Provence cycling vacations

Provence is one of the most characterful and attractive regions of France which, if you know France, is really saying something. Here you have scenery that has captured the imagination of countless artists and writers most notably, of course, Vincent Van Gogh. Cycling in Provence is without doubt the finest way to explore historic towns and hilltop villages (among the prettiest in the country), riverside, coastal and country scenery that brings to mind Peter Mayle’s classic A Year in Provence, and some of the best preserved Roman monuments outside Italy.

You’ll ride past abbeys and chateaux, windmills and perhaps the asylum where Van Gogh admitted himself after he cut off part of his ear in Arles, and where he painted many well-known works of art including ‘The Starry Night’. Routes are, for the most part, very forgiving and made for sociable cycling which can also be paired with wine tasting in the Côtes du Rhône villages north of Avignon, or gastronomy. Reward your exertions by feasting on local produce and regional specialities from pâtés, honey, cured meats, cheese, liquor and bread. Tour prestigious vineyards and wineries meeting the sommeliers, artisan chocolatiers and of course the famous covered market of Avignon, Les Halles. Bien manger et bien boire – with a bit of cycling in-between, if that’s your preference.

When to go cycling in Provence

The best time for cycling in Provence is between April and October when the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny. This being one of the most popular vacation destinations in France, you may however want to avoid peak dates such as Easter, and late July through August. Since most trips are tailormade you have a lot of freedom with your travel dates, but there is also the option of a small group trip if you’d like to join other riders for a sociable experience.

Provence cycling highlights

There is considerable variety in the routes taken on Provence cycling vacations but some of the most popular places to either stay a night or two, or to visit along the way, include the following:


This picturesque historic city is often the start and sometimes also the end point for Provence cycling trips, and a lovely place to spend a few days either side of your journey. Its churches, Papal Palace and medieval ramparts are all worth a tour.


Orange is famed for its outstanding Roman architecture, most notably the Triumphal Arch and the theatre, which together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pont du Gard

Close to Nîmes, this fantastically well preserved Roman aqueduct is a real sight to behold, UNESCO-listed and a towering feat of architecture.


Much of this commune is made up by the Camargue. It was briefly home to Van Gogh who spent a prolific period here. Just outside Arles there is a superb example of a Roman aqueduct and watermill.


This vast natural park spans stretches of Provence with marshes and saltwater lagoons. Under-populated, the Camargue’s wildlife includes pink flamingos and wild horses, while the Rhône River delta is superb for bird watching.

Mont Ventoux

Some routes see you tackle the ‘Beast of Provence’ which, at 1,910m, frequently serves as one of the most demanding stretches of the Tour de France. It’s windy when you eventually, exhausted, reach the mountain summit, hence the name, but you can look forward to a sublime descent.
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Provence cycling vacations are usually between six and eight days in length, with tailor made itineraries for the most part and routes that are self guided with the assistance of maps, comprehensive route notes and 24-hour support. Depending on the level of exertion you’re looking for, you might be cycling between 40 and 100km each day, predominantly on paved roads that see only light traffic; as itineraries can be tailored, it’s always possible to take a shorter, easier route on some days. The more arduous routes are best for experienced cyclists and clubs but most trips assume you’ll want to pause regularly for a swim, a picnic or a glass of wine. Be warned: the scenery is utterly hypnotic, so set a strict limit on your photo stops unless you want to be late for dinner.
Itineraries are generally point-to-point, and sometimes follow a circular route from Avignon. You’ll stay in family-owned hotels, with luggage transferred between them so you need only carry the basics with you. Accommodations can sometimes be upgraded if you want a little more luxury, and you may also be able to add a day out of the saddle here or there, for more time to wander places such as Arles. While you are naturally free to bring your own bike with you, there will also be the option to hire them and have them waiting for you on arrival, including hybrids, road bikes with carbon or aluminium frames, or e-bikes. You will want to supply your own helmet and water bottle, and if you wish you can also bring your own saddle and pedals.
“Cycling up Mont Ventoux. Wow! Its tough, very tough, but worth the effort. Particularly nice to have a really fabulous hotel at the bottom to relax afterwards. Excellent – very scenic, great cycling routes, great food and we were well looked after in terms of routes, maps, accommodation and food.” – Jane Frank in a review of her Provence cycling tour

“[The highlight was] Successfully navigating our way in and out of beautiful little towns being enthusiastically helped with directions and suggestions for great things to see and do by locals even with our absolute lack of French. Locals were very accepting of us cyclists on their roads, (much more so than Sydneysiders were we live). I don't know if this was partly recognising that we do little damage to the environment on bikes.” – Jennifer Wright in a review of her Provence self guided cycling vacation
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: decar66] [Intro: Andrea Schaffer] [Practicalities: jean-louis Zimmermann] [Orange: pxhere] [Mont Ventoux : BlueBreezeWiki]