The Vaucluse Region is one of my top 5 bicycling destinations for the summer, or anytime of year, perhaps except when the Mistral winds are blowing! Whether you are a very experienced cyclist looking to challenge Mont Ventoux, a weekend cyclist not afraid of some minor hills, or a recreational cyclist interested in leisurely experiencing the backroads of Provence, the Vaucluse Region has something for everyone. If you are planning a trip to this part of Provence, definitely consider adding a few days of cycling to your itinerary. You will be glad that you did.
There are 1500 kilometers of signposted circuits in the Vaucluse, most of which are on low-traffic rural roads.
Unlike long distance French cycling routes such as the Loire a Velo, Burgundy Canal, La Velodyssee and the Tour de Manche, most of the itineraries in the Vaucluse are shorter distances, perfectly suited for a long weekend of cycling. If you already have a trip planned to Provence and you’re looking for a unique way to experience the beauty of this region, definitely consider adding several days of bicycling to your trip. Regardless of where you’ll be in the Vaucluse, there are bicycling options for you, as well as plenty of great planning resources to help you plan your trip.
With Mont Ventoux at its center, this region has long been a popular destination for bicycling enthusiasts and professional cyclists. I had always imagined this land of the Tour de France as the domain of experts, not an area welcoming to an average recreational cyclist like me. That opinion changed last year when I had the opportunity to bicycle in the Vaucluse twice. This is an area where planning is important, as you want to be sure to choose an itinerary that is suitable to your experience level. Fortunately the Vaucluse has some terrific resources to help you plan the perfect vacation with just the right amount of bicycling based on your level of experience.
If you want to see Provence in a way few tourists experience, you definitely need to add Vaucluse to your bucket list of cycling destinations! From the Dentelles de Montmirail, to the Roman ruins at Vaison-la-Romaine, the lavender fields in Val de Sault, the hilltop villages of the Luberon, the river of the Pays des Sorgues, the Cotes-du-Rhone vineyards and Chateauneuf-du-Pape and on and on, you will never run out of things to see and do here!
Think you might be interested in learning more? Here are my top resources for cycling in the Vaucluse:
This is the most comprehensive website for planning a trip to the Vaucluse, and should be your first stop. This website has pretty much any information you could possibly need to plan a trip to the region, as well as to learn more about cycling. The Cycling in Vaucluse section of this website is a great resource to explore different itineraries. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or experienced cyclist, there is a wide variety of possible itineraries searchable at each level. Itineraries can also be accessed by location: Luberon, Mont Ventoux, Upper Vaucluse, and the Sorgues and Chateauneuf du Pape areas.
Using this map found on the Department’s cycling page, you can access information on each route, a link to a map, uploadable brochures and a GPS file. There is a function to pinpoint lodging and bike support services on each itinerary map. There is also a link to brochures and topographical maps. The Vaucluse Department has done an extraordinary job of developing a set of easy to use tools to help people learn more about cycling in the region, as well as to plan a trip.
Once you have chosen which particular area of the Vaucluse you are interested in cycling, you can find detailed information and resources from several area-specific websites, each of which were extremely valuable to me in trip planning last year. Good luck in trying to narrow down which area you want to visit!
Cycling in the Luberon
If you are headed for the Luberon and hilltop villages like Lacoste, Bonnieux and Menerbes, your first stop for bicycling information in the area should be Velo Loisir en Luberon.
Cycling in the Luberon can be very challenging, most of it not for recreational cyclists. That is, unless you are planning on renting electric bikes in Bonnieux from Sun-e-Bike. This company has opened up the Luberon to recreational bicyclists with their incredible network for exploring this hilly region. Exploring this region by e-bike is such a great experience that my next e-guide will on exploring the hill towns of Provence on an electric bike! You can read about my experience cycling in Provence last summer on a Sun-e-Bike at http://experiencefrancebybike.com/bicycling-in-provence-sun-e-bike-day-1/.
The Velo Loisir en Luberon website is unique as it has been developed by more than 100 small businesses and professionals from the region dedicated to growing cycling. Since 1996, accommodations, rentals, taxis, restaurants, cultural sites, wineries, guides and travel agents have offered their services to make a cycling trip to Provence easier. The network has sign-posted itineraries on quiet little roads which have been developed in the Luberon Natural Regional Park and the Pays de Forcalquier – Montagne de Lure, including routes for experienced cyclists to weekend recreational cyclists and everything in between. The scope of information offered by this network to grow cyclotourism in this part of Provence is amazing.
There are four main signposted routes including the 236 km Tour of Luberon and the 30 km greenway of Calavon, which will eventually be expanded to Avignon in the west and the Var region in the east. Routes are sign posted in each direction with a different color used for each direction, making it almost impossible to go the wrong way. Each village on the route has a Relais Information Service board that shows cyclists where they are on the route, services available in the town and attractions in the area. This is a service that tourism offices on other major routes should adopt!
The Velo Loirsir en Luberon network provides one-stop shopping for cyclists: from bike rentals to accommodation services, bag transfers, maps, brochures, route information, secure car parking and some of the most affordable self-guided trips you will ever find, this website makes planning a visit to the region a snap. Under the Itineraries heading you can access information on accommodations, restaurants, bike rental, attractions and wine cellars and elevation maps. There is an interactive map under Maps and Itineraries which can be very useful for planning purposes but at the current time it is only available in French. Individual route maps and itineraries can also be located in this section and most of the brochures are offered in English.
Under the Breaks and Stays section you will find a wide variety of self-guided tour options including some of the most affordable trips that I have ever seen! A 4 day, 3 night self-guided tour including breakfast, lunch and dinner, bike rental, luggage transfer and accommodations runs 260 Euro per person per day. A 2 night trip at a member B&B, bike rental and breakfast runs 100 Euro per person. The options offered by this network are so affordable they are well worth trying for an easy cycling weekend in the Luberon.
If you are planning to travel to one of my favorite areas around the Venice of France, the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, be sure to visit the website for cycling in the Pays des Sorgues.
Ideally located between Mont Ventoux and the hills of the Luberon, the Pays des Sorgues is fed and irrigated by the Sorgue, a crystal clear river which winds through gorgeous orchards and fields. This area is a special treat to experience by bike. The website has detailed information on five main itineraries, including one of my favorites, Isle-sur-la-Sorge to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Important side note, the directions for the route are only in one direction, from Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Chatauneuf-du-Pape, and signposting can be sporadic, so travel with a GPS is highly suggested. We had some pretty good adventures last year making our way along the route! In addition to detailed information on the specific itineraries in the area, the website also has information on places to stay, where to eat and where to rent bicycles.
If you are headed for the area around the famous Mont Ventoux, Destination Ventoux is a website that you will want to visit.
This website is full of information to help promote cycling in the area around Mont Ventoux and it is a great resource for everything there is to know about the area. It shares much of the same information as Cycling in Vaucluse, but with specific emphasis on itineraries and support services directly in the area surrounding Mont Ventoux. My favorite feature is the clickable map located on the main page. You can click on the map to enlarge it, and then click on any itinerary to bring up the page with details on each itinerary including route elevation, hypertext links to lodging options, restaurants, attractions, bike rentals and taxi services. Note that when you click on an itinerary, it may bring up the information in French. If so, just click on the English icon on the upper right hand side, and it will bring up the English translation.
You can also access route information by cycling level and/or region. If you have more detailed questions and need additional information, here is the address to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. The professionals who run SMAEMV and La CoVe are extremely knowledgeable and can provide you with any additional information that you need. If you’d like to get a sense of what “recreational” cycling in the vicinity of Mont Ventoux is like, you can check out a post I wrote last fall, “Three Perfect Itineraries for Bicycling Near Mont Ventoux”. Very clearly there is a lot of expert cycling in this area, but there are also itineraries well-suited for recreational cyclists and families. Just be sure to do your research carefully and choose itineraries that are suitable to your experience level.
The last suggested resource I would recommend if you are planning on cycling in the Vaucluse region is a good map. For this particular region, I like the IGN Map series, Carpentras, Vaison-la-Romaine, Dentelle de Montmirail (#3040ET). Do not purchase this map online as you will most probably get an outdated copy of the map. You can purchase this map in a local bookstore, sporting goods store or tobacco shop after you arrive in France.
I hope you find these resources to be as helpful as I have and that you have a fun time planning a bicycling excursion in this beautiful part of Provence.