WALKS IN THE LUBERON AREA:

1. Lacoste to Bonnieux

 

There is a marked randonnée between these towns which is not too challenging and passes through pasture and orchards, mostly on tracks and a little on minor roads. There is an unsealed car park on the lower road of Lacoste to the north of the start of the trail which is convenient. The trail ends up on a road that takes you to the bottom of Bonnieux for a coffee or snack before retracing your steps. Navigation is reasonably OK but it requires some alertness for the trail markings. Map recommended but you can't go too wrong. If you lose the trail you can see your destination in either direction, that's the beauty of perched villages. Approx. 2 hours walking time.

2. Fontaine de Vaucluse via Le Château des Évêques

 

This walk offers a fantastic view over the Fontaine that almost no other tourist will see and you avoid having to look for (and pay for) parking in this tiny town. We recommend visiting very early in the day on a weekday. Not as much will be open but avoiding the throngs of tourists is very worthwhile. This description assumes you have driven from L'Isle sur la Sorgue but it should be clear enough even if coming from another direction. The walk is medium (ascents, descents and loose footing) to the castle and back. To do the loop into town it is then graded difficult, for the agile only, steep descent and loose rocks.

Drive through the town and out the other side. At the car park there is a left turn for the Route Touristique to Gordes. Wind up out of town until the town limits sign. Just as you pass that, look on the left side of the road for a rectangular car park (white, unsealed) and park there. There is a "5t" sign on the other side of the road and one of the walking route signs with yellow pointers on a wooden post. Take the obvious path out of the car park. After about five minutes you arrive at a big intersection of paths. Ignore the two heading off further up the rocky valley. If you went very hard left you would end up back at the road so it is the not-so-hard-left you are looking for, a track that starts to climb up and around the rocky headland. There is a low rusty gate to step over and this is the only choice that would feel like you were heading back towards the town. The way ahead is now clear and it is only as you catch sight of the flagpoles for the castle that the path has some choices. It doesn't matter much, just follow your nose to the castle wall. Fantastic views and opportunity for photography from the parapet and the castle. Note how safety rules in France are different. See if you can see what we jokingly call "the window of death".

It is a short but steep descent into town from the castle. The "fontaine" itself, the reason so many visit this town, is about a half hour round trip from the bridge over the Sorgue. Truly spectacular when the whole cave is overflowing but interesting at other times as well. We always run out of time at this point and go back via the road. Easier and quicker. As you walk out of town and just as you reach the edge of the car park, look for the slip road up to your left marked "30" as its speed limit. This gets you away from the cars and cuts off a corner.

Time taken - about 25 minutes to get to the castle and look around, another 15 to get to the town.

3. Partage des Eaux walk - the parting of the waters

 

Once you have walked all the streets on the "island" where do you go next. Starting at the Bassin at the western edge of the centre ville, look for the orange building of Les Delices du Luberon. This is at the start of a street called Avenue du Partage des Eaux. Follow this along the edge of the Sorgue. There is no footpath but you can walk on the cycle path part of the road. The road ends at a park, some summer restaurants and a big division in the river called Le Partage des Eaux. Some bench seats enable some quiet contemplation of the moving water before retracing your steps to town. (The other ways back are just through houses). Grade easy, all flat. A lovely summer evening walk.

 

 

4. Chateau Edem walk

 

From the N100 at Lumires, take the D106 toward Lacoste. Follow the signs to Maquignons, Chateau Edem ( a big winery), and Saint-Veran church. Park in the hamlet of Maquignons, just across from the entrance to Chateau Edem.

 

Take the paved road heading toward the Chapelle de Saint-Veran, passing through the hamlet of Maquignons. Follow the signs toward the chapel (built in the 11th or 12th century). A little after this, take a little path blazed with yellow waymarkings that descends on your right, heading down past a house and a farm to the D106. Turn left on the road, then almost immediately head off left again on little tarmac road.

 

Follow along this path, looking for the yellow marks. Before you arrive at a big house called "Beau Report," take a little track on your left that heads off through the woods. (Watch carefully as the first time we did this hike, this is where we missed the turn.) You'll eventually come out on a big new road that climbs on up the steep hill.

 

Turn left on the road and follow it as it curves up and around, finally coming to a crossroads called "Les Artenes." Take this path in the direction of Lacoste.

 

After a stone ruin, take a left on a wide path. You'll come right alongside a beautiful restored home that incorporates a couple of bories. After this, take the second path on the left marked in yellow.

 

Follow along the plateau looking out over the plain. Don't take the path on the left that goes down. Stay on the path marked in yellow, looking down over the beautiful Chateau Edem, until finally you come to the lavoir de Fontpourquire. Then take the paved road on the left.

 

You'll come down into the hamlet of Saint-Veran, finally reaching the D106 again. Turn left and follow the road past the vineyards of Chateau Edem and back to your car.

 

 

5. Abbaye de Sénanque walk

 

A walk to the Abbaye de Sénanque is the nicest way to get there and you will get a birds eye view over the abbey. Go early in summer because the walk will be shaded and the abbey grounds are so much nicer with no one around. If you want to see the interior then check out the tour times on their website. Tours are only in French. TripAdvisor suggests that anglophones get bored and find the tour too long.

 

Assuming you are driving to Gordes from the Isle, past Les Imberts – as you get close to Gordes you go left at a roundabout, past the view point for the postcard photo of Gordes and then take the left turn marked “Venasque” and “Abbey de Sénanque” as if you were driving to the abbey. Just as you see the town limits sign (Gordes with a line through it) you will see a transformer box on the left with a patch of gravel in front. This is the place to park.

 

Walk a couple of hundred metres further up the road and take the left turn marked “Les Dilai” Another 150m and the track is both obvious and signposted. Head up the stone path with the stone walls either side. Navigation is easy, it’s basically straight on. There is a vehicle track to cross and the path takes a bit of a wiggle but it is still straight on.

 

You will come to the road and you need to walk on the left hand edge of the road for a bit – the reason becomes obvious as you pass a steep drop-away to the canyon below – there isn’t anywhere for a path to go. As soon as it can, the path restarts and slowly descends to the abbey. Near your destination the path splits and the left hand choice is the more direct route down.

 

About an hour and a half return, moderate difficulty due to loose rocks and inclines.

6. Mur de la Peste walk

 

The Background [1] :

From 1720 until 1722, the French region of Provence and parts of Languedoc suffered an epidemic of plague which arrived from the Levant (eastern Mediterranean counties) . Traditionally, this event has been known as the Great Plague of Marseille, but as this fails to capture the epidemic’s extent beyond Marseille, it is probably better referred to as the Peste or Plague of Provence. Though the figures vary, this outbreak claimed as many as 45,000 lives in Marseille alone—reportedly about half of the city’s population—taking 1,000 lives per day at its height. All together, between 76,000 and 126,000 people perished in southeastern France. 

 

The government suspended all commerce and travel out of Provence using strict quarantines, certificats de santé (certificates of health), and military cordons that involved not only city bourgeois militias and provincial levies, but also one quarter of the regular army This military cordon would eventually result in the Mur de la Peste, or Plague Wall. Built in 1721 and 27km long, the wall was built of dry stone, 2 m high and 70 cm thick, with guard posts set back from the wall.

References:

1. Ermus, Cindy. “The Plague of Provence: Early Advances in the Centralization of Crisis Management.” Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia 2015, no. 9. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. http://www.environmentandsociety.org/node/7029.

 

The Walk:

About an hour and a half, medium grade (ascents, very rocky paths in places). The walk starts from a car park on the road from either Lagnes or Fontaine to Cabrières. It is 1.4 km from the junction of the road out of Lagnes with the Fontaine road. You will recognise it because the road at that point reaches its highest point, the view of the Luberon opens up and there is a big crushed stone parking area on the left. If you are in the right place there will the the first Mur de la Peste marker at the start of the track.

 

You are initially on a farm track but at the farm gate it becomes a walking trail. There is a choice of upper or lower path at one point but both work. You will quickly arrive at the plague wall itself with direction signs and various plaques. Turn left, heading pretty much due north, and follow the wall which has been restored extensively in this area. There are sentry huts every couple of hundred metres and a couple of two roomed buildings which are presumed to be for sleeping and provisions. Navigation is easy since you are hugging the wall for a kilometre as you steadily ascend. Walk until you reach an area with vehicle access, a big underground water cistern for fire fighting and a direction sign. Follow the path marked Gordes 6.6 and Beauregard 2.3. 

 

You will be heading gently down hill with the bulk of the Lubéron ahead of you. Veer left at the Y-junction, the right side is marked with a cross to help you choose correctly. Descending further you may see Gordes off to the left in its elevated position. The walking track then merges with an unsealed road and you proceed right here. Glimpses of Cabrières d’Avignon are visible to the left in places. At the four way junction turn left as always looking for the coloured markers to reassure yourself that you are on the right track. Descend further and the track becomes narrow and shaded passing between a terraced olive farm and other private land. When you come to the bitumen, turn right and continue the descent into Cabrières on the road. At the bottom of this road it curves left into town if you want to have a coffee or cold drink but the walk turns right on to the Chemin de Muscadelle. 

 

The road turns into a track and you climb again. The only point of confusion is when you come out on the top and there is an open area and an obelisk. The walk is straight on here and the path becomes clear again. In short order you will be back at the start of the Mur de la Peste where you were earlier. Get back to your car on the same track you came in on. 

7. The Cliffs at Lioux

A round trip of up to two hours up and along the falaises (cliffs) that hang over the tiny village of Lioux. Moderate intensity with steady ascents, rocky but not difficult walking. Fantastic views to the valley, to Gordes and the ochre cliffs of Roussillon and expansive Luberon views in general.

 

Park in the car park in front of the Mairie in old Lioux at the base of the cliffs. As you look at the cliff face, start off to your left. Both roads out of town this way converge and 100m after that take the unsealed path to the right marked with the yellow trail sign to Javon and Eyrolles. This hugs the cliff as it ascends. At the point where to go straight on would involve entering a field with cherry trees, don’t, veer left taking a poorly formed path on the edge of the field. This ends in a driveway. Right is straight into someone’s yard so do a left and then immediately a sharp right up a stony road. Ignore a couple of choices on the right which just serve as access to fields, you are straight on for some distance and walking parallel to the cliffs the whole time.

Just as the cliff is petering out, you come to a junction with a Chambre d’Hôte building (B&B) on your left. You turn right to access the cliff top and the road curves around to the right to do so. As soon as you get a bit of a view off the cliff, that is Gordes on the far ridge and a little further on when you can see over the top, that is Roussillon with its coloured earth visible a bit to your left.

 

Ignore some paths heading off in different directions, you now just follow your nose gently downhill keeping the cliff face on your right. There is more than one path and they meander and meet up and diverge a bit randomly. As long as you are staying in touch with the cliff you can’t go wrong.

 

At the other end, the cliff stops abruptly and a path takes you down to the road back to town past the old cemetery and then joining the road to Lioux you probably came in on.

 

We recommend doing the walk in this clockwise direction. It gets the main ascent out of the way first but most importantly, the bit where it says “do a left and then immediately a sharp right up a stony road” would be very tricky to find in reverse the first time. It just looks like someone’s driveway and the path onwards is not visible until you commit to going down the driveway to have a look. Forewarned by this description you might be OK but we missed it going anti-clockwise the first time.

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