One of the unmissable sights of Provence are the flowering fields of lavender, a sea of purple that fades into the distance. Immersed in a landscape that seems to have come straight out of an Impressionist painting, the lavender fields are aunique and indescribable experience: the buzzing of the bees and cicadas, the intense perfume released under the scorching sun, the marvellous contrasts that appear at sunset, the postcard views.
The plateau of Valensole, the village of Sault and the abbey of Senanque are a photographer’s paradise, but visiting the lavender sites is an all-round trip: from the colours of the earth to the harvest festivals, from lavender recipes to spa treatments and the many products made from its aromatic essence. Admiring the views of the lavender in bloom is one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences one can have in Provence.
In addition to observing the blossoming, be sure to try one of the many products made from lavender: it will be a way to bring home the magical Provençal atmosphere. Finally, don’t forget to visit one of the many farms or distilleries that process lavender according to ancient traditional methods.
Finally, if you want to experience the ultimate in relaxation, treat yourself to a few hours in one of Provence’s many spas offering massages and baths in fragrant lavender essence.
The flowering of lavender starts from the end of June until mid-August. Unfortunately, the period changes depending on the variety of plant (lavender or lavandin), climate, altitude and latitude, thus varying from area to area.
The only way to be sure of seeing the marvellous purple expanses at their most beautiful is to consult the Facebook, Instagram and web pages of the local tourist boards, which share valuable updates on the state of the bloom every year. In some cases you will also find webcams, which record the state of the lavender in real time. In this way, you can plan your trip to Provence with some precision.
Lavender grows in different areas of Provence, thus offering visitors the opportunity to admire the flowering fields in different and evocative settings.
A great way to enjoy this spectacle is to follow the Routes de la Lavande, the roads that pass through the most spectacular landscapes and charming villages in Provence. These are 7 marvellous itineraries designed by the tourist office, which pass through the villages and landscapes between the Luberon and Haute-Provence: these scenic roads will let you discover in detail all the areas where lavender is grown.
In addition to the official lavender roads, consider our lavender route designed to encompass the best of the whole area.
The absolute most spectacular area to admire the lavender in bloom is the Plateaux de Valensole: in this wonderful plateau you will find the greatest concentration of lavender fields , which are lost in plain sight. It is an experience to be lived without haste and with your camera at hand.
Valensole is located on the Route de la Haute Provence au Verdon, which passes through some wonderful places in Haute Provence and the Verdon area: after admiring the sparkling colours and deep turquoise of Lake Sainte-Croix and the Verdon gorges, you can visit the picturesque villages of Sisteron, Manosque, Digne-les-bains and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, clinging tenaciously to the mountains. Also not to be missed is a visit to the Prieuré de Salagon: here the gardens filled with lavender flowers welcome you into the silence of the convent, a corner of pure serenity, where you can learn all about the cultivation of this precious lilac flower.
Finally, you will arrive at Valensole: it is difficult to describe the boundless beauty of the fields that will open up before your eyes when you reach the plateau. Awaiting you will be undulating hills, wide open spaces, magnificent horizons, highlighting the curves and succession of this purple sea, alternating with sunflower fields and green meadows.
The lavender of Valensole is magnificent at any time of day: its charm changes depending on whether you are in the blinding light of the sultry hours, or the warm, enveloping light of sunset. We advise you to take your time, even several days, to linger unhurriedly and take dozens of photographs. At every turn, you will be dazzled by the magnificence of the panorama, to the point that you will want to stop at every field you come across.
The abbey of Senanque, surrounded by lavender fields, is one of the most iconographic and famous images of Provence. Arriving by a winding road, the sight of this Cistercian abbey, surrounded by the expanses of an enchanting purple sea, will be a postcard that will leave you simply enraptured.
Remember that the lavender field that you see in all the photos is not accessible to tourists, which is why the church is almost always immortalised from the same angle: you can only take your photographs from behind the wall or from the fence surrounding the field.
The Route de Ventoux, Lure and Luberon is a magnificent road that passes through the charming villages of Gordes, Bonnieux, Simiane la Rotonde and Roussillon with its colourful canyon. We are in the heart of Provence and 105 km of scenic road await you: the route winds through fragrant lavender fields, alternating with Méouge pear trees and Baronnies lime trees. Not to be missed is a visit to Château du Bois, which houses a charming lavender museum. To get here, where the real essence is still distilled according to traditional methods, you will drive along many winding roads surrounded by lavender, a true spectacle of nature.
We recommend you make a small diversions to the Plateau de Claparèdes: the purple of the lavender mixes with the bright gold of the wheat and the bright red of the poppies. An absolutely unmissable spectacle.
Equally important is the Plateau de Albion and the small town of Sault: situated at the foot of Mont Ventoux, near the Luberon, Sault is one of the nerve centres of lavender production in Provence.
Vaison la Romaine is a charming Provençal town: it is home to one of the largest archaeological centres in France, dating back to the Gallo-Roman period.
The Route des baronnies provencales au buëch goes from Vaison-de-la-Romaine and Sisteron for 212 kilometres. This area, the Baronnies, straddling the Drôme and the Hautes-Alpes, is characterised by dry countryside and undulating hills, with villages concentrated in narrow valleys near the main roads. Here, lavender is grown in patchwork fields, interspersed with olive groves, vineyards, orchards and aromatic plants: a true riot of colours, flavours and aromas.
The Route de la Drôme Provençale au Haut-Vaucluse runs between the Rhine valley and the Pre-Alps, between Drôme Provençale and the Enclave des Papes for around 133 km.
The road starts in Montélimar and arrives in Nyons, passing lavender fields and lush vineyards, which give rise to the famous wines of the Enclave des Papes. Following this route, you can take the opportunity to admire Avignon, the city of the popes, and Orange, home to one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in Europe.
As well as in the hills, lavender also grows in less hospitable environments such as the mountains of Provence, for example in the Digne and Haut Diois areas.
In the mountain valleys, the lavender fields create an even more impressive spectacle: steep slopes, a harsh climate and rugged terrain have put those who have decided to cultivate lavender to the test. The result is an area with a strong identity, made even more fascinating by the presence of perched villages, purple fields and distilleries.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
If knowing when the lavender is in bloom is fundamental to organising a trip to Provence, it is equally important to know when it will be cut. Otherwise, you run the risk of finding only barren fields of completely deserted land.
Unfortunately, even the lavender harvest is not a date that can be predicted with certainty and varies from area to area. In fact, lavender needs to be very dry in order to be cut. Consequently, a spring with little rainfall and a lot of sunshine can lead to an early harvest, while a rainy summer with uncertain weather can delay the harvest time, especially if violent and sudden storms occur.
It should be borne in mind that lavender is usually harvested during the lavender festival . Each area organises its own lavender festival. Consequently, the best way to identify the right period is to check the dates of the various lavender festivals and organise your itinerary according to the region’s calendar.
If you are in Provence from the first week of July onwards, you will be able to witness one of the most enthralling moments of the year: the lavender harvest, which is followed by beautiful folk festivals. The lavender harvest is indeed an event deeply felt by the local populations who dedicate events and festivals to it, linked to the rhythms of nature, flowering and harvesting.
Every area celebrates the fragrant purple flower between July and August, and even the smallest of Provençal villages organises its own event to celebrate the lavender harvest: parades in traditional costumes, Provençal musical groups, floats full of lavender specially decorated for the occasion, stands with lavender products, country lunches and a joyful atmosphere involving the whole community and tourists.
Dates vary from year to year as the flowering cycle of lavender changes depending on the areas where it grows and the different climate.
The largest and most organised lavender festivals are certainly those of Valensole and Sault .
The Valensole lavender festival takes place at the end of July and includes guided tours through the fields, helicopter flights to admire the purple sea from above, demonstrations of lavender processing and distillation methods, food and wine tours and popular music.
The lavender festival in Sault, on the other hand, attracts over 25,000 people every year. Usually held on 15 August, it is a very popular event in the region, with a rich programme of events such as the large parade of floats decorated with freshly harvested lavender.
Travelling along the lavender roads will inevitably force you to make many photographic stops. The journey times are therefore difficult to quantify: you can either stay for a few minutes or go into the fields and dedicate hours to photographing this spectacle of nature. Obviously, in order to find the best fields, it is necessary to travel by car, to have total independence in moving around.
If you are respectful and careful not to spoil the plants, nobody will tell you anything. Although the fields in these areas are literally stormed by tourists, the growers are forgiving and understanding, within the limits of respect for nature. Always remember that the fields are private property and you must be very careful not to step on the flowers, the source of work and livelihood of an entire region.
You will have to leave your car at the side of the road, to drive into the fields and admire the infinite beauty of these crops up close, amidst the buzzing of the bees, the intense perfume and the indescribable colour.
You have to be really lucky not to find any. During the flowering period, the lavender fields are crowded with tourists. To have deserted fields, the perfect time is dawn, unfortunately not always favourable as light. Undoubtedly, the best times to photograph the lavender are the sunny midday hours and sunset, when the warm light illuminates the colours, creating an enchanting atmosphere.
First of all you need to choose the right field: not all lavender fields are well maintained, free of weeds, away from buildings and with a clean background suitable for postcard shots. Spoilt for choice, you can walk around the plateau in search of the perfect field.
At this point you should position yourself in the direction of the rows to capture the depth of field that makes the photos so spectacular. Give preference to fields that meander across undulating terrain, thus creating optical games and perspective effects of ups and downs that are truly incredible.
In fact, the best strategy is to play with geometry, with perspective, with the colour contrasts often found when a lavender field borders one of wheat or sunflowers. Also alternate wide-angle shots, of rows as far as the eye can see, with photographs of details that highlight natural details, such as bees on stalks, leaving behind a wonderful purple blur.
Finally, pay attention to the orientation of the rows at sunset: choose the fields according to where the sun sets, because not all of them will be optimally exposed.
For the most spectacular photographs, we recommend that you pack both a wide-angle lens to capture the endless expanses of lavender and a telephoto lens to capture even the smallest details.
Also essential is a tripod with remote shooting, to take couple and family photos. If you are an enthusiast, the drone could be a very valuable tool, as there are no particular restrictions on its use. The photos from above are certainly spectacular.
If you have the time and inclination to devote a lot of time to photo shoots, then you could bring along fluttering dresses, straw hats and baskets, to capture perfect postcards from Provence.
Undoubtedly, the colour white is the one that will make the purple sea surrounding you stand out the most. Watch out for shoes too: as the terrain is very uneven and bumpy, comfortable shoes are a must.
The lavender fields are swarming with bees. To be on the safe side, you could bring a repellent, but usually lavender bees are not interested in tourists looking for snaps, as long as you don’t annoy them.
With the arrival of dusk, the bees retreat: this is the best time to shoot without their buzzing presence.
There are two types of Lavender that are often confused with each other and are both part of the same family, the Lamiaceae, to which thyme, sage and rosemary also belong.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the purest and noblest version in terms of the quality of its essential oil. It is a bushy shrub that can grow up to 1 metre high and grows in areas ranging from 500 metres to 1,500 metres, mainly on the sunny slopes of the mountains of Provence. Just think that a good 200 kg of fresh flowers are needed to produce just 1 litre of essential oil.
The Lavandin, on the other hand, is a hybridisation (natural or manual), a cross between pure lavender and lavender aspic. This type grows wild in nature but is mainly found cultivated. Its characteristics are its larger branch compared to traditional lavender and its excellent performance as an essential oil, up to 4 times higher than lavender.