Just as the fields of tulips draw a swarm of tourists to The Netherlands in the spring so do fields of fragrant lavender and towering sunflowers, entice visitors to Provence in the South of France every summer. As the bluish-purple shrub blankets the region filling the air with its intoxicating scent, the picturesque villages and towns of Provence become even more idyllic. Seeing these fields of swaying lavender, often side-by-side with dancing sunflowers (note: sunflowers aren’t as plentiful as the lavender fields but you can still see them in full bloom around this time), was like seeing an impressionist painting come to life, and the scene was undeniably photographable, or should I say Instagrammable.
Here’s a look at my visit to Provence during lavender season. Feel free to pin and use as a guide if you’re looking to make a visit to the region during this time.
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean and is part of the mint family. The word lavender is derived from the Latin word lavare, or to wash and in ancient times it was used in the public baths for aromatic and medicinal purposes. Today, lavender
is still used for its aromatic and medicinal purposes, as well as to make soap and cosmetics, and it acts as an insect repellant – but not for bees. Bees are all about the lavender and sunflowers.
WHERE TO GO
There are lavender fields in several areas of Provence, but two of the main areas are Plateau de Sault and Plateau de Valensole. I visited the latter since at 1.5 – 2 hour, it was closest to Nice, where I flew in. The lavender fields in Valensole are plentiful. You will have no problem finding a field to frolic in once you’re in the area. You’re also likely to see sunflowers and poppies blooming as well.
The little village of Valensole is adorable. Filled with charming provençal touches, like lots of stone-paved streets and buildings, Valensole will fulfill all your romantic notions of Provence in the summer. I stayed in Valensole for a couple of nights in a B&B and took a day trip to Aix-en-Provence where my lavender craving was further fed as I browsed market stalls selling perfumes and essential oils. There were also a few distilleries in the region with little boutiques selling lavender and lavender-related products.
WHEN TO GO
Typically the lavender blooms from late June to early August when it’s harvested, however, the best time to see the beautiful fields in bloom is the first or second week of July. To beat the crowds and heat, I suggest you go very early or take advantage of daylight savings time and go later, this is especially beneficial if your goal is to take photos.
Later in the season as harvest begins, enjoy the many festivals (fêtes) and parades with colorful floats going on to celebrate the harvesting of the lavender and to showcase the many lavender products, such as honey, essential oils, soaps and dried lavender bouquets.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE & DO
In addition to the festivals, other things to do in Provence include visiting lavender farms and distilleries, purchase some of the many lavender products, and if you are in the Luberon area, you can visit the Lavender Museum, which highlights the history of the plant in Provence.
In addition to lavender and sunflowers, the sun-drenched, Mediterranean climate of southern France has acres of olive trees and also produces rosé wine. More than half of the rosé produced in France comes from Provence, and the region is the world’s biggest exporter of the pink-hued wine.
If you want to visit the South of France and the lavender fields, check out this map produced by Provence Tourism to help you plan your route.