With rolling fields of lavender, unspoilt villages and Ventoux, one of the most infamous mountains in the world of cycling, a cycling holiday in Provence has it all. Whilst typically synonymous with touring cyclists, this 'hidden gem' boasts some of the best cycling roads in all of France; peppered with smaller cols and rolling hills set in unique scenery and with a perfect cycling climate in the Spring and Autumn.
In May/June and September/October the temperatures are ideal for cycling and the hoards of tourists that visit Provence won’t be competing with you for space on the tarmac. With two route choices each day, this holiday offers the same flexibility as our other Classic Cols style tours, but the terrain is often more undulating than mountainous (the Ventoux ascent being an obvious exception). The scenery is stunning at worst and jaw dropping at best. Check out the daily stats to see that there are some good challenge options if you are looking for them but that the Classic route is very suitable for post winter legs!
For the first half of the week you focus on the areas surrounding the river Verdon that runs East-West between the departments of the Var and the Alpes de Haute Provence. Its sun-baked limestone hills have been cut through by rivers running down from the Alps, creating over time, magnificent deep canyons, most notably the Verdon Gorge. It is the deepest gorge in Europe at over 20 km long and 300 metres deep, and provides as dramatic a backdrop as you could wish for. Ticking off cols as you go, you head towards the Giant of Provence – Ventoux – which you will explore and conquer! After a day in the saddle, the beautiful hotel in Malaucene awaits. You are based here for the remainder of your holiday, enjoying dinner in the centre of town, before retreating back to the calm ambience of the hotel’s private grounds.
For more information do read our Trip Notes and and for the latest travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Day 0: Travel Out
We offer included transfers from Marseille Airport (MRS) and Aix-en-Provence TGV to our hotel in Meyreuil (just to the east of Aix-en-Provence). This is a journey of about 30min. Full travel advice (essential reading before booking your flights) and airport transfer timings can be found in our Trip Notes. Meet your guides, transfer to the hotel, assemble your bikes and perhaps go for a pre-dinner spin to loosen your legs ahead of the next day’s ride.
Day 1: Meyreuil to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Provence is amazing for cycling, with an extensive network of quiet roads, pretty villages, diverse forests, gorges and turquoise reservoirs. Today’s ride offers you a little taste of everything the area has to offer. Looking northwards from the hotel, the horizon is dominated by the Montagne Saint-Victoire with its shear limestone cliffs. Our route climbs to its base on a nice road with ever-increasing views. From here we enjoy a sweepy descent and start undulating our way through beautiful countryside towards our hotel in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie on the edge of the Verdon National Park. As always, on a Marmot Tours Classic Cols Holiday, there are options for doing more cycling. Early in the day, you can detour over the Col des Portes (631m) and the Col du Grand-Sambuc (615m) via the Gorges Vauvenargues. Later, there is the option of a joyful little road that undulates its way up the Verdon river linking its many lakes. The ride can also be made easier with a tactical transfer after lunch. Easier route: 76km with 1000m ascent
Classic route: 108km with 1450m ascent
Harder route: 115km with 1750m ascent
Challenge route: 143km with 2300m ascent
Day 2: Day ride into the Verdon Gorge
Considered by many as the most beautiful canyon in Europe, the Verdon Gorge is a real gem. The road that hugs the cliffs of the gorge is an amazing feat of engineering and today you get to appreciate every km of it! With shear drops to the side of over 500m, big views and some sneaky climbs, today is set to be one of the most memorable rides of your life. Warming up on the gentle slopes of the Source de Vaumale (1202m), you enter the gorge proper for some stunning pedalling. Cycling doesnt really get any better than this! You leave the gorge for a short while, but only to take in some of the surrounding highlights such as the forgiving slopes of Col d'Ayen (1031m), before returning again to drink your fill of magnificent gorge scenery and a fabulous descent. Those choosing the Challenge option today head on to the incredible Route des Crêtes du Verdon (1320m), for even more of the spectacular views. Classic route: 89km with 1700m ascent
Challenge route: 108km with 2300m ascent
Day 3: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to Sisteron
You start today with a couple of minor undulations and a swift descent before the landscape eventually opens out to reveal wide open plains of never-ending fields of lavender and sunflowers. Dominating the horizon is, of course, the giant of Provence, Mt Ventoux, your ultimate destination. For those chasing the Challenge options, a visit to the region would not be complete without conquering Mt Ventoux's little sister - the Montagne de Lure, up at 1745m, with its views to the North into the Hautes-Alpes region. Tonight we stay in the majestic pre-Roman town of Sisteron with its narrow cobbled streets and magnificent Vauban fortifications, sat in the shadows of the impressively ravined Rocher de la Baume mountain. With a somewhat 'flatter' (yes, it is all relative!) day of cycling behind you, we foresee arriving with plenty of time to spare, affording you the opportunity to stretch your legs and experience some local culture. Classic Route: 102km with 1100m of ascent
Challenge Route: 127km with 2300m of ascent
Day 4: Sisteron to Malaucene and the vineyards of Gigondas
Today's route takes you to the pretty village of Sault via Col de la Pigière (968m) and Col de Macuègne (1068m) - drawing cyclists from far and wide for the alluring views of Ventoux. Suitably caffeinated, you leave Sault to join a winding narrow road that hugs the cliffs of the Gorges de la Nesque, descending gently through a series of short tunnels hewn out of the rock. This road is one of highlights of the region and draws cyclists and photographers from miles around for its magnificent riding and views of the valley below. Once through the gorge, a few undulations take you via Bédoin to your hotel in Malaucène. You are on holiday, but there is no escaping tough decisions: to relax by the pool, meander into the centre of town, or tag on an additional 52km in the hills to the west on the 'Gigondas' loop taking in some beautiful vineyards and rural villages, and adding 700m of ascent. The Hôtel Ventoux Provence is one of our firm favourites so you are here for the next 3 nights. Classic Route: 116km with 1600m of ascent
Challenge Route: 163km with 2300m of ascent
Day 5: Day ride from Malaucène - 'Parc regional des Baronnies Provencales'
The routes outlined for day 5 & 6 are interchangeable, depending on the weather forecast. But one thing is guaranteed - you are going to have a great final two days out on your bike! The mountains to the north of Ventoux are often overlooked, but as you will discover, they are stunningly beautiful. Our excursion into the Parc regional des Baronnies Provencales takes you over the Côte de Bluye (578m), whilst the Challenge option detours early into the ride to take on the Col du Perty (1302m) and the Col St-Jean (1158m). Classic Route: 98km with 1300m of ascent
Challenge Route: 145km with 2500m of ascent
Day 6: Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux has featured heavily in the Tour de France world since it was first included over 60 years ago. It became infamous when it claimed the life of the British rider Tom Simpson in 1967 and has since become a Mecca for cyclists from all over the world wanting to pitch body and mind against this iconic, arid, rocky moonscape of a mountain. We’ll focus our attention this week on the most popular sides of this iconic climb, from Bédoin and Sault, descending back down to Malaucène from the summit. The Classic route takes on the ascent from Bédoin via the Col de Madeleine (451m). The Challenge route also climbs the Bédoin side via Col de Madaleine, before heading back down from the summit for a second ascent up from Sault. For tours between June and October, it is possible to do the ‘Club des Cinglés de Mont Ventoux Challenge’ (Mont Ventoux 3 times in one day). Please get in touch if you’re interested, at least 30 days before your trip departs. There is a registration fee of £55. Classic route: 55km with 1730m ascent
Challenge route: 106km with 3000m ascent
Club des Cinglés challenge: 136km with 4443m ascent
Day 7: Travel Back
Sadly, all good things must to come to an end. We will transfer you back to Marseilles Airport (MRS) or Aix-en-Provence TGV, a journey of 1hr 30 mins. Please see our Trip Notes for all travel information including airport pick up and drop off times, which will help you to book the best flight.
- Flexible itinerary with challenging optional extras
- Included transfers from Marseille
- A holiday cycling the highlights of the Provence
- Experience 'Europe's Grand Canyon' - the Verdon Gorge
- Take on the infamous Mont Ventoux – ‘The Giant of Provence’
- Stay in lovely 3* hotels in picturesque settings
- Possibility of taking on the ‘Club des Cinglés de Mont Ventoux challenge‘
- Exceptional support from 2 experienced guides in customised vehicles