Total tour distance: 162 miles
Daily tour distance: 40 miles
Difficulty: 70 / 100
This six-day, self-guided bike tour allows you to explore the heart of Provence at a more challenging level than other tours of the region. Beginning in Bédoin and ending in Gargas, the itinerary features relatively short daily rides, allowing you to fully experience Provence rather than to just see it as you pass by. With options to climb legendary Mont Ventoux, or snake through the Gorges de la Nesque, some of those views will be your reward for pushing yourself! Highlights include visits to some of Provence’s most acclaimed wine-making towns (Vacqueyas, Gigondas, Beaumes de Venise), along with stops in several of France’s “most beautiful” villages (Séguret, Gordes, and Roussillon). Each night, you’ll retire in a comfortable, character-filled hotel set in an utterly charming town.
Starts any Sunday from April through October.
Day 1: Arrival in Avignon
Upon arrival, you’ll be ushered to your hotel located in the center of Avignon. After getting settled, you’ll meet with our representative and go over your bike tour in step-by-step detail. At night you’ll have plenty of opportunity to explore this ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Architectural landmarks abound, such as the Cathédrale Notre-Dame des Doms d’Avignon, one of France’s 85 designated national monuments, and the Palais des Papes.
Day 2: Transfer from Avignon to Bedoin/Mazan/Crillon. Loop from Bedoin/Mazan/Crillon-le-Brave around the wine-making area of “Les Dentelles de Montmirail.” (Two options: 92 km/57 miles or 77 km/48 miles)
Your toast-giving skills may come into play during today’s loop, which begins and ends in Bédoin (or Mazan or Crillon, depending on hotel availability). You’ll wheel through some of the most noted wine-making villages in Provence, starting with Beaumes-de-Venise. From a scenic spot at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail (a vertebrae of dramatically jagged mountains), this old-world village is home to Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, one of the planet’s most applauded wines. Vacqueyras is next, followed by Gigondas and then Séguret, which lives up to its hype as one of France’s “most beautiful villages.” As your loop begins to bend around, you’ll pedal into Vaison-la-Romaine. Divided by the Ouvéze River, Vaison-la-Romaine’s lower half features a trove of Gallo-Roman ruins, making it one of Europe’s largest archaeological sites, while the upper half, perched atop a knuckle of rock, rates as a monument to medieval architecture. Before reaching Bedoin/Mazan/Crillon you’ll have the option ride up to the tiny village of Suzette (1,080 meters/3,540 feet), a modest ascent that, if you so choose, will add 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the day’s ride.
Day 3: Bedoin/Mazan/Crillon to Sault (Two options: via Ventoux - approx. 58km/36 miles; or via the Gorges de la Nesque - approx. 40 km/25 miles)
Depending on preference, you’ll have the option to climb Mont Ventoux, the “Giant of Provence,” or a more leg-friendly route through Gorges de la Nesque. The first option allows you to climb a classic route up Mont Ventoux, which touches the sky at 1,912 meters (6,273 feet). This barren peak enjoys all-star status with riders, having appeared in the Tour de France 14 times since 1951. The second option corkscrews along the floor of the Gorges de la Nesque and averages, by our account, 11 picture-stops per mile (14 if you visit the Chapelle Saint-Michel, a tiny, 12th-century chapel tucked under a cliff). You’ll lodge at night in Sault, a tiny village that’s as historic as it is beautiful. Surrounded by fields of lavender, your ride around Sault could resemble an unframed Monet painting in 3-D (depending on the time of year).
Day 4: Sault to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (60 km/ 37 miles)
Today’s ride allows you to experience rural Provence at its best. You’ll wheel across rolling green hills and through timeless villages hemmed with vineyards and fruit orchards… the type of decaffeinated setting that causes sound-minded people to ponder quitting their jobs, moving to Provence, and spending their remaining years in sun-drenched fields applying oil paints to canvas. The village of Venasque, designated as one of France’s “most beautiful villages,” highlights the ride. Fontaine-de-Vaucluse will be your home for the night. Huddled along the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse features the fifth largest underground spring in the world. Against a backdrop of craggy cliffs and draping foliage, the spring’s emerging turquoise-colored waters are extremely camera-worthy.
Day 5: Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to Gargas via Gordes (51 km/32 miles)
It won’t take long for the day’s wow-factor to kick in when you ride into Gordes. Perched atop a hillside, it is one of France’s 144 “most beautiful villages.” Ancient stone buildings line its many narrow cobbled alleyways and arcades, all of which lead to the Chateau de Gordes, the village’s iconic landmark. Nearby Sénanque Abbey, located below Gordes, is worth visiting as well. From here you’ll bicycle through a chain of scenic, hillside villages – Menerbes, Lacoste and Bonnieux – before reaching Roussillon, yet another one of France’s “most beautiful villages,” which once served as home for writer Samuel Beckett. At night you’ll be able to download all of today’s photos onto Facebook from your hotel in Gargas.
NOTE: We can offer a shorter ride (40 km/25 miles; 737 m/2,418 ft of climbing), bypassing Gordes, but still catching Ménerbes, Lacoste and Bonnieux.
Day 6: Transfer to Avignon
We’ll usher you to Avignon for your departure of choice.
Please note that rates are given as a guideline; based on Euro vs. US$ exchange rate as of 12/10/14.