It is easy to find places to visits in southern France, but it’s hard to choose which one should be on our 14 days southern Provence itinerary. So, this time, we set our focus on visiting the mountain villages south of Provence. The trip took place in August 2020. Most of the time, the air temperature was above 35°C. But in the mountain area, the climate was bearable. Therefore, it was not an issue to stroll around the hilltop villages in southern Provence.
Since it’s easier to access those hilltop villages by car, first of all, we rented a small car. Then, we split our 14 days southern Provence itinerary into two weeks. With this arrangement, we could reduce the driving time and avoid check-in check-out chaos. In the first week we stayed in an apartment next to a Golf Course. The well-equipped apartment has two bedrooms and two terraces. The compound has several pools free of use. Our accommodation for the second week was Appartement Vieux Port in La Ciotat, a beach town along the coast.
14 Days Southern Provence Itinerary
Since it would take around 11 hours from Frankfurt to Mandelieu-La Napoule, we set off on Friday stayed at IBIS in Alixan for one night. On the next day, before we arrived at the 1st apartment, we walked the Van Gogh trail in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a town not far from highway A7.
The 1st week of the Southern Provence Itinerary
- Sunday (Day 1): Seillans and Fayence
- Monday (Day 2): Saint-Paul-De-Vence, Cap de Antibes, and Antibes
- Tuesday (Day 3): Mandelieu-La Napoule, Mougins
- Wednesday (Day 4): Grasse, Chateauneuf-Grasse, and Gourdon
- Thursday (Day 5): Eze Village, La Turbie
- Friday (Day 6): Cap du Dramont
- Saturday (Day 7): Port Grimaud, Ayguade of Hyere, Saint Mandrier sur Mer
The 2nd week of the Southern Provence Itinerary
- Sunday (Day 8): Route des Cretes, Aix en Provence
- Monday (Day 9): Calanques de Cassis, Cassis
- Tuesday (Day 10): Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Lacoste, Menerbes
- Wednesday (Day 11): La Ciotat
- Thursday (Day 12): Les Baux de Provence, Arles
- Friday (Day 13): Bandol
- Saturday (Day 14) Back to Frankfurt
Seillans and Fayence (Day 1)
The distance between the mountain villages Seillans and Fayence is around six kilometres. Seillans has built itself up inside fortified walls and has a long history. This medieval site has labyrinths of cobbled-streets, shaded courts, fountains, and the Saracen door.
The streets of Fayence begin to zig-zag up the village, leading us to the centre. A Baroque style of an octagonal bell tower covered in enameled roof tiles straight into our sight. Climbed up to the Bell Tower we had a breathtaking 360 ° view over the roofs of the village and the magnificent landscapes of the country of Fayence.
Saint-Paul-De-Vence, Cap de Antibes, and Antibes (Day 2)
The village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence has features such as the narrow cobbled-alleys, old buildings, small squares, arched passageways, and ancient fountains, etc. However, what makes it stand out are the artistic characters of the village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
We have explored the village in five ways:
- A village highlighted by sculptures
- The myriad of art galleries
- Traces of the artists in the village
- Artistic hotels
- Exhibitions from the Maeght Foundation
Back to the coast area, we chilled ourselves in a small bay and had a late lunch on the coast of Cap d’Antibes. Then, we had a short walk along the shore and discovered the most expensive and ultra-modern yacht in the world.
The old town of Antibes was very crowd. Since we have been to Cassis before, this time we went to the beachside near the harbour and did a little walk along the coastal side.
Mandelieu-La Napoule and Mougins (Day 3)
It was impossible to swim during the day when the air temperature was 38°C already. Our swimming activities were either in the early morning or in the evening. On that day, we decided to have a beach walk after morning swimming.
We started our Mandelieu-la-Napoule beach walk at the Port of La Rague and ended at the Port Mandelieu-la-Napoule. The beach trail includes two ports, two castles, three beaches, and a rock tunnel.
The village has a spiral road that goes all the way to the centre. It connects many galleries hidden in the superb ancient houses. The highlight of Mougins is its gastronomy atmosphere. It is home to a myriad of restaurants, including those with Michelin stars. We would like to have a late lunch there, but unfortunately, all of them were closed in the afternoon.
Grasse, Chateauneuf-Grasse, and Gourdon (Day 4)
A decade ago, when I visited Grasse the first time, I joined a factory tour in Galimard, a perfumer established in 1747, and bought Galimard perfumes. Since that day, whenever I put it on, I remember that sunshine day in the beautiful Grasse, the scent of Provence, and that first short trip to Provence with my lovely husband.
I could not wait to chase the scents of Grasse again. This time, we visited Fragonard Factory and bought its latest products instead.
Chateauneuf de Grasse
The center of the village is just a few kilometers away from Grasse. It has several paved narrow alleys that are perfect for wandering and exploring. We could look over the surrounding countryside with the Bay of Cannes in the distance. Chateauneuf de Grasse is an underrated village in Provence.
We extended our daily excursion to Gourdon, about nine kilometres north of Chateauneuf de Grasse. It is a pretty small village, little more than one short main street and a couple of side-streets. Gourdon is more a tourist attraction than a real community.
The main attraction of Gourdon is the far-reaching view from the Eagle’s Nest, a viewpoint at the end of the village. The historical highlight of Gourdon is Chateau de Gourdon, including two museums and gardens designed by André Le Nôtre, the man behind the gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
Eze Village and La Turbie (Day 5)
One of the most popular places on the French Riviera, Eze Village, is a place that always attracts me so much. As long as I am around the area, I would spend a couple of hours in the village. And I can always find different things to do in Eze Village.
The postcard-perfect hilltop village above the French Riviera is all about tiny snaking alleyways that lead to beautiful sights, such as a cozy courtyard or a bright blue glimpse of the ocean. The village has some of the most beautiful narrow alleys in Provence.
Since La Turbie is only five kilometres away from Eze Village, we went there after Eze’s visit. The village has preserved the charm of its glorious past virtually intact. Cobblestone streets, fine stone-built houses, vaulted passageways, little fountains, the beautiful baroque church of Saint-Michel with square bell tower roofed with varnished tiles, its monument of the Roman Empire, are the features to admire. Overshaded by the beauty of Monaco and the popularity of Nice, La Turbie is underrated and overseen by many tourists.
Cap du Dramont (Day 6)
The main activity of the day was to hike the Cape du Dramont loop trail. The trail heads up and down the rocks that plunge into the sea and the forested hills of du cap du Dramont. In the distance, we could see a square tower stands atop the tiny island of Ile d’Or the Golden Island). At some points, the trail runs along the cliff tops. Therefore, we had magnificent views of the coast along the way.
Port Grimaud, Plage des Salins in Hyere, Saint Mandrier sur Mer (Day 7)
We left the first apartment and drove toward the second apartment in La Ciotat. According to the arrangement, we could only get our keys after 17:00. Therefore, we made several stops on the way.
The 1st stop en route was Port Grimaud, a water town similar to Empuriabrava, the Spanish water town. It has many water canals in the center. Nearly every house has a boat parking in front of the door.
Plage de Salins in Hyere
Then, we had a quick lunch on the beach. The beach has many pebble stones but is perfect for kiting activities.
Saint Mandrier sur Mer
Our last stop before reaching our apartment is a charming little fishing and boating port. We did a short walk around the small port and stretched our bodies before moving on.
Route des Cretes and Aix en Provence (Day 8)
Route des Cretes
On our way to Aix-en-Provence, we drove through one of the scenic trails on the French Riviera, Route des Cretes. The 13-kilometre long scenic drive starts from La Ciotat, where we stayed during the two-week southern Provence trip, and ends in Cassis.
Aix-en-Provence is the former capital of Provence, but now the European Capital of Culture. The city is well-known for many reasons, such as the leafy boulevards, elegant 17th-century Baroque architecture, the birthplace of the impressionist painter Paul Cezanne, a pedestrian-friendly centre, delightful shops, lively cafe terraces, numerous bars and clubs, and universities with a thriving student population. Therefore, we spent the rest of the day exploring Aix-en-Provence under the canopy of plane trees.
Hiking the Calanques de Cassis and Cassis (Day 9)
Calanques de Cassis
Calanques de Cassis refers to the ones found along the Mediterranean coast South-east of Marseille. Hiking the Calanques de Cassis is a pleasant family activity. We went to two Calanques, Calanque de Port-Miou and Calanque de Port Pin.
On the way back, we made a quick stop at Cassis, the old fishing village. Cassis is a top tourist attraction, and many travellers make their day trips from Marseille. The main interests are:
- Chateaux de la Maison des Baux
- The narrow alleys in the old town
- Little fishing boats and the luxury yachts at the harbour
- Plage de la Grande Mer
Loumarin, Bonnieux, Lacoste, Menerbes (Day 10)
The four villages are not far from each other, and therefore we visited them in one day. You can read my post about how to see the four villages in one day.
Lourmarin was less known to the outsiders until the British author Peter Mayle, who lived in Lourmarin and wrote A Year in Provence, has made the place known to the English world. But what brought us to this place are its touristic features of this village, such as historic buildings, Château de Lourmarin, and narrow alleys.
While Lourmarin is at the lower level of the national park, the village of Bonnieux is high-positioned on a plateau above the valley. It has a lower church, the Eglise du Bas, the upper church, beautiful houses with earth-toned colours, and a bakery museum.
Lacoste is relatively small. The way up to the top is quite steep. I followed the steps up and down through the narrow streets that meander their way through a charming little labyrinth, feeling like passing through centuries back.
We followed the steps and ended at the castle residence owned by the well-known fashion designer Pierre Cardin. It was such a delight to discover the village that kept all its charm step by step.
Menerbes has a peaceful atmosphere and remains a lovely small place to visit with plenty of undiscovered corners. We liked its relaxing atmosphere and enjoyed the Views from Rue du Portail Neuf. A small square has a clock tower with an unusual wrought iron structure on top.
La Ciotat (Day 11)
After days of driving around, especially after our excursion to four villages in Luberon in one day, we felt the need to slow down our tempo. So, we opted for looking around La Ciotat, a place we did not consider touristic at all. But our visit has altered our impression completely. The seaside resort La Ciotat is the Cradle of Cinema. Besides, it has an attractive old port with bars and restaurants along the promenade.
Les Baux de Provence, Arles (Day 12)
Les Baux de Provence
Perched on a limestone hill in the Alpilles, Les Baux de Provence has fantastic views across the plain that stretched to the south beyond the Mediterranean and the scenic Alpilles rocky landscape. The open-air museums in Les Baux de Provence are the highlight of our visit:
- The ancient village of Les Baux de Provence
- Chateau des Baux
- The Quarries of Lights (Les Carrières de Lumières)
On the Rhône River, the city of Arles is famous for inspiring the paintings of Van Gogh. We walked in Roman footsteps to find the reproductions of Van Gogh’s artworks. However, the location he painted is everywhere, such as the Café Van Gogh, which was the place in his painting Le Café Le Soir (Café Terrace at Night).
Bandol (Day 13)
Originally, Bandol was not on our southern Provence itinerary. We bought several Bandol wines during our stay in La Ciotat and found out that they all tasted surprisingly good. Curious about how the town looks like, we visited the place on the day before we the long drive back to our home in Frankfurt.
Back to Frankfurt (Day 14)
Our holiday came to an end. After 14 days in southern Provence, It’s time to be back to the daily routine. Provence is extraordinary in its beauty. Whenever I traveled south of Provence, I always left knowing I would return.
If you would make a trip to southern France, how would you create a southern Provence itinerary?