lavender saultThese are our maps of the best lavender routes in Provence, from the Côte d'Azur to the foothills of the Alps, with the best times to see it in flower and other top attractions along the way.

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Be aware that the exact time when lavender begins to bloom varies, depending on the altitude of the terrain and on climate conditions from year to year.

Generally speaking, the lowland areas start turning purple around mid-June. The higher ones will be in flower from early July until early August.

We’ve mapped out five lavender routes of varying lengths and in various regions of Provence, from the hills above Grasse to the classic lavender landscapes of Vaucluse and up to the mysterious Baronnies far in the north.

They’re listed starting with the early-blooming regions first, and you can follow them in either direction, splice two routes together or just drive along part of one.

We suspect that at times you may find yourselves getting just a tiny bit bored with seeing purple. So we’ve also included some of the other most interesting sights, either on the routes themselves or on short deviations.

For example several of these lavender routes pass through or close to some of the official Most Beautiful Villages of France.

Plateau of ValensolePictured: lavender fields near Moustiers Sainte Marie, on Route Three.

Bear in mind that lavender landscapes can vary widely, from the wild clumps on the rocky plateau de Canaux to the neat, bright yellow and blue patchwork quilt of mixed agriculture around Sault.

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LAVENDER ROUTE ONE: GRASSE TO CASTELLANE

(81 km / 50 miles) Grasse - Gourdon - plateau de Calern - Caille - La Garde - Castellane

map of lavender route from Grasse to CastellaneClick on the map to enlarge the image.

Many visitors to the Côte d’Azur hope to see lavender fields. But the only purple they're likely to see on lower ground will be not true lavender but lavandin, a lower-quality hybrid, and will be growing on a roundabout.

However the perfumeries in Grasse offer free tours to the public and are an excellent introduction to the traditions of lavender farming in Provence.

lavendercloseupAnd, a little north of Grasse, you can find clumps of lavender growing wild on the rocky plateau de Calern between the end of June and mid-July.

Be sure to stop off at Gourdon: perched high on a hill overlooking the valley, it’s officially ranked as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France.

Castellane is the gateway to the spectacular lavender fields of the Plateau de Valensole (see Route Three below) and to the Gorges de Verdon, one of the top natural sights not just in Provence but in the whole of France.

LAVENDER ROUTE TWO: MONTÉLIMAR TO NYONS

(125 km / 78 miles) Montélimar – Charols - Le Poët Laval - Montjoux – Grignan – La Garde Adhémar - Richerenches – Valréas - Nyons

Map of lavender route from Montelimar to NyonsClick on the map to enlarge the image.

This region, sometimes known as Drôme provençale, is much less crowded than the better-known areas in Routes Three and Five below. It’s low-lying and the lavender blooms early in the season.

From mid-June to mid-July is the best time to come. You’re likely to see lavandin here rather than lavande (true lavender), which needs to grow at higher altitudes.

Along the way, check out the nougat and the Picodon goat’s cheese in Montélimar. Perched on a hill, Le Poët Laval and La Garde Adhémar both rank officially among the Most Beautiful Villages of France. And Grignan is worth a stop too, for its splendid 17th century château.

Especially if there are children in your party, there’s a terrific little side trip you can do just after La Garde Adhémar, to the Crocodile Farm in Pierrelatte.

The next part of the route passes through an historical oddity. It seems that when the Papacy was based in Avignon, the Popes developed a taste for the local wines.

To ensure regular supplies, they bought up land in the region which became known as the Enclave des Papes ("Popes' Enclave"). In more recent times the local population voted to keep this special status.

At the heart of the Enclave, the pretty 16th century village of Richerenches, pictured, is famed for its black truffles (though these are really a winter speciality), and both it and neighbouring Valréas do indeed produce excellent Rhône wine.

richerenches main squareAt this point you might like to take a short detour south to Suze la Rousse, whose 12th century château houses a fascinating wine museum and wine university - with tasting rooms.

Nyons, at one end of the route, is noted for its olives and olive oil and has a big festival celebrating these in late July – though the local lavender may be over by then.

LAVENDER ROUTE THREE: FORCALQUIER TO CASTELLANE

(203 km / 126 miles) Forcalquier - Oraison - Valensole - Mézel - Thoard - Digne les Bains - Châteauredon - Barrême - Saint André les Alpes - Castellane

Map of lavender route from Forcalquier to CastellaneClick on the map to enlarge the image.

This is one of the classic lavender routes of Provence, Looping around the Plateau de Valensole, it offers breathtaking expanses of lavender fields. Expect to see armies of tourists here between mid-June and mid-July, when the blooms are peaking.

Between Valensole and Mézel, you have the opportunity to loop off south to Moustiers Sainte Marie, yet another of the Most Beautiful Villages of France and to the turquoise-blue waters of the Lac de Saint Croix.

Going north from Mézel, Thoard is also a slight detour off the main route. But the land here is mountainous and dramatic and you’re more likely to see late-blooming lavender towards the end of July.

Digne les Bains hosts two of the biggest lavender events in Provence: the Corso, with its flamboyant carnival procession in early August and the region's oldest lavender fair at the end of the month.

And Castellane is the gateway to the Gorges de Verdon.

LAVENDER ROUTE FOUR: NYONS TO SISTERON

(121 km/ 75 miles) Nyons – Entrechaux - Mollans sur Ouvèze - Buis les Baronnies - Montauban sur l’Ouvèze - Laborel-Sisteron

Map of lavender route from Nyons to SisteronClick on the map to enlarge the image.

This route will take you deep into secret Provence and way off the beaten tourist track. It winds through the recently created Regional Park of Les Baronnies (French Regional Parks are rural areas rich in wildlife and of exceptional cultural interest).

Much of the circuit goes through low-lying areas and the lavender should be peaking from mid June-mid July, possibly little later on the higher ground between Montauban and Laborel.

The great French writer Jean Giono came from this region and many of his books, such as The Horseman on the Roof and The Man Who Planted Trees are set here.

You might also visit the ancient Roman city of Vaison la Romaine, just minutes from the route between Nyons and Entrechaux. Vaison’s sister Roman city, Orange, is about half an hour’s drive further.

Mont Ventoux and the vineyards around Gigondas and Beaumes de Venise make for attractive side trips. At the end (or beginning) of the route, Sisteron is an impressive mediaeval town with a dramatic citadel. If eating here, order the locally reared lamb for which it's renowned.

LAVENDER ROUTE FIVE: FERRASSIÈRES TO FORCALQUIER

(139 km / 86 miles) Ferrassières - Sault - Gordes - Coustellet - Apt - Rustrel - Simiane la Rotonde – Banon - Revest des Brousses - Forcalquier

Map of lavender route from Ferrassieres to ForcalquierClick on the map to enlarge the image.

This is probably the ultimate lavender route, taking in not only some of the most iconic landscapes of Provence but also a number of its other key sites. This popular circuit is a magnet for armies of lavender fans.

It winds around the Plateau d'Albion, where the land rises to well over 1000 metres / 3300 feet. That means the lavender continues to bloom until quite late in the season: until the end of July or sometimes early August.

You can start (or end up) in Ferrassières, which hosts the first big lavender festival of the summer, on the first Sunday in July. Sault has several very nice lavender-themed attractions: we especially recommend the Arôma'Plantes farm and distillery.

insider tip on where to see lavender in Augustlavender field at deffends racetrack saultSault is one place in Provence where you are 100 per cent guaranteed to see a lavender field still in bloom in mid-August, whatever the weather.

Pictured, its hippodrome, Déffends, is the highest working one in France and holds horse races throughout the year. It also has a lavender field in the middle of the track!

This lavender is never cut down before 15 August because on that date, during Sault’s annual lavender festival, a competition is held there to harvest it using a sickle.

From Sault you can take time out to drive or ride up the mighty Mont Ventoux, the "Giant of Provence", or take a tour through the Gorges de la Nesque.

Near Gordes (another of the Most Beautiful Villages of France), the twelfth century Abbaye de Sénanque is surrounded by some of the most photographed lavender fields in Provence.

Note that the narrow circular route to and from the abbey from the village is one-way all year round for larger vehicles and from mid-March to the end of September for all vehicles, so be sure to allow plenty of extra time for this visit.

If open, the majestic abbey itself, pictured, is well worth exploring too - but do respect the peace and privacy of the monks who still live and worship there. Coustellet is a slight detour on from Gordes, but it does have a good lavender museum.

abbaye de snanqueApt boasts one of the largest and best street markets in the region (on Saturday mornings) and is renowned for its preserved fruits.

Rustrel, sometimes called the "Colorado provençal", belongs to the region around Roussillon famed for its dramatic, richly coloured ochre landscapes.

Apart from the lavender, Banon's speciality is its gourmet goat's cheese, which comes neatly wrapped in chestnut leaves. Finally, the pleasant historic town of Forcalquier has a large and varied street market on Monday mornings.

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