France is rightfully famous for its rich crop of lavender, and nowhere is more famous for its rolling fields of “blue gold” than the Provence region. The yearly harvest is one of the most beautiful sights in France, and it’s something that everyone with a love of travel and nature should experience at some point in their lives.
If you want to see and smell the most gorgeous lavender fields in France, read on to learn how to make the most of your experience.
Where and When to See Lavender in Full Bloom?
As mentioned above, the most important region of France for lavender is Provence-– and more specifically, the Luberon and Verdon plateau regions. Flowering season is typically between mid-June through early August, though this depends on where you’re visiting. Lower altitudes have slightly warmer climates than colder areas with later blooming seasons.
Read related: A Visit to the Magnificent Lascaux Cave in France
In 2017, most of the Luberon was harvesting the lavender crop in mid-June, for example, but in the higher altitude plateau around Sault, it happened a bit later. Climate and rainfall have a big impact on the lavender crop, so it’s tricky to predict exactly when the flowers will bloom.
To play it safe, you should try to book your trip on the early side. A good range is sometime from late June through July. Avoid the beginning of the season and the late end.
Arguably the most famous lavender farms in the world are in Valensole. At high growing season, it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Provence, and you can expect many other lavender-pilgrims visiting the area to take photographs, even at dawn and dusk. Still, it’s probably worth it for the sheer scale of these farms. Rows of lavender stretch out for as far as the eye can see– and it’s a colorful, breathtaking sight to behold.
Sault, Ferrassières, and Aurel
These towns situated in higher climates still have lavender growing much later in the season, and there are far fewer tourists around to spoil the view. You can often see lavender here as late as mid-August, and the surrounding hilltop villages are beautiful. Look out for local scenic terraces overlooking the fields– ideal spots for a sunset aperitif or meal.
This northernmost department in Provence is one of the region’s best kept secrets. With the lavender here as beautiful as it is in more renowned spots, but with virtually no tourists present, you can experience the intense purple flowers and their delicate scent in almost total solitude.
The town of Montbrun-les-Bains is officially designated as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and its mountainous, late-blooming lavender is a local favorite. The village of Venterol is another well-kept secret, popular among locals for its ancient, poetically sinuous olive trees.
To learn more about the region’s most famous product, you can visit the adorable Musée de la Lavande (Museum of Lavender) in the village of Cabrières d’Avignon. Learn about the industry of planting, harvesting, and processing lavender at the collection here. You can even see an example of a lavender distiller from the early 20th century that uses an open flame to reduce the lavender into its potently fragrant essence.
The museum was opened in 1992, and it is closed in January. Audio guides are available in many languages, and you can watch documentaries, smell lavender, and try high-quality fragrances and cosmetics using pure AOC essential lavender oil. The museum is free for children under the age of 15.
Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey
For another unforgettable view of lavender fields, don’t miss Provence’s famous Cistercian abbey in the village of Gordes, part of the Vaucluse-en-Provence area. Founded in 1148, the abbey has been home to Cistercian monks ever since. There’s something distinctive about witnessing the centuries-old abbey surrounded by acres of blue gold.
Note that while you can tour the site, it is still a fully functioning monastery, so you have to maintain absolute respect for the solemnity and religious devotion of the monks. A limited number of tours are available with reservations, and a French guide will take you around the Cloister, Church, Chapter room, Dormitory and other room.
Annual Lavender Festivals
If you want to really celebrate lavender in a stylish and authentic way, don’t miss Provence’s fabulous lavender festivals! With local goods on sale, artisan demonstrations, folk food and music to enjoy, these day-long events are a blast. Festivals put you in touch not only with the plant, but with the artisans who build their lives around it. Artists, farmers, and chefs are just some of the people in France who depend on lavender for their livelihood, and you can get a bigger picture of the area’s most famous export at these festivals.
The town of Ferrassières has the first festival of the year in early July, and it’s a very laid-back experience– one that’s especially ideal for those who don’t like big crowds. Valesol, on the other hand, holds the biggest and most popular festival in the region on the third Sunday of July, and the spa town of Digne les Bains has a festival that lasts a whopping five days in August!
Be sure to book accommodations ahead of time. Lavender festivals are popular in the area, and reservations go quickly.
Where to Go Next for Blue Gold Sightings?
If Provence piques your interest in all things lavender, don’t assume that France is the only place where you can see it in all its glory. You can visit some stunning lavender farms all around the world, including New South Wales, Western Australia, Tuscany, and even some places in the United Kingdom (including Hertfordshire and Kent). Visiting Provence is just the beginning!
If ancient history and stunning prehistoric artwork interest you, the Lascaux Cave is something you must see during your lifetime. Part of a complex of caves located near the village of Montignac in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, the cave is famous for its elaborate, Upper Paleolithic paintings. The cave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination that puts you up close and personal with an exact replica of the original cave.
There’s a lot going on at this mesmerizing location, so let’s break it down.
We’ll start with some of the history, before giving you some need-to-know information, and finally some more details about what you can expect from this experience.
Some Brief History
The Lascaux Cave was first discovered by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat in 1940, and it was eventually opened to the public in 1948. However, it was closed in 1963 after the influx of visitors began to damage the delicate surface of the paleolithic paintings it housed. An exact replica of the cave called Lascaux II was opened in 1983. The successor to that replica is Lascaux IV, which is the updated replica cave that you can visit today. With its attached museum and down to the millimetre-level accuracy, Lascaux IV is nearly identical to the real thing.
When you visit Lascaux Cave, you can expect a roughly two-and-a-half-hour long experience from start to finish. That includes the tour of the replica cave, the self-guided tour, galleries, and art exhibits that add to the experience. The tour through the cave itself takes about an hour, and the rest of the experience is self-guided with the aid of a digital tablet.
You can buy tickets online in advance of your visit here. Tickets are available up to 90 days in advance, right up until the day before your intended visit. Please note that you cannot purchase online tickets the day of your visit, but if you can get them day-of at the ticket centre in person. Tickets are non-exchangeable and non-refundable, so be sure you’re confident when you book.
Tickets are currently 17 EUR each for adults, and 11 EUR for children, and you have the option to choose between English, Dutch, and French tours (Please note that while these prices were accurate at the time of publication, they may change at anytime).
Lascaux IV is open every day from 9am-7pm.
What You’ll See
The Lascaux experience is broken up into four main spaces: the Belvédère, the Shelter, the Cave itself, and the Studio.
Belvédère and Shelter
The visit starts when you receive a tablet and take an elevator up to the top of the roof of the museum. From there, you can look out over the Vézère Valley and use the augmented reality interactive map on your tablet to see information about the view in real time. It’s a great way to learn about the many surrounding archaeological sites.
At the shelter (also on the roof), you can stand in front of a screen and watch the evolution of the Lascaux area shift and change. It feels like you’re looking into the past through a window. It’s incredible to see how different the landscape looked back in the time of the cave painters. It sets up the “time travel” feeling you get when you move onto your next destination: the Lascaux Cave.
You’ll have an appointed entry time to visit the cave with a group of other visitors and a trained guide. Walking into the replica, it feels exactly like you’re going into a real cave. Cool and damp, the re-creation is incredible, and it’s very easy to suspend your disbelief. Of course, it helps that the recreation is built into the same hill as the original, and that you really do go underground for your visit. It’s as real as it can get these many years later!
The main attraction are the paintings. The first one you see is a curiously named painting called “The Unicorn,” even though the animal has two horns. Then you’ll proceed into the famous “Hall of the Bulls” where enormous paintings of bulls seem to leap and run right off the walls. From there, you go deeper, into a series of smaller caves with multicolor paintings of horses, cows, bulls, and symbols in shades of black, brown, red, and yellow. The presence of all these colours is part of why Lascaux is so justifiably famous. Polychromatic caves are very rare, and when you walk through the tour, you’ll feel awed and inspired by the achievements of the people who made the paintings at a time where there was no written language.
The Lascaux Studio
After you leave the hallowed halls of the cave, you can wander at leisure through the Lascaux Studio space, where eight cave walls have been reproduced for you to explore. These include the cave’s most famous works: “Two Crossed Bison”, “The Great Black Cow”, “The Panel of the Imprint”, “The Apse”, “The Shaft Scene”, “The Axial Gallery”, “The Upside-Down Horse” and “The Hall of the Bulls”.
These reproductions include enhanced reality information available on your tablet, giving you more information on the techniques and history of the specific scenes.
Other exhibits of note are the virtual reality version of the cave, which you can view at your own pace on the tablet, the art exhibit where you can create your own virtual cave paintings, a historical exhibit on the history of the cave and why it was closed to the public, and an area with real objects that were found during the archaeological dig.
The Big Picture
Aside from the cave being just plain cool, visiting the Lascaux Cave puts you at the heart of two exciting developments in the history of art. First and foremost, the cave gives you access to some of the world’s earliest and most incredible cave paintings. The discovery of the Lascaux Cave brought Stone Age culture to the modern world, giving us rare access to a time that has few surviving records.
With its high-tech re-creation and careful archaeological preservation, you can experience this wonder without worrying about damaging the original. Lascaux’s reproduction took years to make, and it represents an exciting development in the world of historical preservation.
Seoul, South Korea is a huge, vibrant city that is home to more than ten million people. With a population that size, it’s no surprise that there are endless things you can do while vacationing there. From its historic palaces, serene gardens, vibrant shops, incredible food, and some of Asia’s coolest night spots, this capital has pretty much everything you could want and much more you never knew about. If you’re looking for a good Seoul travel guide for the curious beginner, you’ve come to the right place.
In no particular order, here are 7 key sights and attractions you should check out if you’re visiting South Korea’s largest city. These are essential, but also original and intriguing: the perfect places to encounter the city for the first time in an authentic way.
Once the site of a protective city wall, Namsan Park is famous for its incredible city views over Seoul. Palgakjeong viewing pavilion is a free spot to appreciate the view, but it’s definitely worth it to buy a ticket to the viewing platform of N Seoul Tower. At 1,500 feet in the air, the views are breathtaking, and lovestruck couples can attach padlocks to the fence to celebrate their love. On Saturdays, you can stay on the observation deck until midnight, and the night views are incredible. Bring a jacket: It can get windy at the top! If you feel like a treat, there’s also a restaurant in the rotating platform at the very top of the tower.
Though this palace isn’t the largest one in Seoul, it’s my personal favourite for its incredible landscaping and architecture. As Korea’s longest, continually inhabited palace, and its most intact royal residence, Changdeokgung has well earned its UNESCO World Heritage Status.
Aside from the stunning, colourful architecture, the real treat at this palace is the incredible “Secret Garden” that takes up about 2/3 of the property. Traditionally reserved exclusively for the monarch, visitors can now take guided tours of the garden, which features a model nobleman’s home, some incredible scenery, fountains, and even a lotus pool!
The Secret Garden tour and the palace tour require two separate tickets, but they’re inexpensive and well worth the price. English tours run Tuesday through Saturday, and the palace is closed on Mondays.
If you want a taste of Korean youth culture, Hongdae is the neighbourhood for you. Located around Hongik University, this area is a great place for tourists to stay because of its incredible night life, street food, and art. If you’re a night owl, Hongdae is one of the best places to go! Hongdae’s “Club Day” on the last Friday of each month gets you access to the hottest area clubs and music venues for around $14 USD, and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants.
But if you’re looking for something a little less festive, don’t miss the weekend markets near the university on Sunday. Hongdae’s student-heavy population means shops here are a bit cheaper than the rest of Seoul on average.
This neighbourhood is the place to be if you’re hunting for traditional Korean goods. Tea, ceramics, calligraphy, and wooden carvings are all popular wares, making this area a perfect place to hunt for souvenirs and local art. Plus, the whole neighbourhood is picture-perfect and full of windy, adorable alleys lined with street merchants, musicians, and street performers adding a lively energy. Come on weekends to experience the area without any vehicle traffic, and you can almost imagine you’re back in the Joseon Dynasty! Weekends do tend to be a bit more crowded, so for a more laid-back experience, come on a weekday.
Bukchon Hanok Village
To get a glimpse at the traditional style of a Korean home (called a hanok), Bukchon is a beautiful neighbourhood to check out. Located in the hilly north-central area of Seoul, Bukchon Village is comprised of around nine hundred privately-owned hanoks that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Visiting here is free, though you can stop into some of the hanoks that have been converted into coffee shops or art galleries to take a look inside! Additionally, you can rent a hanok as your home base while you travel.
The area is very hilly, so wear walking shoes and expect to be on your feet for a while. Since it is also a neighbourhood where people actually live, remember to obey noise rules and be respectful of the people who live there.
Korea started the cat cafe trend, so you definitely shouldn’t miss visiting one! Visitors to cat cafes can hang out with a small herd of beautiful, friendly cats while drinking coffee or tea. For sanitary purposes, you sanitize your hands upon entering and you usually take your shoes off and replace them with slippers. Then you order your drink or food and take it into the cat section!
You can hang out with the cats as long as you like, and the owners and workers are usually characters who have a lot of passion for their feline friends, so it’s a great place to people-watch. And cat-watch.
Cat cafes are a great place to rest on a busy trip. Who wouldn’t feel relaxed with a cat on their lap and a hot drink?
There are a ton in Seoul, but here are a few recommendations:
- Y Cat Café: 3F, 358-125, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea
- Café Café MyeongDong : 8-5 Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Built in the 14th century, this incredibly well-preserved Confucian royal shrine was once the worship place for the Joseon Dynasty rulers. The original temple was destroyed during the 16th century Japanese invasion, but the 17th century rebuilt temple still stands today. The main shrine and the Hall of Eternal Peace are the notable buildings on the site, and every year the Jongmyo Jerye ritual attracts huge crowds to honour rulers of the Joseon dynasty.
Except on Saturdays, you can only visit the site through a guided tour, so remember to think ahead. A tour is really the way to experience this place; the peaceful atmosphere and restrained decorations might make wandering around here without any context a little dull.
Still, the shrine is incredibly beautiful and relaxing in and of itself, so it’s worth a visit for the peaceful atmosphere alone.
Famously known for its cyclists, lively atmosphere, and chocolate, Amsterdam is a terrific place to travel. It has all the charm of Europe without any fuss, and you can have some really unique cultural experiences. If you’re currently planning a trip to the Dutch city, the I amsterdam City Card might just be for you!
(And yes, that’s the official spelling with a lowercase “A.”) Without further ado, read on to learn why the pass might be a good option on your next trip.
The I amsterdam City Card uses the same basic model as other travel passes: you buy the card and get free entrance to museums, attractions, and public transport systems for the duration of your travel package.
Here’s what the City Card includes:
- Free entrance to 50+ museums and attractions
- Free unlimited public transport
- Free canal cruise
- Discounts and coupons
- A city map and guide book
How it works:
You buy your City Pass online, and you can choose between 24, 48, 72, or 96 hour passes.
You’ll get a confirmation email immediately, and then you pick up your City Card at any of the following locations:
- Amsterdam Central Station: I amsterdam Store, on the North side of the station
- Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: I amsterdam Visitor Information Centre Schiphol Airport, Arrivals Hall 2: Holland Tourist Information
- Amsterdam Central Station: I amsterdam Visitor Information Centre at Stationsplein, Stationsplein 10 (opposite the main station entrance)
Your pass becomes active the first time you use it.
The City Pass covers most of the big name attractions in the Amsterdam area. The Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, the Royal Zoo, Rijksmuseum, and about fifty other attractions are all included. Here’s a link to the full list of participating attractions.
Plus, you can take a canal ride on any participating tour boat company! We suggest taking a tour that goes out onto the sea. Seeing the city from the water is an incredible experience, and even on cloudy days, the views are incredible.
The Anne Frank Museum is the only big name attraction not included in the City Card, so you’ll have to buy a ticket separately. It costs nine euros, and while the museum is being renovated you must purchase tickets online.
The I amsterdam City Card includes unlimited use of the GVB public transport system, including all buses, trams and metros in the city for as long as your pass is valid. One important point of note here is that your card does not include train rides, including the train you’ll need to take from the airport to Amsterdam Central station. You will need to purchase your own tickets to get from the airport into Amsterdam itself.
Pricing is solely based on the duration of your stay, so in terms of pricing structures, it’s very easy to decide which pass to get.
- 24 hour pass: €59
- 48 hour pass: €74
- 72 hour pass: €87
- 96 hour pass: €98
SHOULD YOU GET ONE?
- With one pass, you get access to almost every attraction in the city. It’s a massively simplified touring experience that saves you a lot in terms of planning time.
- The pricing structure is very simple and easy to understand, and the website purchasing process is seamless. This pass is seriously low-fuss.
- If you love sight-seeing, the City Card will absolutely save you money. Individual tickets can really add up, and you don’t have to see a ton of sights for the card to end up being the cheaper option.
- You don’t have to worry about figuring out how to buy tickets for public transport, which can ease a lot of travel anxiety. Just scan your card and hop on!
- The free canal boat trip is awesome. Boating around the city is one of the best ways to experience it, and the canal boat drivers are usually funny and friendly.
- The card won’t give you travel from the airport into the city, so you’ll have to arrange your own transport.
- You have to physically pick the card up at a pre-determined location, and that means you can’t pre-book tickets for larger museums until you physically have your card. This can be annoying if you’re trying to plan an itinerary, since you can’t pre-book before your trip.
- Your pass will automatically expire once your time frame ends.
- You can’t go to the same museum a second time; your pass only includes one visit to each attraction.
Should you get it?
The short answer is: Yes! If you like to visit attractions, then the I amsterdam City Pass is a money-saving and convenient way to do it. You only have to buy one pass, and in return, you get access to museums and attractions without having to wait in ticket lines. The pass makes public transport easy and convenient, and you get some extra perks.
That said, the pass may not actually be much cheaper for shorter stays. The longer the pass, the greater the savings, so do some quick math on a short itinerary to see if you’ll actually save money. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of public transport. And, of course, use your best judgment for your trip!
Happy planning and safe travels!
With a reputation for art, wine, cheese, and all the finer things in life, is anyone really surprised that Paris isn’t the cheapest place to travel? If you’ve been planning a trip to the country of love, fret no more! The Paris Pass, a sightseeing package, aims to save you money on tickets to major attractions and public transport by bundling them onto one card. It can be a real time saver, but is it something you need to have? Let’s get into the details.
Here’s what the pass includes:
- Access to 60+ attractions
- Fast track access to select locations
- One day of hop-on hop-off Paris Big Bus access
- Paris Visite Pass with unlimited metro access
How it works:
The pass can be purchased online. It is then either shipped to your house or you can pick it up when you arrive in Paris. You can choose between 2, 3, 4, and 6 day passes. The pass becomes active the first time you scan it. The Paris Pass serves as your ticket when you get to selected attractions, locations, etc. You just scan it and head in!
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The Paris Pass covers just about every major tourist attraction in the city. The Louvre, the Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Museé d’Orsay, Versailles, Montparnasse Tower, the Centre Pompidou, the Opera Garnier, and more are all included. The only major attraction that isn’t covered by the pass is the Eiffel Tower.
Here’s a link to the full lineup.
The Paris Pass includes unlimited public transport access for the duration of your pass. That includes unlimited RER trains, metro access, buses, trams, and SNCF Overground Trains. It also includes a Seine boat cruise!
Pricing is determined based on the duration of your stay and the age of the traveller. There are adult, teen, and child passes that all have different pricing.
Here’s the breakdown of cost. All prices are in Euros, and the prices go in order of adult, teen, and child passes.
2 day: €131, €81, and €44
3 day: €160, €96, €49
4 day: €189, €106, €56
6 day: €244, €126, €69
SHOULD YOU GET ONE?
- If you’re a heavy sightsee-er, the Paris Pass is a fantastic option. You get entrance to many attractions at reduced rates, and the list of included locations is very comprehensive.
- It’s far cheaper than buying the tickets individually. On some passes, you get savings of more than a hundred Euros, which in most cases covers the cost of the ticket.
- With the built-in train pass and the accelerated entrance lines, it’s one of the most convenient ways you can get around. You buy it once, and then you don’t have to think about it again. Straightforward and easy to use.
- If you’re not sure about the attractions element, you can buy a museum-only pass separately, if you prefer. Note that the Museum Pass doesn’t come with included metro access.
- The Paris Pass has a “purse value” maximum that you can’t go over during the course of your ticket. Basically, this means that you can’t exceed the total value of the attractions on your card. For example, the six day pass includes 350 euros worth of attraction entrances, so if you exceed that total value using your card by entering multiple places more than once, your card will expire.
- Your pass will automatically expire once your time frame runs out. There’s no grace period, and the clock starts when you first swipe it at an event.
- The unlimited transport system only includes metro zones 1, 2, and 3. Frankly, that shouldn’t be an issue unless you have your heart set on some of the outermost suburbs.
- Finally, note that the 3-day Paris Pass only includes a 2-day Paris Museum Pass. So if you get the three day pass, plan your museum trips on two consecutive days in a row.
So, should you get it?
The bottom line is that if your trip is heavy on attractions, the Paris Pass makes a lot of sense. It’s convenient and includes metro access, so it saves you time and will probably save you money. That said, it might be worth sitting down with your itinerary and actually doing the math on the cost of your intended attractions and a metro card. You may find it’s actually just as cheap to buy your own tickets directly, depending on what you plan to see.
Ah, there’s nothing quite like the breathtaking beauty of waterfalls. These magical displays of rushing water synergize the best parts of hydrology, geology, and gravity to form one awe-inspiring sight. Read on to learn about the most beautiful waterfalls in the world– from North and South America to the African continent.
Let’s start with one of the world’s most famous waterfalls of all time. Located between the border of the United States and Canada, Niagara Falls is two waterfalls with an island between them. On the Canadian side, the water drops an amazing 173 feet (53 metres) before it hits the river below. It’s an absolutely breathtaking sight.
For much more on Niagara Falls, make sure to visit our sister site, Secrets of Niagara!
Angel Falls/ Kerepakupai Meru
The tallest waterfall in the world is Angel’s Falls in Canaima National Park in beautiful Venezuela. The water crashes down for a staggering 3,212 feet (979 meters) over the edge of Auyán-Tepuí mountain. The water drops so far that it atomizes into the air and then recollects down the face of the mountain before it even reaches the bottom. This is an essential site on any nature-focused itinerary in Central America.
Victoria Falls/ Mosi-oa-Tunya
This waterfall, located between Zimbabwe and Zambia, is classified as the world’s largest waterfall because of its impressive height (180 meters) and width (1,708 meters). The water (from the Zambezi river) moves across a flat basalt plateau and tumbles down into a sheer crevice formed by a fault line. The Tonga name for the falls means “Smoke that Thunders.” Wildlife enthusiasts will adore Victoria: it is home to one of the world’s most biodiverse natural reserves, so in between admiring the roaring falls, you’re likely to see a variety of magnificent wild animals and plant species. The area is especially renowned for its breathtaking elephant and buffalo migrations.
The Iguazu Falls is located along the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. It is classified as the largest waterfall system in the world, featuring over 275 different cascades. Though it’s not a tall waterfall, it makes up for a lack of height by offering sheer scope. If you’re planning on visiting South America and Argentina, this is definitely a natural site to beeline to.
Located in Guyana, these falls are famous for both their beauty and remote location. Surrounded by wilderness on all sides, these falls attract fewer tourists than comparable wonders around the world, principally due to the lack of local infrastructure to support them. On the upside, you can experience Kaieteur in comparative solitude, taking in the surrounding wild landscapes in near silence and peace. On the downside? You’ll have to be prepared for a long journey to get there– best accompanied by a private guide.
Gullfoss (Golden Falls) in Iceland
For those who prefer their waterfalls in a more northern clime, Gullfoss is a magnificent falls located in the southwest of Iceland. Though it’s not as high or wide as other falls we’ve mentioned, it’s still incredible to see because the crevice the water falls into makes it seem that the river disappears into an abyss. You can also read more about it and other sublime falls in the country in this guide to the 100 best sights in Iceland. Also make sure to check out the many breathtaking and dramatic geysers that dot the wild countryside.
The highest waterfall in the United States, Yosemite Falls drops 2,435 feet and is located in the Sierra Nevada region of California. Fed by melting mountain snow, these Falls are truly an unforgettable sight. The amount of water cascading over the edge depends on the time of year and snow conditions, but this is a magical destination year-round.