The Best Time to See Lavender in Provence
Lavender in Provence is definitely something you want to put on your bucket list of places to go and things to see. The palette of deep purples to vibrant blues often against an 11th or 12th century architectural design or village is, needless to say, breath taking.
However, here’s the hitch: the four corners of the world know about it today. Each year, the Provencal lavender bloom attracts thousands, and thousands of visitors. So where does that leave you?
Take my advice and come early. Come before the summer school break (school in France doesn’t get out until around the 5th of July), come before Mid-July and avoid August all together.
The beginning of the blooming season typically starts the end of June. Even in 2012, when Provence had an atypical wet and cold Spring season, I still managed to get a few lavender hikes in before taking off to celebrate the 4th of July in America.
Planning your Lavender tour
Now that you have decided on the last week of June and first part of July to avoid all those tourists in your prize lavender photos, it’s time to sort out your itinerary. Here are a few guidelines to make your journey amidst the lavender exotic and inspiring.
- Choose your lodging strategically – Your charming villa or Boutique hotel will be all the more pleasurable if you have a lavender field near by. Avoid long drives without the lavender by positioning your lodging in the central areas. Blooming will start first in the lower region so look at lodging in the Luberon, near Bonnieux or Roussillon. From here, the higher region, Alpes-Haute-Provence, is around a 40-minute drive – with lavender all the way.
- Lavender massage therapy – Yes, Occitane is worldwide but going to the source is always more exoctic. Take time out during your tours and treat yourself to a MySpa Occitane at the Moulin de Vernègues in Mallemort. Here you can enjoy a gourmet lunch, soothing body treatments and why not a romantic stay in one of their charming suits. Other Spas as well have lavender aroma treatments (Le Couvent des Minimes in Manes and La Bastide in Gordes to name a few).
- Visit family run distilleries – It’s not all about breathing in the aroma and taking beautiful pictures to impress your friends. There is a rich historical culture and technical skill that make lavender Provence’s number one emblem. One of my favorite family distilleries is Aroma Plantes in Sault. The free, guided visit of the distillery is set up so both kids and adults can learn. After your tour, you can indulge in a homemade crepe from their quaint café and buy a few products from the boutique.
- Explore culinary uses of lavender – if you picked up a few items from the boutique at Aroma Plantes then you might have used lavender the day before in your luxury bath soaking time or perhaps by now you have scented your suitcase with sachets to take home as gifts but before you leave you should seek out the culinary uses of lavender as well. Lavender ice cream is a must. If you happen to be in Saint Rémy Roma is the place you want to go for your homemade, artisan ice cream. Lavender shortbread cookies are also popular and can be found at local markets (Gordes – Tuesday morning, Saint-Rémy Wednesday morning, Isle-sur-la Sorgue – Sunday morning, Bonnieux – Friday morning). My favorite treat is lavender crème-brûlée – many restaurants in Provence offer this on their dessert menus.
- Bike it! – It won’t get better than this. Just you, nature, magical colors and empowering aromas…oh and maybe a few bees if you get too close. Start your moderate 20 km bike loupe in Sault where you can rent a bike at Albion Cycles. Ask for the map “Entre Sault et Ferrassières”. There are longer routes to take if you are up for it but this is a nice comprise for the whole group (count 2 hours).
- Guided Tours with Your Private Provence – Sometimes putting the whole trip together is difficult, not to mention time consuming when you don’t know the region well. A local can always do a better job, naturally. Make the most of your time by choosing an escorted tour or itinerary “made in Provence” by Your Private Provence. Hassle free travel with an insider’s advice and tips is the icing on the cake – or should I say, the lavender in Provence!