Mont Ventoux

summit mont ventouxThere's a good reason why they call Mont Ventoux the Giant of Provence. North of the Luberon and around 60 km / 37 miles north-east of Avignon, this majestic mountain dominates the landscape for miles around.

The much-photographed milestone at the top declares that it's 1,911 metre / 6,270 foot high. In fact the "official" altitude varies slightly, depending on what, exactly, you designate as the summit. Whatever the case, it's high.

It's always referred to on road signs and in guide books as LE Mont Ventoux (THE Mont Ventoux). Just plain old Mont Ventoux somehow wouldn't be respectful enough.

In this section of the site we look at two ways of discovering Mont Ventoux: the three routes up the mountain itself and the many different cycling itineraries around it.

The first recorded person to walk to the top was the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch in 1336. Over five centuries later, the ubiquitous Frédéric Mistral, who tirelessly travelled around and wrote about Provence, walked up at night in order to see the sunrise from the summit.

Leading botanists and entomologists have made the pilgrimage too and the mountain, with its rich variety of ecosystems, flora and fauna, is now classed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.

Today, boosted by its regular presence as one of the toughest stages on the Tour de France circuit, Mont Ventoux is a Mecca for cyclists. Its steep routes to the summit (some stretches have a gradient of over 10 per cent) are always busy with them, even in awful weather.

Some madmen and -women even cover all three in a single day, entitling them to join a club des cinglés (crazy persons' club). Real nutters can push the challenge up a notch by adding a fourth, cross-country itinerary, or by doing all the routes twice in a day.

In May 2015 a Belgian cyclist, Betty Kals, then 32, cycled up Mont Ventoux eight times in 24 hours, entering the Guinness Book of Records. But lesser mortals should approach the mountain with caution unless very well prepared. Heart attacks are not uncommon and, in 2016, there were several fatalities.

booking.com logoClick here to book a hotel near Mont Ventoux in Provence

And, while some people relish the personal challenge, you don't need to be a super-fit athlete to explore the mighty Giant. Indeed, in some respects cycling up Mont Ventoux is not the best way to appreciate it. Apart from the massive and distracting physical effort involved, you can't even see the summit through the trees for much for the ascent.

While there are plenty of sites and blogs offering sound specialist advice for cyclists planning the climb, this section of the site looks at alternative ways of discovering Mont Ventoux.

We went up it, but (full disclosure!) by car - and found that driving up there is also an enjoyable experience. Our guide below explores in detail the differences between the three routes up the mountain and what there is to see on each one.

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But in any case it turns out that non sporty types can very happily enjoy Mont Ventoux on two wheels as well after all. La Provence à Vélo (Provence Cycling) has devised over two dozen itineraries in and around the Ventoux area, of a very wide range of lengths and levels of difficulty.

And it has also developed a network of interesting places to visit on the way, from vineyards to lavender distilleries, so that your day doesn't have to consist of non-stop pedalling.

We sampled one of these routes, coasting gently around the rolling foothills of Mont Ventoux, with its gleaming white peak in almost constant view. See below for our full report.

Click here to read about a visit to the Arôma'Plantes lavender farm and distillery on the route to Mont Ventoux from Sault, here to find out about saffron farms in the region and here for our guide to the nearby, spectacular Gorges de la Nesque. And click here to read about a llama farm in the foothills of Ventoux near Malaucène.

mont ventoux summitThere are three routes to the top of Mont Ventoux: from Malaucène, Bédoin and Sault. This is a guide to what you'll see on each of them.

bedoin mont ventouxCycling in the Mont Ventoux region doesn't need to mean struggling up and down the mighty Giant of Provence. We tried out an easy, gentle route around the mountain's southern foothills.

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