And that’s why every summer, as soon as the smooth rows of lavender bushes turn lilac-purple and the piercing blue floods the fields of Upper Provence, a mass photo hunt begins. Postcard lavender vistas attract crowds of tourists dreaming of an atmospheric photo shoot. For them, special routes have been developed along the iconic lavender sites, which are called Les Routes de la Lavande (The Lavender Roads).
When does lavender bloom in Provence?
Lavender blooming time (late June to mid-August) is a relative term, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 weeks. The rainier the spring in the south of France, the later the lavender blooms.
The flowering period also depends on the region. Luberon and the Rhone Valley are the earliest to bloom — mid-June to mid-July. Then Valenceaule and Drome Provençal join them in early July. Here the lavender bloom ends on July 25 at the latest. The lavender blossom ends in the Sault area by August 10.
Lavender is harvested at the time of its mass blooming, when 50% of the inflorescences are blooming. Therefore, you should catch the beauty in the middle of the blooming period. Otherwise, you may catch green fields instead of lilac ones.
It is believed that the best way to see lavender fields in bloom is to visit Provence in July. This is what most people think, and that is why in July the most famous lavender locations are occupied by crowds of tourists dreaming of a picturesque photo shoot. The locals prefer to admire the blossom before the tourist frenzy starts — in the 20s of June.
Safety precautions in lavender fields
- Lavender is a known honey bee-eater, so most fields are surrounded by apiaries and therefore bees. The risk of being stung is quite high, so stock up on antihistamines and Apistop ointment, which is used by professional beekeepers.
- Local guides scare tourists with vipers, scorpions and advise them to wear rubber boots before going for a walk in the lavender neighborhoods.
- Lavender is a shrub, so it is stiff and prickly to the touch, not soft and fluffy as it appears in photos.
Secret lavender locations: Valansol and Rumul.
How do you grab a piece of Provence’s blooming symbol without other people’s hands and hats constantly getting in the frame? Keep two locations from locals that you can get to by public transportation, on your own, without a tour group.
Valensole Plateau from Marseille
Valenceaule is a small town in the Alpes department of Upper Provence, surrounded by lavender fields. There are more than a dozen of them. The most beautiful ones are located right along the Valansol-Manosque road.
How to get there: the point of reference is the town of Manosque, 15 km from Valencol.
Every year on the third Sunday of July, Valenceau hosts the lavender festival (Fête de la Lavande) with a full day of festivities.
Manosca can be reached from Marseille by bus or train:
- Bus No. 24. The fare is about 9 €. It’s better to take a round-trip ticket at once. You will save about 3 €.
- Regional TER train with the route «Marseille-Saint-Charles — Briançon or La Brillanne-Oraison». Travel time is 80 minutes. The fare is €18.20. The earliest flight from Marseille (central station Saint-Charles) — at 8:35. The next one is exactly one hour later. From Manosque to Marseille the last train leaves at 20:05.
- Schedule may change on holidays and weekends. Check the SNCF website for details
From Manosque to Valansol there are only 4 buses a day (route 133) and only on weekdays. And the last one from Valansol leaves for Manosque at 13:10. Therefore, it is more convenient to do this 15-km journey by bicycle. It is better if the bike is electric, accelerating up to 50 km/h. You can rent one in the center of Manosk in specialized stores:
- BACHELAS Bike Manosque. The cost of renting an electric model is from 19 € for half a day. Store website: BACHELAS Bike Manosque.
- La Station de Lavande, located at the local bus station.
It takes an hour and a half to get to Valenceau by bike. There are numerous signposts to keep you on your toes. The fields closest to Valansol are unimpressive, but the field by the lavender store (Lavanda Angelvin) is very beautiful.
Roumoules from Marseille.
Another lavender location, less well known than Valansol, which makes it more attractive during the season of photo hunting for beautiful views of the blooming fields.
Roumoul is a small commune in the Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
How to get there from Marseille:
- By bus LER 27 (direction «RIEZ — Pre de Foire) with departure time 8:42 from bus station Marseille Saint-Charles.
- Travel time is 2:27.
- The bus makes this trip on Saturdays only.
- Website: LER
Return journey from Rumoul to Marseille is at 14:01. If you try to travel in one day, you have less than 3 hours to see the fields.
How to get there from Valansol:
- You can combine the lavender beauty of Valenceau and Rumulu by cycling the 20-km distance between them. The journey time is about an hour and a half.
- By bus: from Valansol to Riez on márut 141, from there take bus BV1 or bus 135 to Roumul.
How to get there from Manosque:
- From Manosque, you must also take the 132 bus to Riez first.
Taking public transportation to the most remote fields with just you and the lavender bushes in the picture is a quest. You have to be prepared for canceled and late buses, have time in reserve for emergencies and a budget in case you have to take a cab or spend the night somewhere in Manosque or Valansol. But if these places weren’t so inaccessible, they wouldn’t be empty and quiet. And if taking risks and seeking adventure is not your choice, you can always rent a car.
Photos by Alina Alekina are used in the material.