Sunday, February 9, 2020

Roussillon, Most Colorful Village in Provence

Friends and others headed to Provence often ask where they should go during their once in a life time visit to Provence. This is a hard question as most visitors have only 6 days since they usually arrive on Saturday afternoon and depart the following Saturday morning; there are so many wonderful things to see.

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

There are perched villages, summer music and theater festivals, bull fights and 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.

We usually suggest visitors include a 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 one hour from Sablet.

The Luberon stretches 35 miles along a ridge of rugged hills from Cavaillon in the west to Manosque in the east and from the town of Apt south to the Durance River. Much of the area including Roussillon lies within the borders of the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, a protected area with outstanding natural beauty.

Roussillon sits on the southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse above one of the world's largest known ocher deposits where 17 shades of ocher--violet, blood red, orange, yellow, and everything in between were once mined.


Roussillon's primary attraction is its location and red coloring which tints every surface in the village and gave the village its Latin name of Viscus Russulus (the red hill). Arched alleys, eighteenth century portals and ruined masonry around the castle provides further appeal for visitors.

Ocher cliff outside the village

Roussillon has been inhabited since Neolithic time, then later by the Romans who also left their traces. The village is where Irish novelist Samuel Beckett took refuge during Second World War.

Roussillon sits on an elevation slightly off the road that connects the cities of Apt and Avignon, and near where, in Roman times, the ancient Via Domitia linking Spain to Italy. Roussillon is the second most visited village in the Luberon, after Gordes.

Belfry overlooks Town Hall Square

The Librairie (bookstore) in La Maison Tacchella to the left and the Hotel de Ville (town hall) to the right in Town Hall Square, the main hub of activity along with the place du Pasquier on Thursday mornings when there's a weekly market and traffic gets even more congested than usual.

Town Hall Square

The belfry was the ancient entrance into the fortified part of Roussillon called the Castrum. The belfry was renovated in the 19th century as a bell tower adjoining the church. The street takes you along the former watchman’s walkway, which ran between the two towers on the rampart wall. There are great views of the village and surrounding area.

Passage through Belfry into fortified area of Roussillon

Another view of the belfry and clock tower

Saint Michel Church whose origins go back to the 11th century, originally faced the castle, inside the fortified walls. The church has undergone countless renovations over time, necessitated in part by its location by the cliff.

Saint Michel Church

Above the church there is a little square with a viewing area and orientation table where you can find a great view of the Luberon, Mont Ventoux, and the plateau of the Vaucluse.

Roussillon tourist shop

The streets of Roussillon are home to many art galleries, with works by talented artists which will appeal to art lovers, collectors and passers-by as they visit the village.

View back toward Town Hall Square and shops and cafés along the street

Just a few minutes walk from the village near the cemetery is the beginning of the Sentier des Ocres (Ocher trail). Ocher is a natural pigment in the sandy soil which form the cliffs around Roussillon. Iron oxides color the sands into shades ranging from yellow to violet. The mineral landscape shows the effects of erosion and mining work done by man.

Two different trails, one short, one long take you through the ocher lands on a 30-minute or 60-minute walk. You can stay as long as you like. Information signs along the way describe the geology, flora and history of the ocher deposits in the Luberon. The trails takes you past multi-colored ocher formations set against a backdrop of pine trees. There is a small admission fee.

View of Roussillon from village cemetery

If you have comments or questions about Roussillon, or elsewhere in Provence, please leave your comments below or send me an email at my address below.

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us for further information by sending an email to

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