Start in Aix-en-Provence, the afternoon is free for some relaxation and exploring. Aix is a very pretty and cosmopolitan university town set in lovely Provencal countryside near the foot of the mountain of Saint Victoire, which inspired the paintings of Cezanne. It is renowned for its busy daily markets which give a great insight into local life. In the evening your Tour Leader will talk you through the cycling tour for this week and prepare the bikes.
This morning we take the opportunity to have a proper look around Aix-en-Provence. This is a chance to travel back in time, with its hidden architectural treasures and cultural heritage that are easily accessible by either walking or cycling around. It is easy to lose yourself among the tree-lined boulevards, baroque fountains and laid back streetside cafes. In the early afternoon we will begin our cycle with a short warm up trip to Pertuis, a small town on the edge of the Luberon with a nice 12th Century castle. Approx. cycling distance - 24km with 170m ascent.
Leaving Pertuis we will cycle towards the 11th Century town of Cucuron, a charming place fortified by a staired cascade and crowned by a small castle dating from the 14th Century. Following a picturesque road at the foot of the Luberon mountain range we reach Pierrevert, where we will visit a local vineyard. Cycling past olive groves we continue our ride to Manosque. This ancient city has a rich history and a charming town centre, it was home to the famous French author Jean Giono who based his ficticious work in the local area of the Luberon. Approx. cycling distance - 45km with 500m ascent.
Today we will visit St Michel Observatoire, a village home to a renowned European observatory which has been accredited with numerous important astronomical discoveries. En route we will stop at Prieuré de Salagon, a 2000 year old Gallo-Roman priory housing a museum of history and everyday life. After a little more cycling we reach Forcalquier. There is plenty to see in this picturesque and atmospheric village; Renaissance fountains, Gothic churches, a Franciscan convent and an infamous busy market. Our base for the next two nights is the lovely Hotel Charembeau, set in rolling countryside just a few kilometres outside Forcalquier.
Approx. cycling distance - 38km with 600m ascent.
Leaving Focalquier for the day we cycle through a number of traditional villages. A highlight is Lurs, built along the top of a high ridge with fantastic views of the Durance river, as well as sunflower and lavender fields. The small village of Ganagobie sits on a forested plateau at 700m and enjoys stunning views in every direction. A third of its inhabitants are monks who live at the Prieuré de Ganagobie. Next we reach Sigonce, an undiscovered jewel with quaint streets and ancient buildings, such as the 14th-16th-century Eglise St-Claude and the tall round bell tower. We will then close the loop and return to Forcalquier for a second night.
Approx. cycling distance - 57km with 370m ascent.
Leaving Forcalquier we ride through the beautiful lavender fields of Valensole. The town center has a compact main street with shops, restaurants and cafés, a wonderful old fountain, a beautiful old sundial and a large and interesting lavoir - a public place in France set aside for the washing of clothes. The cafés here are open, friendly places that are light inside and shady outside. In the afternoon we will reach the ancient Roman town of Gréoux-Les-Bains, our base for the next two nights. This is a popular destination because of the mineral hot springs here. In the evening we can visit 'Les Thermes de Greoux' renowned for their therapeutic and beneficial effects, as well as the impressive 'Chateau des Templiers'.
Approx. cycling distance - 40km with 270m ascent.
Leaving Greoux on our bikes we head for the enchanting Lac de Saint Croix and the Verdon Gorge. We will pass through St. Martin de Bromes, a Romanesque antique village situated on the edge of the Valensole plateau. With a 13th-century castle and fortified walls it is typical of the Haute Provence and Allemagneen-Provence regions. Reaching the lake you will be rewarded with stunning views of the beautiful turquoise water and the famous gorge of Verdon. On the way home we will pass through Quinson, a small village placed between towering cliffs. There are many old fountains, beautiful stone buildings and stunning views of the Lac de Saint Croix. We will then return to Greoux-les-Bains for our final night. Approx. cycling distance - 58km with 450m ascent.
After breakfast the trip ends in Greoux-les-Bains.