Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Best Places to See Lavender Fields in Provence for History Buffs

There are so many reasons for culturally minded travellers to visit Julius Caesar’s Province of Rome. The regions’ distinctive landscape has many archaeological and historical attractions, including some of the best preserved Roman buildings found anywhere today in what was the Roman Empire. Provence is also well known for its lavender fields, from small patches of cultivated land to vast swathes of purple that stretch into the distance. And some of these are next to some of the region’s most interesting and picturesque historical sites. For those who want to combine botany with history, I share my tips on where and when to see the best lavender fields in Provence.

A view of the Pont Flavien through a bush of flowering lavender.
Lavender bushes have been placed at the Roman Pont Flavien in Saint Chamas.

Lavender comes from the Latin verb lavare, to wash. Romans not only used the plant’s essential oil to scent their soaps they also liked to use it in their bathing water. They also recognised the plant’s medicinal qualities, and used lavender to fight insomnia, back ache and as an antiseptic. Something that carried on into the Medieval period. Lavenders were women who took in washing. But it was not until the 19th century that lavender began to be cultivated in Provence. And over the decades lavender farming developed into an industry that has shaped our image of the region.

Where Are Lavender Fields in Provence, France?

Given the importance of the lavender industry in Provence, the opportunities to see spectacular fields of purples and blues are many. Besides my favourite specific locations I recommend below, if you have a car you can drive around the area. Not only will you see lavender fields, you will also see quaint hilltop villages so typical of this region. A few to consider Bonnieux, Gordes and Lourmarin.

A route I recommend exploring starts at Carpentas travelling along the D4 to Gordes. Near Gordes is Sénanque Abbey. From here take the D4 and then the D900 to the hilltop town of Goult. From Goult follow the D900 to the D108, the Route du Pont Julien, a Roman bridge that once carried the Via Domitia over the Calavon River as it went from Rome to Spain. After a stop at the bridge either return to the D900 and head to Apt, or carry on the D108 to Bonnieux and then on to Apt. From Apt head north for the Baronnies Provençales Natural Regional Park. It is here that you will see lavender fields around Valensole (some 800 square kilometres of them) and on the Plateau d’Albion (over 11,000 acres or 4,500 hectares of lavender under cultivation).

Sénanque Abbey

Rows of lavender in near full bloom in front of the medieval abbey of Senanque.
Looking south over a lavender field to the 12th century abbey church and buildings.
An aerial view of the abbey complex at Sénanque, Provence.
A view over the abbey looking north, note the patches of purple here and there.

St Paul’s Mausoleum

Monastery Of Saint Paul De Mausole
The Abbey church and buildings that became a psychiatric asylum where Van Gogh was treated.

St Paul’s Mausoleum certainly does not have the most spectacular field of lavender, but it is surely one of the most poignant. As a result of the 1789 French Revolution the 11th century monastery landed up in the hands of a doctor who in 1807 set up a psychiatric asylum. And it was here that Vincent Van Gogh committed himself on 8 May 1889. He was treated here for just over a year, leaving on 16 May 1890. This was not only one of the most difficult periods of his life, it was also one of his most creative. And visitors to St Paul’s Mausoleum today can walk in the grounds and see panels that reproduce paintings that were inspired by the surrounding landscape.

At the back of what was the monastery is a modest field of lavender.

Monastery de Saint-Paul de Mausole.
Vincent Van Gogh’s room in St Paul’s Mausoleum.


The hillside town of Sault in Provence, under a bright blue sky.
Sault, a typical Provencal hilltop town.

Sault is a typical Provencal, hilltop village built established in the Medieval period. These hilltop villages are surrounded by relative flat plains on which you will find lavender fields. The options for photographers are many. From the hilltop villages you get wonderful views over the surrounding landscape, before you is a mosaic of fields of different shapes and sizes. At the right time of the year some of these are brilliant purple. You can also get great photographs from the lavender fields themselves with the hilltop towns in the background.

To the west of Sault there are many lavender fields. And it is from the west that the hilltop aspect of the town is at its most pronounced. The perfect situation for getting striking photographs towards the end of the day.

A traditional Provencal farmhouse on the edge of a lavender field in bloom at sunset.
A lavender field at sunset.

Plateau De Valensole

The Valensole Plateau has its own share of quaint Medieval villages, with striking castles and forts and imposing ramparts. But, with over 800 square kilometres of land under lavender cultivation, it is not known as ‘lavender country’ for nothing. If you have seen photographs in which rows of lavender stretch far into the distance, the chances are it was from a field in this area. And anyone who has visited will not be surprised to learn that Valensole is France’s biggest lavender growing area.

A vast lavender field near Valensole, Provence.
Some of the vast and spectacular lavender fields can be seen near Valensole.

Château de Grignan and the Lavender Fields of the Rhône Valley

A bit further away from the other historical sites mentioned above, but the Château de Grignan in the Rhône Valley (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) is well worth considering.  Castle Grignan is the largest Renaissance castle in southeastern France. What started out as a fortress built in the 11th century was transformed into a luxury residence in the 17th century by the Adhémar family. As with many buildings of this kind, it was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century. Visitors to the castle can enjoy self-guided and guided tours taking in over 1,000 years of history. During the summer, the castle hosts evening events – a good chance to enjoy the spectacular views at sunset. 

The castle is located on the top of a rocky outcrop, overlooking the village of Grignan. Surrounding the villages are the many fields of lavender. Although a popular destination for lavender seekers, it is not as busy as some of the other places further south into Provence. 

Beyond a field of blooming lavender, the ramparts of the Renaissance castle tower above the village that surrounds it.
During the lavender season the views of the castle, an from the castle are quite spectacular, particularly in the early evening.

When is the Best Time to See the Lavender Fields in Provence?

Harvested Lavender Field Valensole
You missed it!

Map of the Best Lavender Fields in Provence and the South of France

Historical sites with lavender fields in Provence

Create Your Own Provencal Itinerary and Travel Lists

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

Community Comments

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments