Welcome to the Luberon, in the hinterland of Provence, where the rolling hills are dotted with picturesque villages full of charm and character. Many of them are classified as "The Most Beautiful Villages in France". Here are five that caught our eye, straight out of a Marcel Pagnol novel!
In the heart of the Luberon regional park, the famous village of Gordes stands with panache in the foothills of the Monts du Vaucluse. With its steep streets lined with golden stone houses, its majestic church and its Renaissance castle, the "citadel village" attracts visitors from all over the world. But it is underground that its real treasure is hidden: the Caves du Palais Saint Firmin, a group of semi-troglodyte caves and grottoes listed as Historic Monuments.
At the foot of the Luberon, a stone's throw from the Bouches-du-Rhône department, Ansouis is a splendid 11th century fortified village. With its hemi-circular houses and winding streets that lead up to the church of Saint-Martin, Ansouis is a perched village in the pure tradition of the Luberon. Overlooking the medieval village, the Renaissance castle offers a breathtaking view of the Aigues valley. For the little anecdote, the village was used as a set for certain scenes in the films "Jean de Florette" and "Manon des sources".
Located in the heart of the Luberon Regional Nature Park, Lourmarin is known for its Renaissance castle, its Saint-André church and its Protestant temple, the largest in the Vaucluse. People come here for its atmosphere, its Provencal shops and its art galleries. Henri Bosco and Albert Camus found some of their inspiration here and are now buried in the village cemetery.
At the foot of the Mourre Nègre, the summit of the Grand Luberon, Cucuron is famous for its pond in the middle of the village. In the shade of the plane trees, the small square is surrounded by numerous small bars and restaurants where it is good to cool off in the hottest hours. In terms of heritage, you should visit the Saint-Michel keep, the only remnant of the medieval castle, the Tour de L'Horloge (or Belfry) and the Notre-Dame de Beaulieu church (12th century).
Overlooking the Luberon valley, Ménerbes is a preserved village where time seems to stand still. Clinging to its rocky spur, in a landscape of vineyards and garrigues, the village is famous for its traditional architecture, its narrow and steep streets and its dry stone houses. Don't forget to include in your visit the church of Saint-Luc (16th century) and its old cemetery, the Porte Saint-Sauveur and the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon.
Between the Mont Ventoux and the Luberon, Roussillon is a small, typically Provencal village famous for its red and yellow ochre cliffs. The "sentier des ocres" (ochre trail) takes visitors into a spectacular setting worthy of a Hollywood western. In the village, you should discover the beautiful 18th century houses, multicoloured with their pastel colours, the church of Saint-Michel, without forgetting the numerous shops selling ceramics and fabrics dyed with ochre pigments.