The Luberon is one of the most romantic, breath-taking regions of Provence. Discover colorful markets set in “platane” tree-lined squares, elegantly perched hilltop villages surrounded by fields of lavender, dotted with dancing sunflowers and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Peter Mayle’s best-selling ‘A Year in Provence’ awoke tourism to this region years ago, particularly to the villages of Gordes (pictured above) and Bonnieux, but there are also many more off-the-beaten path villages to discover. Gordes is of course, one of the most beautiful villages of the Luberon. And a stop in Bonnieux is always a delight, but let me show you a few other villages you may not yet know, where you can breathe in a bit of that magical, slow life.
What is special is that each of these Luberon villages has its own unique feel. Whether you’re in the mood for antique hunting, hiking up ruins from the Middle Ages, chic boutique shopping, or lazily sipping rosé while watching village life unfold, there’s a perfect Luberon village for you.
Saignon is a quiet, very small yet magical village with it’s own fortified rock perched high above fields of lavender. The area has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic era, then later by the Romans. Three châteaux were built between 900 and 1200 and you can see the ruins with a walk to the top of Saignon’s large rock, which was once used as a signal station to help protect both the village and nearby city of Apt, from invasions.
There are just a few shops including a lovely artisan’s hat shop, jewellery boutique and few restaurants, church and post office. Enjoy a cafe at the beautiful fountain and then walk up the winding and charming flower-filled streets for delicious dinner and amazing sunset views out over the valley below at Un Jardin Sur le Toit.
Another sleepy, authentic Luberon village where you will truly feel that time has stood still is Oppede-le-Vieux. Walk slowly through the quiet streets bursting with jasmine, beautifully manicured roses and hollyhocks that are perfectly placed against aged patina on the rose and wheat coloured facades.
There’s one restaurant and not much else, but a beautiful uphill path behind the vieux village center that leads to a charming, little chapel with sweeping 360-degree views of the Luberon valley below.
This one may not be so secret or quiet, but there’s a lot happening in this chic and charming Luberon village than what appears on the surface… from boutique shopping, to music festivals and slow terrace dining. Lourmarin is a well-manicured village and features a beautiful Renaissance château just on the outskirts of the center of town. The buzzing commercial center is filled with charming shops and terrace restaurants filled with English-speaking visitors and locals alike. Lourmarin is hardly undiscovered and is quite buzzing in the summer months, especially on market days. There’s a more cosmopolitan flair here, as it’s not far from chic, Aix-en-Provence. Lourmarin features many lovely dining terraces, galleries, boutiques and artist ateliers, along with its large, stunning market held two times per week, Tuesday evening and each Friday until 1pm, featuring a mix of local artisanal products, clothes, straw baskets, produce, cheeses, honey and more.
To escape the crowds, we love snagging a table on a rooftop terrace for early evening nibbles to “grignoter” along with a glass of wine to kick off an evening, or to relax after a day of market shopping. Visit the château to pick up a local bottle of wine from it’s extensive cave inside, along with a wonderful assortment of fine “epicerie” items for a picnic or apéro. The château also houses temporary art exhibitions and special events throughout the year, including the popular YEAH Festival founded by music producer and DJ Laurent Garnier, featuring hip headlining bands, world-class DJS and talented French musicians each September.
I love Lacoste for it’s finely preserved stone architecture and cobblestone streets that give the impression of a village where time has stood still. Yet scratch the surface of the finely manicured streets, and you’ll stumble upon modern art sculptures and fine art ateliers. Discover a vibrant creative community of student artists, and designers living among the locals here from SCAD, Savannah College of Art & Design. What a dream of a village to study in!
In addition to a world-class art and design school, each year Lacoste host’s it’s famous former residence, Pierre Cardin’s Annual Festival. The festival takes over the village each summer and provides a stunning backdrop for world-class opera, theater and music in the Carrières and Château du Marquis de Sade at the top of the village.
The festival draws thousands of visitors coinciding with the Festival d’Avignon each July. It’s an intimate, spectacular cultural evening and the Mozart operetta I took in was awe-inspiring.
Romantic Cucuron has it’s own amazing restaurants, including La Petite Maison and a lovely market set around this magnificent plaza featuring a reflecting pond with koi and some of the most beautiful platane trees in Provence.
It’s a great village for hitting the weekly market day each Tuesday morning where you can top off your fresh cheeses, fruits and honeys with a cafe overlooking the beautiful basin. (Louise is wearing our Luberon linen jacket, found here.)
Ménerbes, once the home of Peter Mayle, features beautiful architecture from both the 16th and 18th centuries set on a beautiful hilltop and has since become a little Luberon hotspot for art, literature and culture beginning with the Maison Dora Maar and L’Hotel de Tingry. Founded by Nancy B. Negley the center offers both artist in-residency programs, as well as, a cultural hub which engages residents, members and global audiences through it’s programs of exhibitions, lectures and events.
Discover many seasonal galleries, along with the latest addition of Mira, which features the work of our friend and textile artist collaborator, Aurore Pelisson, who is also one of the founders. This charming, woman-run gallery, library and creative center hosts local artist exhibitions, artist residencies and is the headquarters of Faire Magazine.
And finally, there’s Buoux. There’s no real village here as the population is tiny, but this area of the Luberon is known for it’s beautifully rugged landscape and steep climbing cliffs. A nature-lovers and climber’s paradise, discover steep and dramatic peaks and trails to explore. The irregular contours of the Aigue-Brun River are filled with caves, cliffs and peaks and is a popular place for climbers from around the world. Our family tries to escape here with friends in the off-season, June or September, to experience this magical area in its quieter moments in one of the charming, countryside gites.
So get out and explore some of the Luberon’s more hidden gems and discover your true slow living bliss. I hope you have enjoyed this feature of my favourite Luberon villages.
You may shop all pieces featured here at: www.luxe-provence.shop.
Blog author, creative design and Luberon village photography by: Tarik Koivisto