- Explore France's oldest city followed by a sunset drink on the Mediterranean
- Take a private cruise around the secluded beaches of Calanques National Park
- Sample the famous wines of Côtes de Provence with a local expert
- Travel through the Provençal countryside by car and electric bicycle
- Visit a Cistercian abbey from the 12th century, surrounded by lavender
|Day 1||Arrive in Marseille - Pick-Up Rental Car||Marseille|
|Day 2||Cruise in Calanques National Park - Return to Marseille||Marseille|
|Day 3||Drive to Aix en Provence - Cultural Tour||Aix en Provence|
|Day 4||Half-Day Wine Tour in Provence||Aix en Provence|
|Day 5||Driving Tour in the Luberon||Bonnieux|
|Day 6||Electric Bike Tour in the Luberon||Bonnieux|
|Day 7||Return Rental Car - Depart Provence|
Day 1: Arrive in Marseille - Pick-Up Rental Car
Welcome to Marseille! Upon arrival, pick-up your rental car and drive to your hotel where you'll have the rest of the day to explore France's 2nd largest city on foot.
With more than 2,000 years of history, Marseille is also France’s oldest city. It's so old, in fact, that it was founded on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Massalia around 600 BCE. A good place to start is by visiting Marseille's most notable neighborhoods, like the district of Le Panier. This is "old Marseille"—where the city was founded. It's a working-class enclave on the central port and is the picture of Mediterranean beauty with old plazas, ancient churches, and brightly-colored tenement buildings. You'll also find creative street art on the walls.
Additional must-sees around Marseille include the waterfront along the Mediterranean Sea, the hilltop basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the Roman monastic foundation of Saint-Victor Abbey. You can also follow a walkway to Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification dominating the port that was built in 1660 by Louis XIV. Be sure to pay a visit to the fascinating Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM), which features permanent exhibits devoted to the history of these regional societies from ancient times to the present day.
Consider ending your self-guided tour in Vieux-Port, the heart of the city, where you can sip a good pastis (anise-flavored apéritif) or beer as the sun goes down.
Day 2: Cruise in Calanques National Park - Return to Marseille
This morning, you'll make the drive from Marseille to the port town of Cassis along the Mediterranean Sea—a route of approximately 45 minutes.
This is where you'll board a private vessel for a half-day cruise to visit a series of beautiful bays and inlets formed by limestone cliffs that remain undeveloped. In fact, the area has a specific eco-system that has been protected since 2012 when the entire 20-mile stretch was designated as Calanques National Park. The park's 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares) spans between Marseille, Cassis, and La Ciotat with endless trails and places to explore for every fitness level.
It only takes a few minutes to enter the park and glimpse its stunning limestone sea cliffs and hidden coves. The waters in these famous inlets are an irresistible kaleidoscope of blues that become milky turquoise and crystalline depending on the depth of the sea. You'll have ample time for swimming in these hidden coves, which are only accessible by boat.
After the boat cruise is complete, you'll have free time to either check out more of the park, explore the streets of Cassis, or return to Marseille.
Day 3: Drive to Aix en Provence - Cultural Tour
After breakfast, you'll make the drive to Aix en Provence. "Aix" (as it's commonly called) is a historic city set amidst Provençal villages and surrounding countryside famous for vineyards, lavender-blanketed fields, and limestone cliffs of Sainte Victoire Mountain. These landscapes are so iconic they've been immortalized in the works of painters such as Cezanne, Picasso, and Kandinsky.
Once you've checked into your hotel, you can discover the city's rich heritage, art, and culture on a walking tour with an expert guide. This two-hour begins with a stroll through a labyrinth of narrow streets passing historic fountains as your guide points out both famous and hidden gems of the city. You’ll visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, a Romanesque/Gothic church built on the site of an ancient Greek temple to Apollo, and the Hotel de Ville, which dates to the 14th century.
The tour also includes a walk along the Cours Mirabeau, a busy thoroughfare lined with plane trees and plenty of markets and cafés—perfect for people watching. During this outing, you'll even see some ruins dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.
Day 4: Half-Day Wine Tour in Provence
Today, it's time to savor the flavors of Provence's wine industry! On this half-day guided tour, you'll venture out to the vineyards surrounding Aix-en-Provence. You'll also visit the wine region of Côtes de Provence, which sits in the shadow of Sainte Victoire Mountain.
The tour includes visits to family-owned wineries where you'll sample varietals from their cellars. Throughout this experience, your local guide and wine expert will reveal insight into the characteristics of the terroir and the winemaking process. You'll also get the opportunity to taste a range of fruity and dry rosés, delicate and aromatic whites, and full-bodied reds.
Following the tour, you'll return to Aix-en-Provence where you'll have more time to explore on your own.
Day 5: Driving Tour in the Luberon
This morning, you'll depart Aix en Provence and drive to the Luberon—an area of Provence famous for rolling green hills dotted with vineyards and cherry orchards stretching as far as the eye can see. Perched atop many of these hills are postcard villages and little market towns where local farmers come to sell their produce. On today's tour, you'll visit this stunning countryside and its hilltop villages.
This is a relaxed outing that begins in the medieval village of Lourmarin, which is famous for its windy streets, charming patio cafés, and 16th-century castle.
Next is the renowned village of Gordes, arguably the most beautiful of all the hilltop villages in the Luberon. The skyline of Gordes is dominated by its fortified castle, and from the town's winding cobbled streets you can look out to wide views over the valley and surrounding hills. From Gordes, it's just a few miles to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century.
Next is a visit to Roussillon, a village notable for the vivid red cliffs that surround it. This is due to the town's location in one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world. Walking through Roussillon's narrow streets you'll note the striking contrast between the bright green of the surrounding pine trees and the artist's palette of earthy browns, yellows, and reds that define its buildings. Like the other destinations mentioned above, Roussillon is regarded as one of the most beautiful villages of France.
Finish off in the village of Bonnieux, another hilltop gem whose residences also date to the 16th century. Sitting atop the town is its iconic church, whose steeple points into the sky like a Christmas star. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and take the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore on your own!
Day 6: Electric Bike Tour in the Luberon
Today, you'll explore more of the Luberon's beautiful surroundings, particularly in the Luberon Regional Nature Park, which boasts an untamed natural environment and proudly-preserved traditions.
Connect with your guide and start the excursion with a stroll in the middle of mountains covered in scrubland. Next, gear up with electric bikes and ride along quiet country roads. This is an opportunity to discover the beauty of the region (and more notable villages) without much effort, thanks to electric assistance.
From Bonnieux, you will get a taste of villages like Lacoste, Ménerbes, and Oppède le Vieux. There will be a lunch break in either Ménerbes or Oppède le Vieux where you have the choice to dine at a restaurant or enjoy a picnic. Along the route, you'll also have time to visit the vineyards and lavender fields in the area.
Following the tour, return to Bonnieux for the evening.
Day 7: Return Rental Car - Depart Provence
After breakfast, and depending on your schedule, you'll drive back to Marseille to return your rental car. From here you'll either catch a flight or head to the nearest TGV station to board a high-speed train to Paris or Nice. This concludes your grand Provençal adventure. Au revoir!