Cycling

Cycling is a national pastime and a sport that is synonymous with France. It’s also a real treat in the Luberon, whether on the road or off-road. The region is gently hilly and many of the villages are at the top of a short, sharp hill, but as a consolation they are not far apart.
Official cycling route maps Provence bicycling Cycling in France is a national pastime and a real treat in Provence
Official cycling route maps Provence bicycling Cycling in France is a national pastime and a real treat in Provence

The Vaucluse department is well known to amateur cyclists because there are several that have been adapted for cycling – known as the ‘green roads’. For example, the Cavaillon-Apt route is an old railway line converted to cycling track.

There are 26 official circuits. Visit provence-cycling.com or lelubéronavelo.com or veloloisirprovence.com or freewheelingfrance.com for detailed route maps and info. Some of them also have a most useful resource for cyclists who are out all day: a listing of public toilets and potable (drinking) water fountains – please stay hydrated!

The more serious cyclist may want to visit bikemap.net for a list of almost 30,000 cycles routes across Provence that you can connect to your GPS device. You may even want to tackle the world-famous Mont Ventoux. Not for the faint-hearted, but a real treat for avid fans of the Tour de France.

If that’s not for you, then to have a fantastic day out, just plan a route that avoids the main roads. Soon you will find yourself cycling past vineyards, orchards, sunflowers and heading to your ports of call: the perched medieval villages, castles, wineries, ochre valleys, lavender trails, or even restaurants.

There are some signposted cycling routes in the Lubéron, but you are more likely to take a map, circle the things you want to see, and build your own route. The one busy road to avoid is the D900 between Avignon and Apt, the main east-west artery.

Route suggestions
  • Gentle ride (18km) – for those of us who can only manage a short ride with lots of lovely scenery and places to stop: Bonnieux – Lacoste – Ménerbes – Oppède de Vieux
  • Circle of d’aigues (28km) – explore the lesser known villages and pathways and finish with a lake swim: La Motte d’Aigues – Grambois – La Bastide des Jourdans – Peypin d’Aigues – Étang de la Bonde
  • Lourmarin loop (35km) – many of the bars and cafes around Lourmarin are very bike-friendly so you could make a day of it and stop for refreshments at each village along the way. Or, go early on a Sunday morning in time for the market in St Martin de la Brasque: Lourmarin – Ansouis – La Motte d’Aigues – St Martin de la Brasque – Cabrieres d’Aigues – Cucuron – Vaugines – Lourmarin
  • Perched villages – photogenic hilltop villages worth cycling to that also have a cafe or restaurant for a stop-off: Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux, Lacoste, Lagnes, Menerbes, Oppede-le-Vieux, Lacoste, Saignon, Goult, Joucas, Murs
  • Castles route – There is a selection of intriguing châteaux at Ansouis, Tour d’Aigues and Lourmarin, and the Abbaye Saint Eusèbe in Saignon.
  • Lavender trail (1) – This takes you by fields of lavender to beautiful villages (lavender flowers from mid-June to early August when it is harvested): St Saturnin les Apt – Sault – Lagarde d’Apt – Rustrel – Oppedette – Saignon
  • Lavender trail (2) – Same idea as above, but over towards the Lure mountain in the east: Simiane la Rotonde – Oppedette – Vacheres – St Michel l’Observatoire – Forcalquier – Banon
lazy cycling in provence
Bike hire in Provence

See this handy list of bike rental options across the region.

Further reading
  • Lonely Planet’s Cycling France is a good reference guide. 
  • Keep a copy of the No. 332 Michelin map in your pocket as backup.
  • We also love the  Vaucluse Dreamer blog – for the useful cycling-related info, personal anecdotes and fabulous photos (also great for armchair cyclists)!
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