If you are planning a visit to Provence, it is easy to assume you have already started to develop a list of must-see destinations. This is likely to include a list of towns like Avignon and its amazing 14th century sites, Aix-en-Provence with all its history and the entire Luberon region with its gorgeous villages, luxurious villas and impressive food culture. However, even though it seems that Provence has been reviewed with the proverbial fine toothed comb by travel enthusiasts, there are still some overlooked sights in Provence. These are each “must see” destinations for different reasons, and though some are hidden gems, others are just lovely surprises nearby to more famous locations.
Let’s consider some of the most appealing towns of Provence that are overlooked due to their out of the way locations or simply because they are overshadowed by more famous neighbors:
Often noted as one of the country’s most beautiful villages it is in the Luberon area and full of stone houses, a 1500s chateau, cobbled streets and is home to the amazing Pol Mara Museum.
This is another village which constantly receives recognition as being among the most beautiful of all villages in France. Also in the Luberon area, it is home to Roman ruins, but also to Neolithic sites and even a Renaissance era chateau. This is the book lover’s paradise and also full of appealing cafes and bistros.
Home to a wonderful weekly market, it is also considered one of the most romantic areas of Provence. The town still has an official Duke in residence – in his castle in the heart of town – and it, too, has cobbled streets and all kinds of gardens tucked into every neighborhood. It is also home to Tour Fenestreelle and the world-famous Pont du Gard. This is a two-thousand-year-old Roman aqueduct that is unbelievably beautiful. Surprisingly enough, this has not caused the village to become crowded, and it remains a hidden gem.
Though situated on an island off the coast at Toulon, it is a wonderful destination. Tourism has yet to arrive and the amazing beaches, gorgeous native plant life and crystal clear sea waters are a wonderful find. The town has a small jazz festival each year, and is often described as one of those hidden gems that should be enjoyed now, before it does become one of the top traveler destinations.
Though you might think it would experience a lot of visitation simply because it was the home to such historic notables as Nicolas de Stael and author Peter Mayle (whose writings have inspired millions to visit Provence), it remains an “under the radar” spot. Noted for its beauty, it has medieval walls, 1700s buildings and gorgeous surroundings. A museum dedicated to Dora Maar (Picasso’s muse) is also here, along with a strong foodie culture thanks to the truffles and wines from the area.
This lovely town has a fantastic market, and also Le Jardin de L’Alchemiste. Whether you speak French or not, you can tell that this is a garden dedicated to magical plants and the lost medieval science dedicated to turning mundane compounds into gold. There is also the impressive La Maison d’Anais offering everything lavender.
Other overlooked sights in Provence include the Refuge d’Art, in Haute-Provence whigh is lovely in its Reserve Geologique de Haute Provence setting. Yet, the amazing public sculpture garden is truly stunning and explored from a 150km hiking trail. There is also the Domaine Hauvette vineyard (appointments are required) tucked into the foot of the Alpilles Mountains and in the St. Remy de Provence area. While there, also be sure to stop at Le Petit Duc known as one of the most impressive patisseries in all of France.
With this short list, you can see some of the loveliest and least crowded spots in Provence during your next visit – and if you head to Le Petit Duc, be sure you savor the oreilles de la bonne to taste a truly historic and unforgettable treat.