crossroads between the fertile Rhone Valley and the Alps, and the terrain encompasses rolling hills, expansive plains and limestone mountains.
The Luberon Mountains in the south of the Vaucluse are basically a large regional park comprised of low wooded mountains that cling to the 200-meter elevation. This area is spectacular to visit by bicycle, car or even by horse. Visitors can enjoy the many ancient villages, with a landscape dotted with castles, towers and ruins.
One of the most iconic places in the Vaucluse is Mont Ventoux which translates as windy mountain because of the plethora of winds and storms in the region. Many tourists who wish to climb Mont Ventoux start at Vaison-la-Romaine and then make their way to the viewpoint at Le Contrat, and then continue the trail upwards six kilometers to Col de Tempetes, then on to the summit where an observatory looks out over the spectacular views of the Montagne du Luberon. For those that enjoy skiing, above one thousand five hundred meters there are some really good ski slopes.
Orange is a city that boasts some of the most important and complete archaeological sites in the whole of France. The Theatre Antique is a UNESCO-listed Roman theater that dates all the way back to the first century AD. A good time to visit Orange is in the summer when Orange is famous for a plethora of music festivals called Choregies d’Orange, these classical performances includes opera and concerts that are held in the seven thousand capacity Theatre Antique. Orange has its own Arc de Triomphe, and the enchanting Musee d’Art et d’Histoire which is housed in a spectacular seventeenth century hotel.
One of the most spectacular and beautiful villages in Vaucluse and the whole of France is Gordes. Listed as a Plus Beaux Villages de France, this enchanting village sits on top of a hill top offering outstanding views of the surrounding countryside and beyond. Just under forty kilometers from Avignon, the village lays on a steep slope that descends down into the Coulon Valley. Gordes has existed since the Middle Ages and a must-see is the Chateau de Gordes, where fans of the painter Pol Mara can see some of his works in the museum.
Gordes completes our first part of this blog that explores the best tourist and sightseeing places to visit in the Vaucluse region. In part two there are even more great places to spend time and visit including Abbaye de Senanque and Vaison-la-Romaine.