Saturday, June 9, 2012

Roussillon and the Sentier des Ocres

I am frequently asked by friends and others headed to Provence where they should go during a once in a life time seven day visit to Provence. This is a hard question as most visitors have only 6 days since they usually arrive on Saturday afternoon and then they depart the following Saturday morning and there are so many wonderful things to see.

There is something for everyone in Provence; there are Roman ruins and medieval villages for history buffs, lavender, sunflowers and coquelicots for artists, open-air markets with amazing displays of fruits and vegetables and great restaurants for foodies, and world famous vineyards for wine lovers.

There are summer music and theater festivals, bull fights and the Transhumance for lovers of spectacles, brocantes and vide-greniers for antique hunters, Mont Ventoux for amateurs cyclists who want to test their skills on the most famous ascent on the Tour de France, the Dentelles de Montmirail for hikers and picturesque villages with beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.

Invariably, we suggest that visitors include a day trip to the vibrant red-ocher colored town of Roussillon, one of five villages nestled in the Luberon hills which are classified as Plus Beaux Villages de France - Most beautiful villages of France. Roussillon is one of our favorite villages and just over one hour from Sablet.

When we have guests from the United States, we make sure we take them to as many of our do-not-miss places as time will permit. That's why we were headed to the Luberon for a visit to Roussillon on an overcast day late in March with friends John and Lorelei who were on their first trip to Provence.

As we approach, Roussillon's colors are striking against the green fields perched on the edge of a dramatic red cliff.

As you can imagine, the incredible beauty of the village brings lots of tourists during the summer. It is clear during our visit that day how much Roussillon relies on tourists for commerce as we encountered only a handful of visitors and not a single shop or cafe open as we wandered through the tiny streets of the village.

We visit Roussillon often and have posted about some of those visits here and here. Shirley and friends John and Lorelei pause under the belfry topped clock tower.

A pretty window in Roussillon.

One of the many ocher-colored houses in Roussillon.

One of the few inhabitants we found out-and-about during our visit that day to Roussillon.

A rainbow like row of brightly colored houses in Roussillon.

A house on a dramatic ocher cliff.

Although we have been to Roussillon many times, we had never hiked the Sentier des Ocres - the ocher trail just a few minutes walk from the village. Since there were no shops or cafes open to draw us in, we decided we should walk the short trail. There is a small admission fee.

The trail takes you past multi-colored ocher formations set against a backdrop of pine trees.

One of the ocher formations we passed on our walk along the Sentier des Ocres.

Shirley pauses to admire the beauty of the ocher formations. I suggest you don't wear white shoes to avoid stains as your shoes will collect ocher as you walk along.

This is the heart of one of the world's largest ocher deposits where 17 different shades of soil were once mined.

Part of the ocher trail takes you through pine forest growing on ocher soils.

The town of Roussillon has put up signs along the trail which explain the formation and mining of the ocher.

We take a break for a picture with a multi-colored ocher formation as backdrop.

The trail back up to the village.

One more brightly colored ocher formation.

On the way back to the village, we passed the cemetery which looks almost like a village street.

Roussillon, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful villages of Provence.

As I said, the beauty of Roussillon draws hordes of artists and visitors during tourist season. So it is best to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon. The village is fairly small so it doesn't take very long to explore. It is easy to combine a visit to Roussillon with a visit to Gordes or other hill towns in the Luberon.

Other places on my list include the Pont du Gard, Cassis, Les Baux de Provence and the Tuesday morning market in Vaison-la-Romaine. I am curious readers, what places are at the top of your list of places to visit in Provence?

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt. Have a great day, chat soon!


  1. Gorgeous photos as always Michel. And definitely another village to add to our travel list. I've heard many good things about Roussillon, but didn't know if was classified as one of the Plus Beaux Villages - must be one special place!

  2. I love Roussillon too. It is so unexpected sitting up there in the middle of all that limestone and garrigue. We have some of the same photos, and I saw that gorgeous Golden the last time I was there with my bestie from Texas and he was the final push for me to get my own Golden Girl whom you now know as Clementine Mirabel Petals.
    Happy Sunday to you guys.
    aidan ox

  3. I love Roussillon too. It's up there as one of the must sees, along with every other one on your list. I've only missed the Tuesday market in Vaison-la-Romaine so must check it out on my next Provence tour.
    I saw that handsome Goldie the last time I was in Roussillon with the Bestie and he was the final push to getting my own Golden Girl whom you now know as Clementine Mirabel Petals.
    bon dimanche,
    ps i'd add Gordes and Aigues-Mortes to that list.

  4. I have never been to Roussillon and since it's less than an hour from me, I'm thinking it's going to be a Saturday lunch destination too.
    And this is funny... when I was looking at the photos and saw the dog, I thought to myself, "I wonder if that's the same dog Aidan saw?" and then I read her comment. There you go. It was :)

  5. Sault and lavender fields in july :)

  6. ahhh. you make me want to take my “6 week” car tour of France and visit its special little “pockets"

  7. Tuula - You've got to go to Roussillon at least once. I have never been to Santa Fe, New Mexico but sometimes people describe Roussillon as being similar to Santa Fe.

    Aiden - That's very cool about the Goldie being the one that pushed you to get Clementine Mirabel Petals. I agree with you about Gordes, am less familiar with Aigues-Mortes. We shall have to go visit again.

    Sara - You've got to go to Roussillon since you live as close as you do. Definitely worth the effort in my opinion. I guess you had heard all about how the Goldie in Roussillon was the final push for Aiden.

    Blog-walker - Thanks for checking in and leaving a comment. We went to Sault last July and enjoyed the lavender all around the town.

    Labergerebasque - I hope if you do take your 6 week car tour of France that you will write about it on your blog.

  8. I love Roussillon! It is one of my favorite places to go and also a destination we take our visitors. The walk through the Ocre is so calming. I love that they have fixed it up a bit and now there are some nice places to sit and just relax and feeling the cooling sensation that is there. Nice pictures and you and Shirley look terrific!

  9. Ashley - Thanks for the sweet feedback. Yes, they have really fixed up the trail so its very nice to walk and relax and admire the natural beauty of this area.

  10. Isn't that like asking which of your children you like best? You must go to the Vaison Market and to ask Joisianne Deal select your cheese, but I prefer the Saturday Market in St. Cecile for more charm and stuff, then the Fontains of the Vaucluse would come next on Sunday so you can enjoy the L'isle Sur La Sorgue Brocande on Sunday.

  11. Then bike, walk or drive the mountain roads so you become intimate with the Dentells and Ventox. They will become your touch points for your stay.

  12. Wow - what a great post! I know Roussillon quite well and you've really captured it with some beautifully composed photos.

    (Re: Elizabeth David at Menerbes - I didn't know either that she spent time there until I read the biog. Always interesting to find these little-known connections!)