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.
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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!