Provence is mainly made up of villages and small towns with only a few larger cities spread around. Like any big cites those in Provence have public transportation that is quick and easy. The distance between cities are too short to need to fly but the high-speed trains (TGV- Trains de Grande Vitesse) are efficient to connect them.
In any case it would be a shame to only visit the big cities in Provence, and the discovery of sleepy villages and beautiful landscapes is not exactly easy from a plane seat.
There are several options when it comes to travelling around; by car, train, bicycle or by foot.
The most charming villages and attractions always lie out of reach of public transport and train stations, so renting a car is a good way to travel around the countryside and explore during your stay.
Another positive of car hire is that you won’t be a slave to public transport timetables nor the notorious French transport strikes.
There are plenty of tours in different areas in Provence, from the Luberon villages to vineyard tours, that are best travelled in a car.
Car hire is inexpensive so if you fly into Provence and want to rent for just a day to explore a certain area then this would be perfect for you. Or simply rent a car for the duration of your stay for easy access to villages, attraction and more necessary places such as supermarkets.
To rent a car you will need:
- A passport
- A driver’s license
- A credit card.
You will also have to meet the company’s minimum age requirement which is usually 21 or above.
Provence boarders Italy and the Mediterranean, it has a diversity of landscapes from the Camargue marshes to vineyards all the way to the French Riviera which lines the coast, however, nothing is very far in a car so you can explore any part fo the region quickly.
To put it all into perspective the driving time from one of the most westerly towns, Arles, to the most easterly, Menton, is just under three hours by car.
The main issue with hiring a car is the frustration of parking, no matter if it is in a small village or in the city. In many places there are very few spaces to be found through the narrow streets. Although many places have been investing in new areas for parking to deal with the influx of visitors, especially in the summer.
Parking can also cost quite a bit no matter where you are, one such example is Les Baux de Provence which can get up to 8€ fixed fee a day.
For cars you must also note that petrol stations can be few and far between in rural areas of Provence so make sure your tank isn’t too low when exploring.
Travelling to Provence by train is easy, if you come from Paris the easiest way is by TGV direct to Avignon train station and many other major cities and resorts in the South of France.
SNCF also runs local trains that connect rural areas so you are free to travel between cities and towns.
Tickets are easy to buy online at SNCF and costs per ticket will be reasonably affordable
The downside of travelling by train is that you can get to the more remote villages in the area which are some of the most beautiful in France. Instead, try and see trains as a complement to your exploration of Provence, a quick way to get to a certain area quickly for a day trip.
The ancient roman roads that crisscross Provence are perfect for cyclists of any level who just want to discover Provence in a different way. However, be aware that Provence is not short of mountains so this area is a little more challenging than the plain flats of northern France.
The best time to go cycling in Provence would be between May and the end of September because:
- All the flowers will be in bloom
- The weather is lovely
- All the shops and restaurants are open (in the off season they tend to close)
You can’t really go wrong in where to go in Provence, there are a vast selection of scenic villages to cycle through such as Roussillon, Menerbes, les Baux de Provence, Bonnieux and Lacoste.
L’abbaye de Sénanque, near the beautiful hill town of Gordes, is a beautiful place to visit on your route especially since you don’t need a parking spot so you can beat the queues.
The Mont Ventoux, seen by many cyclists as a rite of passage, is a giant of Provence which many choose to tackle. Although, truth be told, there are so many places to explore in Provence that there is no need to seek excitement elsewhere (or in this case the Mont Ventoux).
There are a few issues when it comes to cycling in Provence:
One of them is the road surfaces vary from rough old stone to freshly laid tarmac, this can be a nightmare as you don’t know when it will change or even if there will be holes etc.
The second is that in Provence the weather comes in extremes, nothing in moderation, it can be blisteringly hot to strong “mistral” winds that freeze you to your core. So just make sure you are prepared for the weather!
Provence is a beautiful place to go for a walk or hike, there are an abundance of trails to explore connecting villages, vineyards, coastlines and mountains.
With the great weather, sunshine and blue skies, walking in the area is a lovely experience and a different way to see Provence. It’s not just the countryside that you can walk through as many routes go through pretty villages and near to historical monuments so there is no need to compromise what you want to see.
Probably the best time of year to walk and hike around Provence would be during spring or at the end of summer into autumn. This is because the temperatures are lower and there are not as many tourists about.
Spring is also a beautiful time in the area as the flowers bloom and the landscape turns green which is drastically different to the scorched earth it becomes during the summer season.
Summer is normally very hot and dry and with this type of weather some routes will be close to walkers simply because of the risk of fire and, in some areas, you may be fined if found in the area. If you do want to walk during the summer make sure that you walk during the cooler hours, in the morning or as the sun is going down.
Provence has such a diverse landscape with many national parks, historical sites and beautiful villages, that you will experience something new every day you walk around. You can conquer a challenging hike or simply have a leisurely stroll.
Before setting of for any walk in Provence you should remember to take precautions:
- Make sure you are properly equipped
- Stay to the marked trails if hiking, they are marked to ensure the safest path.
- Bring plenty of water
- Check the weather forecast – as said before the weather in Provence comes in extremes
Information on different trails
There are several different types of walking trails that are marked in different colours on trails and maps:
National trails (GR trails) 'Sentier de Grande Randonnee' - are the long-distance system of hiking trails and are marked with red and white.
Regional long-distance trails (GRP) ‘Sentier de Grande Randonnee de Pays' - marked in yellow and red.
Local trails (PR) 'Les Sentiers de Petite Randonnee et de Promenade' - tend to be shorter walks or day walks usually in yellow but can be seen in other colours if there are an abundance of them.
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