Around the Ventoux
A tour around the Mont Ventoux gives you a different perspective of Provence, from the lavender country round Sault to the west, to the wine country and Roman treasures of Vaison-la-Romaine in the East, and the beautiful and little-known villages scattered in between.
You can do a full circuit round Mont Ventoux, so it doesn’t matter where you start or leave off.
To the east of Mont Ventoux we are in lavender country, the area around Sault is thick with lavender fields, which provides a thrilling spectacle in the flowering season from late June to early August.
Let’s go round Mont Ventoux in an anti-clockwise direction – this takes you past one stunning village after another, starting with Aurel, whose winding streets and clarity of light make it a magnet for painters.
A few kilometres away, over a tapestry of lavender, is the picture-perfect village of Montbrun-les-Bains, where you walk through the rampart walls and into the past. As its name suggests it also has a thermal baths, whose sulphurous waters are used to treat rheumatism and respiratory problems.
Guarding the entrance to the Toulourenc valley, which runs along the north face of the Mont Ventoux, is Reilhanette, a village that has changed little since the middle ages – the castle has lost a fair few stones, but the 12th century church is more or less intact.
You can easily miss Savoillan, at the foot of the Mont Ventoux, lost in time, the sort of place you might safely live if you were being pursued by the mob. But the next village along the valley, Brantes is hard to miss, precariously perched high up and with a fantastic view of the Mont Ventoux and the valley.
One thing the villages here have in common – they are all extremely photogenic. And Entrechaux more so than most. This tiny village looks like a giant has tossed a castle, a chapel and some houses on top of a small, sharp hill.
Malaucene, like Sault, is a traditional launchpad for those cyclying to the top of Mont Ventoux, but you can also just stop there for a good lunch instead. From here you can drive to the top of the mountain for the long views to sea and alps. If you come down the other side you end up in Sault where you started.
Or stay below and continue on to the see Crillon-le-Brave, or the wonderfully preserved castle at Le Barroux.
This trip can be combined with an exploration of the vineyards and beautiful landscapes of the Dentelles de Montmirail, which is right next to the Ventoux villages, to the west.