Cycling In Provence: A Great Planning Resource Gets Even Better!

One of my favorite bicycling resources for the Luberon region of Provence has gotten bigger and better!  The former Velo Loisir Luberon is now Velo Loisir Provence and there’s a new website to reflect the change.  This organization has advocated development of cycling circuits and services in the Luberon for more than 10 years.  It will now provide the same support for the development of cycling and cycling services in the Verdon Natural Regional Park.  What a terrific development for bicyclists interested in touring these regions of Provence!  If you’re thinking about bicycling in Provence, this website should definitely be at the top of your resource list.

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If you’re not familiar with the Luberon Natural Regional Park, the area extends from the Alps to the Mediterranean and from Cavaillon in the Vaucluse to Lurs in the Alpes de Haute Provence.  It’s one of my favorite bicycling areas in France and includes well known Provence villages like Apt, Cavaillon, Gordes, Roussillon, Lacoste, Menerbes and Lourmarin, just to name a few.  The area was designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 1997, recognized for its diverse flora and fauna, its architectural heritage and an environmental landscape rich beyond compare.  This area offers many incredible routes to explore by bike including the very popular Autour du Luberon en Velo, a 236 km adventure around the Luberon Regional Natural Park on a route signposted in both directions.

Tour of the Luberon circular route
Tour of the Luberon circular route

The Verdon Regional Natural Park while not as well-known as the Luberon offers some of the most magnificent terrain in France to explore by bike!  The region is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, possibly due in part to the 300+ days of sunshine each year.  The Verdon Regional Natural Park spans the Departments of the Alpes de Haute Provence and the Var, and includes 7 diverse environments including lakes, plateaus, gorges and the deepest canyon in Europe.  The landscape in this area is simply breathtaking.  As you might expect, with the Park’s proximity to the Alps, bicycling in this area is definitely challenging and recommended for more experienced cyclists, unless you are traveling by electric bike.  I would actually recommend electric bikes for touring either the Luberon or Verdon Regional Parks.

The town of Valensole in the Verdon Natural Regional Park
The town of Valensole in the Verdon Natural Regional Park

If you are crowd averse, the Verdon Natural Regional Park is a perfect place to escape by bike.  The Verdon region has 30,000 inhabitants compared to 174,000 in the Luberon. If you’re fortunate enough to be traveling here during one of the many spring or summer festivals, you’ll see residents celebrating in traditional Provencal costumes.  This experience is worth a journey in and of itself!

The annual lavender festival in Valensole
The annual lavender festival in Valensole

Bottom line, whether you’re interested in bicycling in the Luberon or Verdon regions of Provence, or you’d like to learn more about the cycling opportunities in these areas, Velo Loisir Provence should be your first stop for information.

The new Velo Loisir Provence website is organized very logically, is easy to use and it provides all the basic information that you need to plan a trip.  There are a number of videos on the website that you can watch to get an idea of the topography and countryside of each region.  If you’re not familiar with these areas, I would highly recommend taking the time to watch the videos.

The Velo Loisir Provence network currently has more than 127 service partners in the Luberon including bike rental and repair companies, lodging, food, baggage transfer and tour companies, and 30 service partners in Verdon.  The number of service partners will grow in Verdon now that the network has been expanded to include this area.  Information on service providers in each category are included on the website, and are found under the headings: The Luberon By Bike and The Verdon By Bike.  In these sections you’ll also find information on all the routes in each area, both marked and unmarked.  Each route is also rated by level of difficulty, and each includes information on sightseeing opportunities along the route as well as support services available along the route.

The heading “Explore the Area” contains general information on the Luberon and Verdon Natural Regional Parks as well as a frequently asked question section.  I also really like the informative “Advice-Recommendation” section also found under Explore the Area.  This section helps cyclists understand which cycling paths may be best suited to them, based on their ability level.  Brochures on the various routes can be downloaded from the website easily too.  You can do this in the Downloads section.

Velo Loisir Provence is also a very strong advocate of providing bicycling opportunities for the handicapped, blind and partially sighted.  The association owns 9 tandems, 3 electrically-assisted bikes and a device to connect a wheel chair to a handbike.  They work very closely with their partners and local community organizations to provide bicycling opportunities to those physically challenged individuals interested in bicycling.  Amazing!  You can read more about the organization’s handicapped program here.

It is certain that this website will evolve and grow as the Verdon Natural Regional Park area gets more partners.  In the meantime, bicyclists interested in traveling to this area can come to this website, confident that they will find the services needed to plan a cycling vacation to either region of Provence!

Kudos to Velo Loisir Provence!

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