Lavender: the emblem of Provence. It has a hypnotic pull for almost anyone. Standing in one of the countless fields of Provence is to be overcome by wonder.
We wanted to provide a guide to some of the best lavender field locations in Provence.
First stop: the Plateau de Valensole. A trip to the Plateau de Valensole is an all-senses journey. The whir of bees buzzing intensely fills the air. The sharp, clean perfume of the lavender is intoxicating. The rows of lavender stretch out further than the horizon, belying belief. The light on the Valensole Plateau at sunrise or sunset is extraordinary - a rich plum color, as if the lavender itself were bleeding into the sky. A late evening dance mid the successions of lavender leaves one full of wonder, in a haze. Start here and continue at least to this spot - but your drive in any direction will be fruitful on this plateau.
Provence’s lavender fields in Valensole start to bloom in June and, by the end of that month, most of the lavender is in full bloom. The fields in Valensole peak in early to mid-July. Lavender here is harvested mid-to-late July, depending on the year and growing conditions.
Our next stop is the Plateau d'Albion. While the boundless rows of purple haze that make up the Plateau de Valensole, not much futher away lies a more untouched and magical patch of earth where the finest fields of lavender grow at higher altitudes, in Haute-Provence.
There are two main varieties of lavender grown in Provence: lavender and lavandin. Lavandin is the more common and easily-grown hybrid variety that you find covering the hills of Valensole.
True lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is grown at higher altitudes in Haute-Provence - near Sault. This type of lavender gives the highest quality essential oil and is certified AOC when used. Only a small percentage of the harvested lavender in Provence is actually lavandula angustifolia and is grown at altitudes between 500-1500 meters. If one wishes to go to these fields, venture out on a lovely day in mid-to-late-July. Make your way to Sault, Aurel, Ferrassières and the surrounding region.
The higher altitude fields near Sault and Banon bloom and are harvested slightly later - into mid-August. Sault celebrates the harvest with a popular lavender festival on August 15 each year.
There are also many beautiful lavender fields dotting the landscape of the Luberon valley. If you make your way to the beautiful village of Ménèrbes (we have an article on this spot), there are fields that line the valley as one peers down from the ramparts. They are here.
One can also make a stop in Gordes for some of the most famous fields of lavender at the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, one of the three sister Cistercian abbeys of the region. Lavender is planted in long rows in front of this majestic place that dates back to the 12th century.
The magic of lavender lasts only about one month in Provence...if you get the chance to plan a trip during the blooming period, it is a sight and experience that will stay with you long after you leave.