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Southern France – Provence

from / to Marseille

Holiday in Europe
12 rental companies in 72 cities

Southern France – Provence

from / to Marseille

8 days / 700 km
Best time to travel: May to June or September to October

A journey through Provence is a journey for the senses. You will be surrounded by the unique light illuminating the landscape, bright colours, the smell of lavender, and the singing of cicadas. Let yourself be enchanted by the southern way of living. Experience the bustling port city of Marseille, the Palais des Papes in Avignon, and the Roman heritage in Orange and Pont du Gard. Retrace van Gogh’s steps in Arles and Saint-Rémy and take a round trip through Camargue. You will also be able to participate in wine tasting in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Arrival in Marseille and collection of the camper

The journey begins in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, a major European port city and the most important one in France. Marseille is the capital of the Department of Bouches-du-Rhône in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. With over 850,000 inhabitants, it is the second largest city in France, after Paris. The metropolitan area has approximately 1.35 million inhabitants and is the third largest conurbation in France, after Paris and Lyon.

In the centre of the city, you will find the old port (Vieux Port) with a fish market located on Quai des Belges. In the middle of the road leading to the Cours Saint-Louis, there is a stock market, which houses the Musée de la Marine et de l’Économie de Marseille. At the Musée des Docks Romains, you can find docks which come from the first century AD. The Musée d’Histoire de Marseille houses exhibits which come from the area around the harbour. What is more, various transport and tourist boats travel to the nearby islands from the old port.

Quartier du Panier is located north of the old harbour, in the 2nd arrondissement. It is the location of the first settlement of Marseille. The original city centre is located behind the Baroque town hall (Hôtel de ville). In the past, there were windmills standing on the Place des Moulins, one of the two hills of ancient Marseille. Here, you will find many relics from the ancient Greek settlement.

Highlights & Tips
A day in Marseille
In Marseille, there are a lot of interesting things to see. You can plan a quiet day trip at the beginning or the end of this journey. To get an overview of what is available, you can visit these two websites:
http://www.marseille.fr
http://www.marseille-tourisme.com/al/

New museum in time-honoured coastal town
The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (French: Musée of des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée, in short: MuCEM) was opened as a result of Marseille becoming the European Capital of Culture on 7 June 2013.

Marseille – Arles

Stage distance: approx. 90 km

Suggested route: Marseille – Martigues – Arles

From Marseille, the trip continues to a pretty coastal town of Martigues. The town is well worth a stopover before the destination of this stage, Arles. Both cities can be explored on the same day. From van Gogh’s famous Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, you can pay a visit to the Church of St Trophime, a jewel of Romanesque architecture. Vincent van Gogh settled here in search of the southern light. If you like, you can finish the day with a pastis on the Place du Forum.

Highlights & Tips
Christian relics from the Middle Ages
Visit the area around the city centre of Arles, the Alyscamps, known as the street of graves. It is one of the largest and most coveted Christian burial sites dating back to the Middle Ages.

Arles – Camargue – Arles

Stage distance: approx. 130 km

Suggested route: Arles – Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – Aigues Mortes – Saint-Gilles – Arles

After breakfast, you can start your trip across Camargue. The nature reserve is home to flamingos, horses, and bulls. Next, you will reach the pilgrimage town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where you can find the medieval church, the Church of Holy Mary and her black servant Sara. Later, she became the patron saint of the Sinti and Roma.

Continue towards Aigues Mortes, the crusader city surrounded by a well-preserved and powerful fortified wall. On your way back to Arles, you can admire the Romanesque portals in Saint-Gilles.

Highlights & Tips
Journey into the past
During a stroll through the old town of Aigues Mortes, you will see that the time seems to have stopped in here.

Arles – Avignon

Stage distance: approx. 100 km

Suggested route: Arles – Les Baux-de-Provence – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – Avignon

Drive to the north, through the impressive rocky landscape of the Alpilles. First, you will arrive at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Before you reach this destination, the route runs through the ancient Glanum with its archaeological site and the Roman triumphal arch. In Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, you can learn more on why Vincent van Gogh chose this place as his retreat. The medieval mountain village, impressively perched on a hill, was once a centre of the troubadours.

Finally, you will reach the former residence of the popes, namely Avignon. Here, you can visit the Palais des Papes, whose interior reflects the turbulent history of this mighty fortress. During the tour around the city, you will see the Avignon Cathedral, Place de L' Horloge, and the Pont Saint-Bénézet, which is best known for its connection with the song “Sur le Pont d'Avignon.“

Highlights & Tips
Immersion in the Roman period
At the archaeological site of Glanum, you can take a trip into the past, to the times of the Roman rule in Europe.

Avignon – Orange

Stage distance: approx. 85 km

Suggested route: Avignon – Pont-du-Gard – Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Orange

From Avignon, you will travel to Pont-du-Gard and see one of the Roman masterpieces of engineering. The aqueduct is the remnant of a giant pipe that once supplied the city of Nîmes with spring water.

You will travel from water to wine: the journey leads through the famous vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. While visiting one of the vineyards, you can participate in gourmet wine tasting.

Next, your journey goes to Orange, where you will see the Roman theatre with its well-preserved stage that will amaze you. The Triumphal Arch of Orange is the symbol of Roman power in the Mediterranean area.

Highlights & Tips
Learn more about Roman architecture in the Museum of Pont du Gard
The Museum of Pont du Gard tracks the history of the aqueduct. It offers models, virtual replicas, and multimedia presentations with sound which will take you into the world of Ancient Rome.

Orange – Vaucluse – Aix-en-Provence

Stage distance: approx. 150 km

Suggested route: Orange – Coustellet – Gordes – Roussilon – Aix-en–Provence

After breakfast, the journey continues through Coustellet to the picturesque mountain town of Gordes. From here, you can admire the stunning views of the Imergue Valley. The imposing Cistercian Abbey of Sénanque is surrounded by lavender fields and olive groves. The simple architecture and isolated location take you back to the medieval times of monastic life.

For the connoisseurs of Provence, there is no better city than Aix-en-Provence. The visit will not be complete without a stroll through the Cours Mirabeau. Through Cezanne’s eyes, you will see the beautiful old town with the Church of Saint-Sauveur, the Tour d’Horloge, and the numerous Baroque venues.

Highlights & Tips
A great highlight: the Lavender Museum in Coustellet
Visit the Lavender Museum in Coustellet. Learn more about the cultivation process of this fragrant plant, whose colour is the characteristic trait of Provence.

Aix-en-Provence – Calanques – Aix-en-Provence

Stage distance: approx. 100 km

Suggested route: Aix-en-Provence – Cassis (Calanques) – Aix-en-Provence

Having finished your tour around the city, travel to a small fishing village of Cassis and take a boat trip to the Calanques. Here, you can marvel at the impressive and steep chalk cliffs of Calanques, which rise 400 m above the sea level.

Highlights & Tips
Through the Calanques National Park
The Calanques National Park was officially inaugurated in April 2012. It is the youngest of the ten national parks in France. Barely one-fifth of the area of the national park (85 km²) is covered by a 20-kilometre long massif of the Calanques, situated between Marseille and Cassis. In the south, the rest of the park (435 km²) spreads over the Mediterranean Sea. The national park serves to protect the Calanques, the coastal limestone mountains that can be found in the shore area. The concept of protection includes an elaborate visitor guidance system of marked hiking paths and a strict prohibition of lighting bonfires.

Aix-en-Provence – Marseille

Stage distance: approx. 30 km

Suggested route: Aix-en-Provence – Bouc-Bel-air – Marseille

The last stage takes you, via the shortest way, back to the starting point of the trip, namely Marseille. Pursue the opportunity and take a look around the bustling coastal metropolis or visit one of the already mentioned landmarks.