Perhaps no other region encompasses France's exceptional beauty better than Provence. During this 5-day self-drive itinerary, you'll experience the highlights with stops in emblematic cities such as Marseille and Aix-en-Provence as well as traditional villages in the scenic countryside. Finish the adventure in medieval Avignon coupled with a wine tasting in nearby Chateauneuf du Pape.

Highlights

  • Explore France's oldest city followed by a sunset drink on the Mediterranean
  • Discover the history and culture of Aix-en-Provence during a walking tour
  • Attend an art show in a former quarry featuring enormous moving images
  • Indulge in a wine tour around the Rhône Valley sampling world-famous pours
  • End the trip with a night in Avignon—a city known for sophisticated restaurants

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Marseille - Explore the City Marseille
Day 2 Drive to Aix en Provence - Cultural Tour Aix en Provence
Day 3 Drive to Les Baux de Provence & Saint Remy de Provence Saint Rémy de Provence
Day 4 Wine Tour in Gigondas & Chateauneuf du Pape - Drive to Avignon Avignon
Day 5 Return to Marseille - Depart Provence  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Marseille - Explore the City

The Old Port of Marseille
The Old Port of Marseille

Welcome to Marseille—the 2nd largest city in France located in the south along the Mediterranean! Upon arrival, you'll be picked up and transferred to your hotel.

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, 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: Drive to Aix en Provence - Cultural Tour

Street life in Aix-en-Provence
Streetlife in Aix-en-Provence

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 3: Drive to Les Baux de Provence & Saint Remy de Provence

Les Baux de Provence
The flowering village of Les Baux de Provence

This morning, you'll make the drive to Les Baux de Provence, which dates back as far as 6,000 BCE. Along the way, Les Baux became a defensive fortress stronghold in the middle ages, and today it's regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in France, receiving a million visitors each year—a large number compared to its few hundred permanent residents. 

Upon arrival, you'll have the day to explore on your own. Consider strolling around the historic streets of this well-preserved township, visiting ancient churches as well as its famous 10th-century fortified castle, Château des Baux de Provence. You can also experience an unforgettable treat called Les Carrières de Lumières. This can't-miss multimedia art show is held in a former quarry near the castle. Projected on its cavernous walls and expansive floors are enormous, moving images of famous painters' artworks set to music, such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, da Vinci, Chagall, and Picasso.  

For a nearby excursion, you can drive to the Val d'Enfer. This valley is filled with unique limestone rock formations that have been carved by water erosion over thousands of years. Moreover, the area offers panoramic views of the town and surrounding valley, which gives you the best vantage points for snapping photos.

In the afternoon, you'll drive to nearby Saint Remy de Provence for your overnight. Enjoy an evening soaking in the charm of this town's boulevards and the typical Provençal way of life.

Day 4: Wine Tour in Gigondas & Chateauneuf du Pape - Drive to Avignon

Vineyard in Gigondas
A stellar vineyard in Gigondas

This morning, you'll enjoy some free time in the area to explore on your own. Perhaps you'll want to experience the Popes' Palace and the Pont Bezenet or take a scenic drive through the area's lavender fields. 

In the afternoon, you'll join a half-day wine tour visiting some of the best vineyards of the Rhône Valley. The tour starts in the village of Gigondas. Located at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail hill range, these wines belong to the crus of the southern Côtes du Rhône. Look for the Grenache noir, in particular, which expresses its full flavor in glimmering red wines with pronounced tannins, a robust body, and a solid propensity for aging.

From here, you'll visit the famous vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape. The ruins of the Pope's formal summer residence dominate this typical medieval village. This is where 13 varieties of grapes combine with the various soils to create a large palette of complex red wines and elegant white wines.  Enjoy a tasting in one of the numerous cellars of this world-famous wine village.

Finish this exciting day with a drive to Avignon for your overnight. Check out the eclectic dining scene here, which ranges from relaxed bistros serving regional delights to notable Michelin-star tasting menus. 

Day 5: Return to Marseille - Depart Provence

Goodbye, Provence!
Goodbye, Marseille!

It's time to say goodbye to Provence! After breakfast, depending on your schedule, you'll transfer to the airport in Marseille to catch a direct 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!

Map

Map of Ultimate Provençal Road Trip - 5 Days
Map of Ultimate Provençal Road Trip - 5 Days