- Every summer the plateaus and hills of Provence are coloured in blue and purple by fields of lavender.
The lavender in the Lubéron blooms from around the last week of June to the beginning of August when it is harvested. It is usually at its peak in early July, but this depends on rainfall.
Collected by hand in the past, the harvest of lavender is now completely mechanised. Dried for a few days, the flowers then leave for the distillery where the essential oil is extracted – 120kg of flowers makes 1kg of essential oil. (The lavandin plant, a hybrid of lavender, is becoming more and more popular because it produces twice as much oil.)
Lavender is said to heal insect bites and burns as well as repel insects. It can soothe headaches if you apply it to your temples and it helps you sleep if you have the flowers by your pillow. Dried lavender is used to repel moths in clothes closets.
You can enjoy the lavender fields by car, by bike or on foot. The map on the next page indicates where in the Lubéron you will find concentrations of lavender fields: on the high plateaux around Sault, at the foot of the Mont Ventoux, and around Apt and Gordes. Visit routes-lavande.com for more info. Perhaps the most iconic lavender image in Provence is of the field in front of Senanque Abbey near Gordes. It is almost impossible not to get a memorable photo here.
The best time to come is early because the light is in the right position in the morning, and it will be less crowded – a lot of people want to get this shot. If you want to see sunflowers and lavender together, sunflowers are in full colour in July-August.
You may also find lavender fields that contain a stone borie, which makes a more interesting photo than just the lavender. On the way to Sault you will pass the village of Simiane la Rotonde, which is a picture-perfect, perched village with fields of lavender at its base – an ideal spot to photograph the swathes of colour. Apart from gazing at lavender fields, you can also visit lavender farms and distilleries, attend festivals at Sault, Valensole and Valreas, and buy lavender products like oil, essences, perfumes and soap at every market.
- Musée de la Lavande • museedelalavande.com • Route de Gordes, Coustellet • Tel +33 4 90 76 91 23
With a collection of copper stills from the 16th century to today, video presentations and a gift shop, the museum tells you everything you want or need to know about lavender.
- Distillerie Les Agnels • lesagnels.com • Route de Buoux, Apt • Tel +33 4 90 04 77 00
Lavender distillery open all year, with a large shop that sells organic essential oils and a myriad other lavender products.