Experience the idyllic landscape and villages of Provence with our Luberon tour, from the beauty of Menerbes to the delicacies of Sault...
£2,275.00 per person*
($3,139.50 USD or $3,935.75 AUD)
£495.00 single room supplement
9th Sep to 15th Sep 2018
Our guides Susan and David were beyond outstanding!! We are coming back!
-- Gabriella, São Paulo, Brasil
Join us for a cycling adventure. All you have to do is pedal
TGV/train to Avignon
TGV/train to Avignon
Arrivals are collected at Avignon TGV station, Avignon Centre rail station and Avignon airport.
Departures are from Avignon TGV station, Avignon Centre rail station and Avignon airport.
When Peter Mayle wrote A Year in Provence, this was the Provence he was talking about. Sleepy hamlets dozing in the summer sun, villages perched in idyllic settings above rugged valleys. Fields of fruit lovingly tended by the same Provençal families who have looked after them for centuries. Olive groves, vineyards and fields of lavender bathed in the legendary light that inspired artists from Van Gogh to Cezanne. This is the land of Jean de Florette and away from the big towns and cities has hardly changed since Napoleon’s day.
Over all of this looms le Mont Ventoux, the ‘Giant of Provence’ , appearing perpetually snow-capped with its treeless limestone crown.
The French Cycling Holidays Villages of the Luberon tour shows off the essence of this timeless landscape, visiting Mayle’s village of Menerbes, beautiful Gordes and optionally conquering Ventoux, the scene of many a battle in the Tour De France.
Other gems include the Roman treasures of Vaison, the technicolor cliffs of Roussillon and winetasting and olive oil sampling in Pertuis. All in all an unforgettable journey…
Our pick ups are from Avignon train stations or Avignon hotels. Our hotel is situated near the market town of Pernes-les-Fontaines, and early arrivals can relax by the pool, or if timing allows can be dropped off to in town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, so named because it is an ’island’ on the many branches of the River Sorgue, which are canalised throughout the town. In the middle ages the town was known as the ‘Venise Comtadin’ (the Venice of the Comtat, as this area as Provence is known). Today the town is a centre for the antique trade, the third largest in Europe. You can wander around the famous market and take in lunch at one of the riverside cafes.
In the afternoon we will meet to have your bikes fitted and adjusted to your individual requirements.There will be a short guided ride in the afternoon to the into the village Pernes-les Fontaine, which is renowned for its medieval centre, and the 41 fountains dotted around after which the village is named.
In the evening, after a briefing on the week’s ride, we will go out for the first of many leisurely gourmet meals, washed down with one of the excellent wines from the slopes of Mont Ventoux, whose imposing profile dominates the region.
Leaving the hotel, the first morning is spent climbing one of the many ridges that cross the area, to the hilltop town of La Roque sur Pernes. An exhilarating descent brings us to the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse. Here we stop to see the famous resurgent spring of the river Sorgue. The river, gathered from rainfall on the adjacent Luberon plateau, periodically boils out of a hole in the ground at a rate of thousands of cubic metres per minute, and if we are lucky it is an unforgettable sight. At other times it is just a big hole in the ground! Even then though, the water coming from the underground fissures in the rock is crystal clear and there is a pump in the village from which you can fill up your water bottles with water directly from the river.
Today we are heading into the heartland of Provence - the Luberon - and the picturesque villages depicted in Peter Mayle's 'A Year in Provence'. After a climb over another ridge, there follows a fast downhill, then a rolling ride across the Luberon foothills is followed by another climb into Menerbes. Menerbes, Mayle’s adopted home village, is named after Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom and art, which made it an irresistible draw for Picasso and Camus who both lived there for a while, Picasso taking up residence in the privately owned castle. The village is classified as ‘un des plus beaux villages de la France’ – a national award scheme for beautiful villages.
We drop down from the rocky spur on which the village is perched, then after a luxurious few downhill kilometres, we start the long climb to Gordes. The first 5 or 6 km are a low gradient drag, then the last 3 km will have you searching for the lowest gears. The spectacular vista as the village opens out before you makes it all worthwhile! Gordes, perched on a hilltop and overlooked by its 16th century Château, is perhaps the most photogenic of the Luberon villages. The town takes its name from the Vorda, a Celtic tribe who first inhabited the hilltop. Full of tiny cobbled lanes, and shops selling art and Provençal handicrafts, it is a perfect place to stroll and explore. We will be staying near Gordes tonight, and the afternoon can be spent in the village itself, or there is an optional excursion to the Abbaye de Senanque - a perfect example of Romanesque architecture dating from the 12th C, set in a valley amongst picturebook fields of lavender. The loop to Senanques is a challenging ride – the road climbs out of Gordes before plunging into a deep valley where the Abbey nestles, and the return is even steeper. Then it’s back to the hotel to relax by the pool before dinner.
Total distance: 51km
Leaving Gordes we swing east and south through St. Pantaleon before a short climb brings us to Roussillon, meaning ‘red village’, perching above the ochre cliffs. Another of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages’, the origin of its name becomes obvious as soon as you arrive with the different shades of pink and red illuminated by the morning sun. Roussillon was one of the major producers of ochre for paints and pigments, and boasted 17 different colours. Locally produced pigments for artists are still sold in the town’s craft shops. A sign-posted trail leads to the quarries where the shades of red, orange, yellow and purple rock contrast startlingly with the deep blue Provençal sky. Different sections of the quarry are named “the fairy needles” and “the giant’s pathway”.
Continuing south, we cross the Pont Julien – a Roman Bridge over two thousand years old. The bridge was part of the Via Domitia, the Roman road linking Narbonne on the Spanish border to Turin in Italy. We then climb to two more perched villages. The first Lacoste, with its cobbled streets and ruined castle, once owned by the Marquis de Sade. More recently it has become an arts centre, with the foundation of the Lacoste School of the Arts (now run by the American Savannah school of art and design); patrons have included Max Ernst, Man Ray and Lee Miller.
Next is Bonnieux, from whose heights a splendid panorama of the Luberon can be had, and whose restaurants mean an enticing stop for lunch. One of the oldest villages in Provence, a monastery was founded here in the 6th Century. It became a stronghold of the Knights Templars in the middle ages. The actor John Malkovich also owns a house here!
A long steady gentle climb (brings us up onto the flanks of the Grand Luberon Massif. The route then descends into the village of Lourmarin and our stop for the night. Lourmarin has a delightful village and ancient Chateau.
Total distance: 41km (hilly)
We can forget the packing today and one can choose to styy in the Village of Lourmarin to explore further or ride through some spectacular landscapes from village to village of the southern Luberon massif. The first village we visit is Cucuron, surrounded by the remains of its enclosing medieval walls, and containing a host of welcoming cafés. Next up is La Motte d’Aigues, another medieval gem surmounted by a protestant chapel.
For lunch we come to the charming town of La Tour-d'Aigues; at the heart of the village is a renaissance Chateau surrounded by a (now dry) moat, where we can eat in town if the weather is not in our favour or sample another wonderful picnic.
The afternoon features a fairly short ride but passes through Ansouis. The village, floating in a sea of vineyards, crowned by its 1000-year-old castle, is a member of the select group deemed worthy of being part of The Most Beautiful Villages in France. Both village and castle are marvellously well preserved, with houses dating back to the 15th century.
Total distance: 56km
There is a gentle climb from the start today, going back up the road on which we came into Lourmarin. A short downhill followed by another easy climb takes us through a couple of hamlets before descending into the market town of Apt, where a coffee stop and a sampling of the town’s famous crystallised fruits should provide the energy for a very steep but short rise out of town. After a flatter ride past vines and olive trees, we reach St-Saturnin for lunch, and climb past spectacular gorges and the ancient Chateau de Javon, before emerging into the lavender fields and sheep pastures of the Plateau d'Albion, with immense views of Mont Ventoux dominating the horizon. A long, spectacular, descent takes us to the bottom of Sault before riding up through the town to the hotel. Sault is a local centre for wild products - wood mushrooms, pheasant, wild boar and other game – and one or more are likely to feature on the menu tonight as a reward for the hard work. Before that, a dip in the hotel pool or spa will help to ease any aching limbs!
Today there are two options! The more relaxed route descends along the southern flank of Mont Ventoux, nearly 30 kilometres of freewheeling through the breath-taking Gorges de la Nesque. The River Nesque has cut a gorge 300m deep in places, and the twisting road alongside cuts through archways and tunnels in the rock. Be sure to stop at a few of the viewing platforms along the road to take in the magnificent views. It’s not all freewheeling though, and after a coffee in the village of Ville-sur-Auzon at the foot of the gorges, the road goes through the village of Bedoin to meet the other route at Malaucene.
For those who would like a bit more exercise, and to take a home little piece of cycling legend, we can climb to the summit of Mont Ventoux. At over 1,900 metres this is not for the faint-hearted, but the approach from Sault (which is already at 750m) is very steady until reaching Chalet Reynard at the tree line. One kilometre from the top stands a memorial to Tom Simpson, a British cyclist who died here during the Tour de France in 1967, his last words 'put me back on my bike'. The shrine here is a pilgrimage for cyclists of all nations, and the offerings of water bottles, tyres and other cycling paraphernalia bear testament to the esteem in which ‘Mister Tom’ is still held. The final approach to the summit, which is devoid of vegetation, is tough, but the effort is more than worth it as you are rewarded with one of the most exceptional panoramas in Europe. On a clear day you can see Mont Blanc to the northeast and the Mediterranean to the south. You will have conquered 'the Giant of Provence'!
The routes converge in the village of Bedoin for lunch and to recount the morning’s endeavours. The final, easy stretch takes us through the vineyards of the Côtes de Ventoux to our destination in Mazan.
Total distance: 50km (Gorges de la Nesque) / 58km (over Mont Ventoux)
After breakfast, taking the opportunity to exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses with newly-made friends,before we depart on our onward journeys.If staying on take the opportunity to pop into Vaison for the Saturday morning market,
Not all cycle vacations are the same. Compare what is included in a French Cycling Holidays bike tour:
We try to include as much as we can within the price, while keeping things as flexible as possible. With the explosion of low cost airlines and the easy access to the TGV rail system from the UK, we believe that it is more economical and convenient for customers to arrange their own travel to the region. Links to the airlines and railway companies can be found in frequently asked questions.
We provide the transfers to and from the local airports and the nearest TGV stations, and other locations by arrangement. If you have driven down, we arrange secure parking for your car and return you to it after the tour.
We stay in very comfortable hotels, mostly 3*, occasionally 4*, and very occasionally superior 2* hotels which we choose if they have charm and comfort above their rating. All rooms have en-suite shower or bath facilities.
We select our hotels for their character as well as their facilities, and avoid chains in favour of independent privately run hotels.
Prices are based on two sharing in twin or double rooms. Singles are available on request. Where possible, we choose hotels with swimming pools as there is nothing quite like a dip after a day in the saddle!
It is sometimes necessary to change accommodation for reasons of room availability, minor adjustments to the route or upgrading the hotels. We will always endeavour to use hotels of an equal or higher level of comfort/facilities to those shown – please contact us to check for the most up-to-date information regarding your particular tour.
All evening meals are included, and we carefully select the restaurants for cuisine and ambience, and favour those with a strong regional flavour.
All meals include a starter, main course and dessert, some will have an additional cheese course. We are happy to arrange for our restaurants to cater for specific dietary requirements and allergies etc.
We do not include lunch, as the costing of these is beyond our control, but where route and weather allow we organise picnics; these feature copious salads, cold meats, cheeses, crusty bread, fruits, etc, and a choice of drinks; we ask for a contribution for the costs of the consumables, which usually works out at 8 or 9 euros per person per picnic. Where route or weather does not allow a picnic, we recommend suitable cafés and bistros.
We provide lightweight alloy framed Trek ‘hybrid’ touring bicycles with 27 indexed gears, fully equipped with lock, pump and toolkit (although our guides will generally be on hand to fix punctures and minor mechanical problems).
For carrying the items you might need during the day (camera, wallet, windbreaker etc.) we fit a capacious handlebar bag which also features a large map pocket. These clip on and off the bike in a flash so that you can always take your valuables with you when off the bike.
The bikes are meticulously maintained and we keep a wide range of sizes; female specific saddles are also available. We do not provide helmets automatically, as we find people prefer their own if they want to wear one, and sizing and fit is quite personal; however we always have helmets available for use. We also carry rain-capes should they be required (but hopefully not!). For certain tours we also have available 27 speed drop-handlebar race-style bikes, and tandems may also be available on certain tours by special request. We hire these locally, and charge on the additional cost.
For nearly all of our tours an e-bike - electrically assisted bicycle - is an extra-cost option. These bikes apply a 'multiplier' to the level of input provided by the rider, the level of assistance can be adjusted for the terrain. This can be useful if there are members of your party have very different levels of bike-fitness and experience, as hills that look daunting suddenly become easy with an e-bike.
Please contact us for details.
There will be two guides on every tour; one cycling with the group and one in the minibus which will follow the group. The bus carries all luggage not required for the day's ride and will always be available for anyone at any point during the day. If for instance you want to take a day off the bike, or if a particular day seems a little hard, the bus will take you for as long or as little as you wish it to.
Everybody is provided with detailed route maps for each day, and both guides are easily contactable by mobile phone. The guides are enthusiastic experts on the local area and will be able to sort out any problems or special requests that you might have.
Mas (pronounced ‘Mah’) is Provençal for a substantial farmhouse, often fortified. The Mas de Cure Bourse has been converted into a charming 3* hotel with a noted restaurant, and a superb swimming pool in the extensive grounds. Located in the countryside outside the village for complete peace and quiet, it is a short bike ride to the bustling village centre with its canals and markets.
Another converted farmhouse complex, the Mas de Senancole is in the hamlet of Les Imberts a few kilometres from Gorges. The 3* hotel has lovely grounds with a substantial pool and a hot
Below we answer all the most common questions that you might ask before choosing a French Cycling Holidays tour. If you have any further questions then please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.
Anybody who is reasonably active should be able to take part and enjoy our tours.
The tours have different levels of physical exertion — whilst the Loire Valley tours and Bordeaux tour are easy going; the Normandy, Provence Roman Heritage, and Burgundy tours are a little more strenuous, whilst and the Provence Lubéron, Dordogne and Languedoc tours require a reasonable level of fitness.
For nearly all of our tours an e-bike - electrically assisted bicycle - is an extra-cost option. These bikes apply a 'multiplier' to the level of input provided by the rider, the level of assistance can be adjusted for the terrain. This can be useful if there are members of your party have very different levels of bike-fitness and experience, as hills that look daunting suddenly become easy with an e-bike. Contact us via the contact page if you would like more details.
The Sports tours are aimed at enthusiast cyclists who might want to bring their own road bikes. However, the rides are not races and there is no time limit - and there is always the minibus if things get too tough!
We would nevertheless recommend that anyone who has not taken any regular exercise for some time to consult their doctor before considering any activity based holiday. Bear in mind that a little regular riding before coming on a cycling vacation will always be a benefit to the experience.
We pick up and drop off from the nearest international airports and TGV/railway stations to the start of each tour. (We can drop at a nearer airport or station by arrangement if more convenient for you and logistically possible). This gives everyone the option of making their way by the most economical or convenient means. The major options are:
Ryanair flies into following airports:
Nimes (for the Provence tours and Languedoc tours; Ryanair also fly out of Beziers and Montpellier for the Languedoc tour); Bergerac (for the Bordeaux tour), Dinard for the Normandy tour, Grenoble for Alpine trips and Pau (for the Classic Cols tour)
Ryanair operates out of Liverpool, London Stansted and London Luton Airports amongst others.
Easyjet flies into Montpellier (for the Provence tours) and out of Bordeaux (for the Bordeaux tour); it flys into Geneva and Lyon for Alpine tours and also out of Nice for the Alpine Raid.
British Airways prices can be reasonable if booked in advance — BA fly into Bordeaux for train transfers to Bergerac (Bordeaux tour), and Marseilles (Provence tours).
If we do not pick up from the airport itself, we will advise on rail connections from the airport to our pick-up points.
The TGV can be an exceptionally quick way of reaching many French destinations from the UK and from Paris for those flying from overseas or UK regions.
The Eurostar SNCF (French National Railways) TGV websites may be useful. As a guide, London St Pancras to Avignon via TGV takes approximately 6½ hours; Tours takes 4 hours. From Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, the point of arrival for most intercontinental flights, Tours is 1½ hours by TGV, Avignon (for Provence) just over 3 hours.
Brive-la-Gaillarde is 4 hours from Paris by rail for the Dordogne tour. We are more than happy to advise on rail options — please contact us. Internet sales from the French SNCF site ( www.voyages-sncf.com sites are possible but are in French; the approved agency for the US and Canada is RailEurope ; however we are happy to advise and help with the French website.
This may be a good choice if your French Cycling Holiday is part of a longer stay. We will arrange secure parking for your car at or near our first hotel, and return you to your car at the end of the trip. (Note - this service may not be available on certain long distance sports tours - please check with us). The major ferry and crossing companies from the UK are Eurotunnel, P&O, Brittany Ferries, LD Lines, Speedferries and SeaFrance.
If it is more convenient for you to hire a car Europcar in our experience have the best rates for rentals where the drop-off is at a different location to the pickup.
However you choose to travel, we are very happy to help you sort out your itinerary.
Pedals are obviously fairly important on a cycling tour! We stock the following kinds:
Flat – i.e. no special cleats or grips, these pedals can be used with any kind of footwear. If you do not regularly use special pedals or cycling shoes, we recommend standard trainers/sneakers to wear while riding.
SPD/flat – we also have pedals with one side flat and one side an SPD cleat. This is the standard Shimano SPD compatible system; two bolts and the small cleat pictured on the shoe with the yellow sole. These cleats are ideal for cycling tours as the cleat is usually recessed into the bottom of the shoe. The pedals are visible to the right of the picture.
Flats with cages – we have a small number of flat pedals with cages & straps – again if you are not used to this, we wouldn’t recommend starting a tour with them!
Other – we do NOT stock any other pedal systems. If you use any other kind of pedal, you are very welcome to bring your own and our guides can fit them to your bike for the week. However, we would advise against racing-style pedals such as the Look Keo, Shimano SPD-SL or similar, as these tend to have a large, protruding cleat on the sole of the shoe which makes walking around visits or lunch stops (or even nipping into a public toilet!) quite uncomfortable and dangerous. Sports tours are a little different as there are much longer days and less off-the-bike walking – a choice is ultimately up to you though!
We are happy for anyone to bring their own bikes. However, the budget airlines charge around £50 each way and packing and carriage can be a hassle. Our Trek bikes are of a high standard, and our customers usually express pleasant surprise at the quality of the machines, so it might be a better option to bring your saddle and/or pedals which we will be very happy to fit. In any case there will always be a backup bike should you have a mechanical problem. Please feel free to call us for advice on bike transportation.
The main thing that people who are not regular distance cyclists worry about is a sore behind. This is not as is popularly thought due to too-hard saddles, but friction between skin and garments. This is why professional cyclists wear skin-tight lycra shorts with padded inserts. Many people feel a bit self-conscious in this sort of gear and your local cycle shop will have a range of padded undershorts which can be worn under normal clothing, or regularly styled shorts with sewn-in padded liners. Otherwise, lightweight comfortable clothing (tee-shirts, shorts, trainers) is ideal, with something warmer like a fleece just in case. As we will be dining well, you might like to take something presentable (but not formal — no-one on a French Cycling Holiday stands on ceremony!) for the evening meal.
As well as being an active holiday, sampling the best that France has to offer, we believe that our trips should be an opportunity to meet people and make new friends. Our groups are limited to a maximum of 16, which is the largest number that we can give a personal service to, and a minimum of 6 people, which we feel is the number needed to achieve a group spirit. If we cannot achieve this number, we may cancel the tour giving a minimum of five weeks notice.
We time our tours so that the weather should be ideal for cycling for each tour. For that reason we have our Provence and Languedoc tours in the late spring and early autumn, rather than in high summer when it can be too hot to cycle comfortably after 10 a.m. The Loire Valley, Dordogne, Bordeaux and Burgundy tours are more temperate, which is why we concentrate these tours in July and August. We cannot guarantee the weather, but it would be very unlucky to have more than one wet day on any of the tours.
There is no specific upper age limit — the only constraint is a reasonable level of fitness. Children between 10 and 16 are welcome as part of family groups. We do not recommend these tours for children under 10.
We require all participants to have travel insurance with full medical cover. It is part of the conditions of our tours that participant should provide evidence of suitable cover. If you have any questions about the cover required please contact us for advice.
In accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992” customers of French Cycling Holidays Limited will be indemnified in respect of their net ascertained financial loss sustained arising from the cancellation or curtailment of the declared trip travel arrangements arising solely from the event of the financial failure of French Cycling Holidays Limited.
This insurance has been arranged by Towergate Chapman Stevens through Hiscox Insurance Company Limited.
I meant to drop you an email as soon as I arrived back in Honolulu, a 2 day trek from France, with an overnight in SFO, but was smashed with things to do before returning to work.
I want to tell you how much we enjoyed "Villages of the Luberon," on 28 Sept 2008. It surpassed our exceptions on all counts: the 3-4 star accommodations in lovely places, the gourmet dinners, with wine each night, in the most pleasing settings, and of course, our guides, Chris & John. Their combined skills and experience complimented each other and made for great company at dinner, and along the tour.
We found the bikes, helmets, and convenient bike bags, with plastic covers for the daily maps and directions, to be excellent. And although, my friends and I were the oldest and slowest on the tour, we found Chris and John to be very patient, helpful, and determined to give us all a great experience. They succeeded. Our group of seven, plus guides, could not have been more harmonious and fun, and the three of us had a ball being the "cheerleaders" for the other four, who rode the Mont Ventoux Challenge with Chris.
We will recommend your company to everyone: great organization, superior taste in accommodations and cuisine, and wonderful guides to ensure that your product is delivered at it's best. Thirty-five years in the travel business has taught us what an achievement that is to succeed.
Merci Beaucoup for the Grande Experience!
Melanie, Stancie, & Eileen, Hawaii USA
"Great holiday! Fantastically well organised. Van great support when needed! Would highly recommend it to our cycling friends."
Hugh and Connie, Killara, NSW, Australia
"I don't think anything could be improved – it was just perfect. Best holiday I have ever had!”
Avril, Auckland, New Zealand