THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DRIVING THROUGH PROVENCE IN A WEEK
Provence, in the south of France is one of most beautiful regions in the world to drive through, but if you have never tried self-driving, especially in France or Europe, the thought may seem a little overwhelming. To explore the region of Provence, a car is highly recommended to reach all the smaller, hilltop towns, pretty remote lavender and sunflower fields and of course the magnitude of vineyards and wineries in the area. Driving through Provence in a week is the perfect length to discover the best of this part of France.
This driving through Provence guide will help with grasping local customs on the road and give you a head start on what to expect. Additionally we have shared an itinerary including villages and towns in the Provence region, where to base yourself so that driving between villages isn’t a bind as well as the all-important parking information.
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- Planning The Best Driving Itinerary Through Provence
- Why Plan a Road Trip
- The Best Time For A Provence Road Trip
- Hiring A Car: Driving Through Provence
- The Best Place To Hire A Car (Plus Insurance)
- Car Parking: A Driving Itinerary Through Provence
- Driving In Provence Essential Tips & Recommendations
- Drive On The Correct Side Of The Road (& Driving Rules)
- Provence Roads
- Be Familiar With Road Signs: A Driving Itinerary Through Provence
- Fuel Stations
- Google Maps
- Toll Roads Versus Village Roads
- Public Toilets: A Driving Itinerary Through Provence
- Watch Out For Cyclists, Pedestrians & Motorcyclists
- Stock Up On Snacks & Water : A Driving Itinerary Through Provence
- Always Have Cash Handy: A Driving Itinerary Through Provence
- A Driving Itinerary Through Provence: Destinations
- Day One
- Day Two
- Day Three
- Day Four
- Day Five
- Day Six
- Day Seven
- Day Eight
- Day Trips & Tours From Avignon
- Tips On Executing Your Driving Itinerary In Provence
- Driving Itinerary Through Provence: Round-Up
- Handy Resources To Help Plan Your Trip
- Pin & Save
Planning The Best Driving Through Provence Itinerary
Why Plan a Road Trip
The simple answer is, opting to drive in Provence means a greater level of flexibility. Provence is rural, has picture perfect countryside and villages and towns that look like they’ve been extracted from a storybook. It’s fairytale stuff with unbeatable landscapes. The only way really to see this is to drive to get up close and personal. This way you can spend as long as you’d like at each destination, stay for lunch or dinner or even have breakfast if you’re an early bird. But most importantly, you won’t just be there for an hour or two and you can actually get a great feel for a place, visit the markets and boutiques and support the local economy, which in Provence is a big thing. It’s sustainability at its best and supporting local and independent is so easy.
The Best Time For A Provence Road Trip
Visiting Provence between April and October is just ideal. If you’re looking to see the fields of Lavender and Sunflowers then July and August, early September are perfect. September is usually when the vineyards will be harvesting so if you’re interested in wine, then this is the time to go. We would still recommend shoulder season time of May, September and early October as there are less visitors and driving will be a lot easier and small country roads will be much quieter. Also road conditions would be great with hardly any rain and dry road conditions.
How Many Days Do I Need in Provence
This largely depends on which places you’d like to include. This itinerary covers 7-8 days of driving and visiting the villages of The Luberon as well as the Vaucluse department. It’s possible to completely tailor-make the stops to whatever suits your budget and interests as Avignon as a base is perfect to visit much of the region. As a minimum we’d recommend 4 days, but it’s possible to have a 2-week leisurely driving break in Provence quite easily.
Hiring A Car: Driving Through Provence
We would thoroughly recommend, hiring a car well in advance of your trip to ensure you get the vehicle of your choice. We had opted for a Fiat 500 but due to demand received a Vauxhall Corsa of similar size and it was perfect for our trip. A smaller car means moving around city locations will also be easier.
Be-lavie Tip: If you plan on doing lots of driving, opting for a smaller car is a must as some of those country lanes are not very wide and neither are many of the car parking spots in Provence!
Try not to opt for a car that’s a little bit too small as you don’t want to damage the bottom of the car due to bumpy roads and cobble-stone village streets.
The Vauxhall Cross proved to be quite a robust option for the eight days we had it in Provence and perfect for two people but could easily also accommodate another in the back. Features of the car included, Bluetooth sound system, GPS as well as back-up cameras which in Provence will come in very handy for parking as well as motion sensors.
If you are travelling to Provence in summer, things can get pretty hot when you’re driving so ensure you have air-conditioning and you know how to use this. Try and park the car in the shade where possible so the interiors are not excessively hot when you return to start the next leg of your journey.
The Best Place To Hire A Car (Plus Insurance)
The airport is your best bet, for convenience and ease. If heading to Provence, you may well be arriving into Marseille airport, and here car companies are sign posted as you walk through arrivals. It’s a couple of minutes walk after exiting the terminal.
Be-lavie Tip: Ensure that at the time of booking you purchase insurance either independently or with Europcar incase of any unlikely problems. Additionally a great tip is to take out excess reimbursement, which is a policy cover that pays out your excess if there is any damage to your hire vehicle.
Europcar is a great company that we’d recommend and have hired a number of cars with in the past with no problem.
Car Parking: Driving Through Provence
Parking your car in Provence is pretty easy as there are plenty of car parks, which much to our surprise, are free. Parking will also largely depend upon where you will base yourself throughout your Provence road trip.
We based ourselves in Avignon, which is a stunning medieval city, surrounded by a wall that felt very much like being in the backdrop of a fairytale setting. There are a number of car parks in Avignon as well as on-street parking which you naturally have to pay for. If staying for seven days as we did, parking charges can mount up but Avignon has a free car park just on the edge of the city. It takes 20 minutes to walk from the centre or there is a free shuttle which is available throughout the day and until late at night
The car park is pretty close to the university, referred to as Des Italiens Parking. It is open 24 hours a day and a lot of the locals who live in the centre of Avignon also park their cars here. It’s relatively busy and well lit and feels very safe to use. Refer to Map Location
Further information and options on Parking in Avignon
Parking in the small towns of Provence is actually easier than you think. Generally as you drive into the town, you’ll see signs for a car park or two. Follow this and on the whole we found these to be free.
Be-lavie Tip: Out of the 18 towns and villages we covered in our week, we only paid at Saint. Remy en Provence, Fontaine de Vanclues and Aix en Provence. In the more smaller villages, it’s worth keeping an eye out for street parking too which is also free on Sundays.
Parking will cost in the region of €3 for two hours, so quite cost effective compared to places in the UK.
If you know there’s a market on in the town you’re visiting, it’ best to get there as early in the morning as possible as the free parking may fill up fast. Just to note, you will often see cars parallel parked against stone walls, feel free to partake but be careful not to damage cars due to errors in judging the distance. It’s so easy to nudge the car on the walls. You’ll usually see parked cars here near houses where the locals prefer to park.
Driving In Provence Essential Tips & Recommendations
These essential tips and recommendations will make your road trip a lot more easier to navigate.
Drive On The Correct Side Of The Road (& Driving Rules)
In France and much of Europe the rules of the road are to drive on the right hand side of the road, so great if you’re from the USA, but completely the opposite if you’re from the UK and a few other countries.
Be-lavie Tip: If you’re collecting your car from the airport then to get used to driving on the other side of the road, you can drive up an down and practice before you commence your road trip itinerary.
As you can imagine, a lot of the smaller towns, especially those little gems located in the Luberon Valley will have pretty narrow, even cobblestone streets which can be a little tricky to drive on. You may need to tuck in side mirrors and be extra careful. If you don’t feel confident then park at the designated car parks a little away from the centre of the village itself and just walk up the hill to the village epicentre. Your car will be safe and a steep walk may neutralise all the crepes, bread and cheese you’ll be eating!
Be-lavie Tip: Avoid driving along the country roads at night if possible. They are windy and bendy and have hairpin turns with sharp bends and blind spots which are known to the locals. There are not many street lights or traffic lights for that matter so caution will be needed but in our opinion, it’ best to avoid.
In France, there are quite a lot of roundabouts or ‘rond points’ as they’re called. Keep an eye out for the signs approaching the roundabout so you know which exit you’ll be taking. Best to read up on traffic signs and signals before you go, just to be on the safe side.
On coming traffic should yield to vehicles that are already at the roundabout and you must give way to traffic from the left.
A guide to navigating roundabouts in France
Be Familiar With Road Signs: Driving Through Provence
Depending upon the part of the world you’re from, road signs are most probably very different in Provence. Two signs that come to mind are ‘do not enter’ and ‘narrow road’ signs. This round-up of French road signs may come in useful for your trip.
In France just like in the UK, you fill up your car and go and pay inside or you can pay at the pump with your credit card which is a very convenient method.
Be-lavie Tip (Fuel Spend): On our seven day road trip we covered around 1000 km including a round trip to Marseille airport and we spent on average €100 On fuel.
** Remember to fill up your car fully before returning it to your rental company.
It’s best to download Google Maps for your route when you’re in a WIFI area as some of the remote spots can be pretty tough for connection. From our estimation, if you plan the itinerary correctly (we have an example a little further down) you can bunch towns and villages together so you’re only traveling 15-20 minutes between each, and your furthest drive would be around an hour before you visit the rest en route back to your base.
It’s really important to spend some time on the itinerary process – you don’t want to spend unnecessary time going back to the same area to visit one town if you were just there a day ago. This will especially be frustrating if like most of us you are on a tight travel schedule.
Toll Roads Versus Village Roads
If you are weather nervous driving the narrow country roads, be reassured that there are also Toll Roads especially to the larger towns, when driving from Avignon to Aix en Provence. Google may automatically direct you via them.
They are pretty easy to figure out, you just need to grab a ticket from the dispenser at the barrier and when you’re exiting the road, keep your cash or credit card handy to pay on exit. Any problems, you can always press the information button and the toll attendant does have limited English.
Where possible we stuck to village roads, to access larger towns to and from Avignon, as most of our driving itinerary was done in daylight and they truly are far more picturesque than the motorway style toll roads.
Public Toilets: Driving Through Provence
Finding public conveniences in Provence, is a little tricky to say the least. Public restrooms are not really that well accessible. If you think stopping at a fuel station, grocery shop, cafe, restaurant will relieve you, I wouldn’t be to sure.
I wouldn’t recommend taking care of your business in nature, I mean for starters you never know who may just pop out of the foliage. Preferably when you are stopping off at a cafe or restaurant for lunch or coffee, enquire about the facilities. When visiting museums, these generally have public restrooms too. Some car parks also have a toilet but we found a couple to be the hole in the ground kind! Yup France still does the squat thing!
Be-lavie Tip: Carry degradable wipes, hand sanitise and toilet paper just to be on the safe side, the number of toilets lacking these items was rather large!
Watch Out For Cyclists, Pedestrians & Motorcyclists
Whilst driving around in Provence, you will see many cyclists as it’s quite a popular region for cycling holidays as well as pro-cycle trials. This is another reason to stick to the road sign limits and drive carefully being mindful of other road users.
Motorcycles and scooters are also popular and are legally allowed to filter in and out of lanes, which may seem a nuisance but it’s just how it is in France.
Be-lavie Tip: French drivers will usually steer to the right so that cyclists may pass quickly
When it comes to pedestrians, locals will not wait for the signal to cross the road they will just do so and it’s ALWAYS their right of way!
When driving just try your best to follow the route of traffic but be alert pedestrians may step out.
Stock Up On Snacks & Water: Driving Through Provence
Take plenty of snacks and water, especially if you’re driving in the hot summers in Provence. Picnics are absolutely perfect for driving stops.
Be-lavie Tip: If you’re based in Avignon, we recommend dropping into the Les Halles D’Avignon, a daily farmers market which is open from 06:00-14:00 is a must. The local traders have some fantastic, cheese, breads, honey, nuts, cakes, coffee fruit, vegetables, cold meats and so much more to enjoy. You can even go to one of the restaurants and cafes inside.
Map Location; Les Halles d’Avignon
Many of the towns will have daily markets and delicatessens so picking up some food won’t be a problem with lots of food and drink around, all made locally in the region. It’s a great way to support local and cottage industries.
Picnics are a fab way to stop off at picturesque picnic points or along rivers to have a break from driving if you don’t fancy a restaurant midday.
Stocking up on water is also a priority. To purchase large bottles of water head to the supermarket.
Be-lavie Tip: It is possible to drink water from the tap in France now. We would fill our water bottles up and keep them in the fridge before heading out.
It’s good to note, that many eateries and local shops will close around 12:30-15:30 so pick up supplies early and with so many popular patisseries, boulangeries and fromageries around, stocks go very quickly!
Always Have Cash Handy: A Driving Itinerary Through Provence
This would be quite pertinent in the small villages in Provence. Some small local eateries will not take cash, for example patisseries or even market stalls, and even some small souvenir haunts. You really don’t want to miss out on some of the local produce and hand made goodies so it’s best to be on the safe side. Take some Euros!!
Driving Through Provence Itinerary: Destinations
Working on a driving itinerary for Provence is quite an important part of the trip. It is a holiday but if your base is in a town such as Avignon, when rush hour traffic hits, it hits hard. You can well be stationery for a long while impacting your day. It’s best to either leave before the rush, so around 08:00 or after 09:30-10:00. Additionally when returning back to your base, try to avoid 17:00-18:00.
* click the image below to see the destinations in Google Maps
This seven to eight day driving itinerary around Provence is a guide that can help craft your own trip and assumes the following:
- Arrival & Departure Airport: Marseille
- Base: Avignon, Provence
- Avignon Parking: Des Italiens
- Accommodation: Located in the historic centre of Avignon
- Driving Times: based on Google Maps
** Personally curated dining options have been included for ease of planning.
Marseille – Avignon – Pont Du Gard – Avignon
- Arrive into Marseille Airport
- Collect Hire Car
- Depending upon time, either head straight to Avignon, park your car, check-in and head to Halles Les Avignon to grab a picnic to take with you to Port du Gard
- If it’s already the afternoon when you arrive into Marseille airport, head straight to the Port du Gard and after a couple of hours of discovery, you can head onto Avignon.
- Dinner: Pre-book dinner for ease Recommendation: L’Agape
Marseille Airport – Pont du Gard : 109km// 1h 20 mins
Marseille Airport to Avignon: 83.7km// 57 mins
Pont du Gard – Avignon: 24.5// 30 mins
Avignon & Villeneuve-lès -Avignon
- Spend the whole day exploring Avignon, no car required.
- Walk over the main footbridge in Avignon to Villeneuve les Avignon and discover the small market town and walk up to Fort Saint-André.
- Breakfast: Chez Lisette
- Lunch: Head to Les Halles d’avignon and buy a picnic to eat at the Jardin des Doms
- Dinner: Head to a real local dining spot, Mamma Corsica
Full day wine Tour Châteauneuf-du-Pape
- Breakfast: For the best pain au chocolat and croissants in Avignon head to Les Fabrique des Saveurs
- A full day wine tour around organised by Odylée Estate Winemakers with your very own sommelier.
- Lunch at Le Comptoir de La Mère Germaine, recommended by our sommelier.
Avignon – Châteauneuf-du-Pape: approximately 17.5km ~25 mins
It takes around 15-20 minutes to drive in between wine estates.
Avignon – Lourmarin – Ansouis – Orange – Séguret – Avignon
A few more of the Luberon villages to explore
- Leave Avignon early and head to the beautiful village of Lourmarin. When you arrive, have breakfast at one of the cafes. Recommendation Cafe Gaby
- Once you’ve explored the village and chateau, head to Ansouis, a small commune and cute little village to walk around.
- Drive to Orange. A lovely town filled with beautiful shops and the Roman Amphitheatre.
- Finish the day in Seguret, Ames one of the most beautiful hilltop villages in Provence. Have some food at the restaurant that line the cobbled-stone streets. Recommendation: Salon de Thé Eglantine for homemade lemonade and heart biscuits.
- Head back to Avignon for dinner, pre-reserve restaurant. Recommendation: La Miranda (1 Michelin Star for a special meal.
Avignon – Lourmarin: 69km ~54 mins
Lourmarin – Ansouis: 10.3km ~13 mins
Ansouis – Orange: 91 km ~1hr 9 mins
Orange – Séguret: 24.3km ~26 mins
Séguret – Avignon: 42.2km ~46 mins
Avignon – Vaison-la-Romaine – L’isle-Sur-la-Sorgue – Fontaine-de-Vaucluse – Avignon
- Head to Les Halles d’Avignon to pick up some breakfast and lunch supplies for a picnic later.
- Drive to the commune of Vaison-la-Romaine and head to the old town on the hill. If you haven’t had breakfast, grab a crepe at Creparie La Pomme .
- Head to L’isle-Sur-la-Sorgue also known as the Venice of Provence to mooch around the antique filled lanes and walk along the river.
- Drive onto Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to have a look at the springs and the pretty towns with its spring side hike trails, grottoes and restaurants lining the water.
- Finish off at Beaumes-de-Venise, a small quiet village, popular with cyclists, optional stop.
- Back in Avignon have dinner, pre reserve Le Bercail which is located on the other side of the Rhone with views of the Palais de Pape and sunset.
Avignon – Vaison-la-Romaine : 56km ~48 mins
Vaison-la-Romaine – L’isle de la Sorgue: 48km ~54 mins
L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Fontaine-de-Vaucluse: 7.8km ~13 mins
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse – Beaumes-de-Venise: 40 km ~1hr
Beaumes-de-Venise – Avignon 38km ~ 1hr 5mins
Avignon – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – Camargue National Park – Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – Parc Ornithologique – Arles – Nimes – Avignon
- Head to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence for a coupe of hours in the morning to capture some pretty scenes as the town wakes up. Stay longer if you’d like to visit the museum or head straight to the Parc Ornithologique. Great breakfast is available at Le Beau Bar with seating in the square opposite.
- Drive to Camargue National Park and head to the main town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (optional).
- Take a coastal walk (optional).
- Head to the Parc Ornithologique to see the Flamingoes, alternatively you can head straight here after Saint Remy-de-Provence
- Drive to Arles and discover the historic centre followed by a late lunch at Le Bigouden.
- End the day spending a few hours in Nimes, exploring the streets, amphitheatre and sights before heading back to Nimes.
- Have a late dinner of Tapas or snacks at Au Coeur des Vin.
Avignon – Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer: 78.7 ~1hr 9 mins
*(Avignon – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence): 25.1km ~30 mins
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – Parc Ornithologique Pont du Gau: 64km ~54 mins
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – Parc Ornithologique Pont du Gau : 4.8km ~6 mins
Parc Ornithologique Pont du Gau – Arles : 35km ~40 mins
Arles – Nimes : 32.7km ~32 mins
Avignon – Roussillon – Lacoste – Bonnieux – Goult – Ménerbes – Avignon
Exploring more towns and villages of the Luberon.
Leave Avignon early to discover the villages of the Luberon.
- Drive to Rousillon, where you can discover the town quiet as the market and shops open. Purchase breakfast at one of the local cafes or Boulangerie to enjoy al fresco.
- Drive on to hilltop commune of Lacoste. Park the car at the bottom of the hill and walk your way up, passing by the boutiques and points of interest.
- Drive onto Bonnieux and have a Crêpe or lunch at one of the cafes located on the hill slope with views over the valley. Recommendation: Crêperie Le Tinel.
- Spend a couple of hours walking through the dreamy town go Goult.
- Finally end your day with a visit to Ménerbes and soaking up the views of the vineyards in the valley and walking through the quaint town.
- Head back to Avignon for dinner. Recommendation: Restaurant Bar à Vin Le 46.
Avignon – Roussillon: 49km ~54 mins
Roussillon – Lacoste: 11.3km ~17 mins
Lacoste – Bonnieux : 6.8km ~10mins
Bonnieux – Goult : 8km ~11 mins
Goult – Ménerbes: 11km ~16 mins
Ménerbes – Avignon: 40km ~46 mins
Avignon – Aix-en-Provence – Marseille Airport
- Spend the morning exploring Aix-en-Provence with breakfast at Chez Biscote et Biscotte (try their madeleines)
- Head to Marseille airport to return your hire car, remember to fill up with fuel – there is a petrol station just near the car rental area.
- Take your flight home or proceed with your onward journey, we recommend to spend a few days in Marseille.
Avignon – Aix-en-Provence : 87km ~1 hr.
Aix-en-Provence – Marseille Airport : 27km ~30 mins.
Day Trips & Tours From Avignon
If you fancy having a break from driving or would like to do a wine tour without the hassle of a taxi or public transport then have a look at these personally curated tours for some memorable experiences.
Tours We Love
- Avignon Historic District Guided Food & Wine Walking Tour – This small group tour explores five local historical eateries and restaurants as well as drink stops. It’s a true local experience and perfect for food-lovers who want to experience something authentic.
- From Avignon, Luberon’s Main Villages & Sites Tour – This six to nine hour tour covers some of the most beautiful village and towns of the Luberon valley. Gordes, Roussillon, Saignon •sites: Senanque Abbey, Mines de Bruoux. This is a great tour if you’re a little short of time.
- Day trip from Avignon: In the Footsteps of Van Gogh in Provence – this one is for fans of the great artist. You can follow in his footsteps and visit the villages where he based himself. and was inspired to paint many of his notable artworks. It includes a visit to St. Paul de Mausole, the asylum where Van Gogh stayed from 1889-1890.
Tips On Executing Driving Through Provence
#1. Collect your hire car from the airport and ensure you have previously studied road signs and done some driving background reading – the internet has so many great resources!
#2. Remember to not only purchase insurance but to add on a separate policy which lets you cover the excess payment amount, incase of any unforeseen circumstances.
#3. Hiring a smaller car is recommended such as a Fiat 500 or Vauxhall Corsa. Double check it has air conditioning, back up cameras (if you need help parking) and GPS.
#4. Importantly make sure you know whether the car drinks petrol or diesel.
#5. Know where the closest car park is to your base location.
#6. Make a Google Map itinerary of the villages and towns you intend to go to and try and visit them by area, so you’re not driving back and forth on yourself to maximise your time.
#7. Take some cash (Euros) with you.
#8. Keep an eye on fuel levels and filling stations so you’re never cut short.
#9. Carry water and snacks with you.
#10. Use public conveniences when you see them as they are far and few between.
#11. Take wipes and toilet paper incase you may require it.
#12. Get to locations as early as possible in the day to secure free parking. Market days can be rather busy at most places.
#13. Don’t pack your days too tight and leave time for spontaneous changes.
#14. If you plan to have lunch or dinner at a specific restaurant, book ahead to guarantee a table, if the eatery has a reservation option.
#15. Try and learn some French, especially, Bonjour, Bonsoir, Merci, s’il vous plaît (good day, good evening, thank you and Please) being friendly in the smaller towns is very common, the locals will generally acknowledge you and try and stop for a chat.
#16. If time allows dedicate a day to touring a few winemakers. It’s best to get a tour for this so no-one misses out on the experience and everyone can enjoy the day without worrying about getting back to base.
#17. Be sure to book a lunch in if you’re doing wine tours as you will need the food!! Also carry water in-between tastings.
Driving Through Provence: Round-Up
Following these tips and recommendations should make your seven day driving itinerary in Provence run a lot smoother, especially if you’re unfamiliar with driving in Europe. It can seem quite overwhelming planning an itinerary and executing it but hopefully the sample schedule created above can help alleviate some of that stress, leaving you to add or remove as much or as little to your time in Provence as you’d like. The region is for relaxed travel, mooching around villages, enjoying long lunches, with a glass or two of wine and uncovering the hidden gems of fairytale and hilltop villages steeped in history, that are speckled throughout Provence. All this with a picture -perfect backdrop of the Alps and never- ending vine fringed roads.
Handy Resources To Help Plan Your Trip
Travel Planning Checklist
- Flights: Search & Book the best flight options through SKYSCANNER
- Trains & Coaches: Get the best available options with TRAINLINE
- Car Hire: Secure the best vehicle to suit your needs with EUROPCAR
- Hotels: Choose from a wide range of accommodation with BOOKING.COM
- Reading: Select from a big range of travel books at FOYLES
- Tours: Personalise your travels with memorable activities with GET YOUR GUIDE
- Travel Insurance: An absolute must-have! Check rates on SAFETYWING
- Eco-friendly Travel: Grab your eco-friendly travel must-haves from &KEEP