Thursday, November 15, 2018

Roussillon, the Most Colorful Village in Provence

We rarely go to Sablet without taking a day trip to Roussillon, a village in the Luberon about 35 miles southeast of Sablet. We never tire of seeing this colorful village, tinted by 17 different colors of ocher that used to be mined here; this makes Roussillon unique compared to other villages in the area.

The Luberon is a combination of 3 mountain ranges that stretch 35 miles 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 is protected in the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon.

Roussillon lies in the northern part of the Luberon and is classified as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (one of the most beautiful villages of France). Roussillon sits above one of the world's largest ocher deposits where 17 shades of ocher--violet, blood red, orange, yellow, and everything in between were once mined.


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.

View of Town Hall Square

As you stroll around the village, make sure you look for the 169 year old grape vine in front of Restaurant la Treille.

169 year old grape vine

The clock and 19th century belfry with a campanile overlooking the main village square. The archway at the bottom of the belfry was the ancient entrance into the fortified area called the Castrum

Roussillon clock and belfry

Roussillon has been inhabited since Neolithic time, then later by the Romans who also left their traces. The village is also well known for being home to Samuel Beckett during Second World War.

Saint Michel Church

Colorful Roussillon House

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

The ocher facades of the houses in Roussillon are beautiful - the colors vary from light yellow to dark red, accented by brightly painted shutters and doors. Many date from the 17th and 18th century.

View over village to the cemetery and ocher cliffs

Just a few minutes walk from the village is the trailhead for the Sentier des Ocres (Ocher trail). Ocher is a natural pigment in the 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.

Ocher Cliff

Flowering bush spotted in Roussillon

Shirley with friends, Fred and Linda

Color abounds in Roussillon

As you can imagine, the beauty of Roussillon draws hordes of artists and visitors during tourist season. It is the most visited village in the Luberon after Gordes, a few miles to the west. Despite this, we have never had any problem finding parking close to the village.

View of bell tower from parking lot

We think it's best to visit in the morning when the first sunshine of the day strikes the village, to see the glowing colors at their most stunning. Roussillon is fairly small so it doesn't take very long to explore. So combine a visit to Roussillon with a visit to Gordes or other hill towns such as Lacoste, Menerbes or Lourmarin in the Luberon.

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