The lavender fields in France seem to be on everyone’s bucket list and for good reason. The rows of purple beauties are not only amazing to see in person but they make for great photos. However, visiting them in full bloom can be a bit tricky as the Provence lavender season can be short so this travel guide offers tips for planning your trip to see the Valensole lavender fields as well as information on the other two popular fields to visit in Provence. As a bonus, I’ve also included a photography guide for those headed there to photograph the fields.
If you’re in the Provence area for a few days, then this 5 day Provence itinerary will help you plan out your trip.
Also, if you love photogenic traditional villages, consider adding southwest France to your trip.
Tips for visiting the lavender fields in a nutshell:
1. Rent a car in Aix-en-Provence to maximize efficiency; if you want an even more charming experience, look into renting a vintage car to tour the countryside
2. Keep your expectations in check and have a flexible schedule. Because not all the fields might be in bloom when you go, you’ll want to keep a flexible outlook and be prepared to “chase” the fields and that you might be disappointed at time. We drove all the way out to Sénanque Abbey for a shot but unfortunately, the fields weren’t the greatest there. However, we got amazing shots in Valensole so that more than made up for it.
3. If you love sunflower fields just as much as lavender fields, be sure to time your trip to see the two blooming together. July is the recommended month to visit to see both.
4. There are bees everywhere not to mention bugs. Obviously it’s nature but don’t be surprised at just how many insects there are buzzing about!
5. Don’t forget to buy your lavender souvenirs from the small shops. Lavender is much cheaper in the Provence region than in other parts of France.
Valensole lavender fields & lavender season
Valensole is a small area that is located in the countryside in Provence. This is one of the best places to see the beautiful plants in full bloom as there are plenty of fields to discover and although there is an actual village called Valensole, most people refer to the region or commune when discussing Valensole in relation to the lavender fields.
How do you get to the lavender fields?
First of all, unless you’re going to take a lavender field tour, you need a car. I always recommend a car for road tripping through France anyhow so if you’re visiting the country for more than a few days, chances are you’ll already have one. If not, you can hire one from Aix-en-Provence.
Finding the fields is easier than you would imagine. If you’re coming from Aix-en-Provence, you’ll take A51 until you reach the D6. At this point, you will be close to Manosque. You’ll go right on D6, also known as the Route de Manosque; this road will actually take you to Manosque if you take it in the opposite direction. At first, you’ll pass a few mediocre fields of lavender on the left. You might be tempted to stop but be patient because a minute or two later, you’ll finally come across some of the best Valensole lavender fields you could ever hope for. I would recommend stopping at the ones on the left first. You may be worried that you’ll miss them but there’s no need for worry. You’ll instantly realize you’re at the right place once you see all the cars parked across the street. This is definitely a popular place with tourists. This is only one small area in an entire region so if you don’t love this location, don’t hesitate to keep driving towards Valensole; there will be another great field on your right a mile or so down.
There are two reasons why these particular fields are well-frequented. One of the reasons is that a lavender factory and shop is located across the street. This convenient spot also has a restaurant attached so it’s a great place to go to once you’re finished with the fields. The other reason for why this field is so attractive to visitors is because it is located right next to a field of sunflowers. The two plants together create a beautiful contrast of colors and if you’re there for the photography, then you’ll have the chance to leave with two completely different photo shoots. Note that you’ll want to come during July in order to get both fields in bloom simultaneously.
Valensole lavender fields map
This map gives you perspective on where everything is located in relation to one another. The end point is Valensole. However, the fields are located a few miles away, on the road to the actual village endpoint. You’ll also note the body of water to the east of Valensole. This is Verdon Gorge, a beautiful canyon that is great for swimming and boating. The two attractions combined make for a great day trip from Aix-en-Provence.
Provence lavender season – When is the best time to visit the fields?
The Provence lavender season really depends on the climate and weather conditions for that particular year. Rain and temperatures will affect how early or late they bloom. Generally speaking, the best time to go is between late-June and mid-July. Before that, you won’t find enough flowers in bloom and after that, the fields are harvested. But to play it safe, I would recommend the beginning of July. This is the best chance you have at seeing the lavender in full bloom if your intent is to see it as it is in the photos below. And as mentioned above, this is also a great time to see the sunflower fields in bloom as well.
Ideally, you will want to plan for at least 3 days in the Provence region. You’ll not only get to experience this lovely part of France but this will also give you a chance to explore different lavender fields if you don’t have much luck on your first day. Because of their locations, some of the other fields are harvested at different times than Valensole. For example, the fields in Sault aren’t harvested until August.
What are the best lavender fields Provence France?
There are 3 main lavender regions: Valensole, Sault and Luberon. It seems like most people prefer one over the other two; the most ideal way to plan to see the fields is to pick the region that best fits in with your travel plans and itinerary.
As you know, Valensole is a beautiful region but the other two, Sault and the Luberon, are also great choices. Sault is typically considered the best in terms of lush lavender and pretty views. Some of the fields have views with Mont Ventoux in the background. The town of Sault also holds a lavender festival every year on August 15th.
However, a lot of people love the Luberon and one of the most famous lavender field photos comes from the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend driving all the way out to this location as we found the fields sparse and surprisingly small. In addition, entrance into the actual field in front of the abbey is not allowed (at least not as of July 2018) so you have to take all your photos from a tall stone wall. However, I have seen some beautiful photos from this location so perhaps we visited on an off season.
Provence lavender fields map
This map shows you exactly where all the lavender regions are located. One thing to note is that there is no actual address for the lavender fields unless you map the GPS to a lavender factory or shop that you know is located nearby. I suggest mapping your GPS to the towns of Valensole, Luberon and Sault and then exploring once you arrive. Surprisingly, you will just “run into them.” As you can see, the Luberon encompasses a pretty large region; in fact, 5 villages. The Sénanque Abbey is considered part of the Luberon. Sault is quite a distance north and of course Valensole is to the east.
What is the closest lavender field to Aix-en-Provence?
The closest fields to Aix-en-Provence are the Valensole lavender fields. Valensole is about 50 minutes from Aix-en-Provence while the Luberon is about 1 hour and 18 minutes away. The farthest fields from the city are the fields in Sault at 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Provence lavender fields photography
Tips for photographing the fields:
1. Watch the bees – It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are bees EVERYWHERE but it does. You never really think about the fact that this is their home and season and because of that, you will see and hear them buzzing about as you are walking the fields. This is just something to be aware of if you’re the photographer or the one being photographed and especially if either is allergic to bee stings. The best thing to do when you’re there is to stay calm and avoid stepping on the plants or moving between them; just stick to walking the rows.
2. Come for sunset – If you’re wondering what is the best time of day to visit the fields, then I would recommend sunset. The sky turns pretty colors and it really is an amazing time to see the lavender fields. Mid-day is beautiful as you can see in my photos but it won’t be perfect especially if you’re trying to shoot portraits. There is virtually no shade there so all your photos will be taken during full sunlight.
3. Be patient or come early- The fields are very popular and as a result, you will have to share them with A LOT of people. Luckily, there are plenty of fields to go around. But if you’re trying to get a specific shot like I was, then be prepared to wait. I was about a hundred feet from one couple who was in the middle of a specific photo I was trying to get. Because they were pretty far from me, they had no idea I was waiting on them and so I waited at least 10 minutes for them to move. Even then, I still had to make a few minor edits to remove people in the far distance. If you want to avoid the masses, I’d recommend coming early in the day.
4. Walk the path toward the middle of the field – You really can’t get a great shot until you head further into the fields, about the midway point. This allows you to have sweeping views of the fields while simultaneously avoiding much of the tourists.
5. Photograph the sunflowers too – Don’t forget to capture the sunflower fields while you’re there. Sunflower fields with lavender in the back are a pretty awesome photo. You may have to walk a bit in the fields as they can be sparse in some places.
6. Explore the area – There are so many fields in Valensole so don’t assume that the first one is the only one. Once you leave this area, take the D6 in the direction of the village of Valensole. Just a few minutes down the road you’ll discover another beautiful field that is actually void of people. This lavender field will be on your right. It creates an entirely different composition than the first one and has a beautiful background consisting of mountains.
7. Bring a tripod – If you’re photographing yourself, you’ll want a tripod and as there are paths between the lavender, it’s very easy to place a tripod on the ground. We didn’t follow this tip and it was pretty hard to figure out how to setup the camera without one since there are no ledges, etc.
8. Wear bright colors – The subject of your photos should wear bright colors as they stand out the best against the fields. I would also recommend bring a few different outfits. White is a great color against the purple.
9. Droning is tricky – It’s legal to drone in the area but I’d recommend walking all the way down the field to the other side so you are away from all the tourists. We don’t like to drone above people for safety reasons so it was challenging finding a place to do so. Also note that the lavender doesn’t look quite as dramatic from above as it does on the ground. We found the best shots were angled shots from above.