Ochres of the Luberon

Ochre area Luberon map The signature colours of Provence are olive green, Mediterranean blue, rosé, lavender and limestone white - except for one amazing swirl of countryside in the Luberon.

Here a quirk of nature has set the landscape ablaze with ochre, a natural pigment in the rock ranging from soft gold to burnt orange, russet red and burnt sienna brown. It's the largest ochre deposit in Europe.

You can explore a vast range of variations on the ochre theme, for all tastes and age groups. If you simply want to wander at leisure through some unusual scenery, head for the red village streets of Roussillon and its Ochre Trail (Sentier des Ocres), a short and easy hike through the dazzling surrounding landscape.

The "provençal Colorado" route near Rustrel, north-east of Apt, is preferred by many as being wilder and further off the beaten track. You can visit it on your own or take one of the guided tours offered on a range of themes. We'll be reporting on it in more detail in due course.

If you want to find out a little more about ochre, you can go round the disused Mines of Bruoux in Gargas, a vast underground cathedral of colour. Or you can visit France's last working open-air ochre quarry, also in Gargas (the latter is by prior arrangement with the local Town Hall).

Just outside Roussillon, check out the Conservatoire des ocres et de la couleur - also known as the Usine Mathieu - a former factory where this raw ochre was processed. Today it offers tours of the production facility and a varied and lively programme of art workshops.

Unfortunately you can't visit France's last working ochre factory over in Apt. But that city's Musée de l'Aventure industrielle (Museum of the Industrial Adventure) explores ochre production, as well as other local industries such as ceramics and candied fruit.

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The official regional website Vaucluse Tourism in Provence has more information on these and other attractions in the area.

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Ochre path smallAt the western edge of the Luberon's ochre country, russet-red Roussillon sits on a hill 10 km / 6 miles east of Gordes and is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France).

Tour inside Mines of BruouxOne of the most unusual attractions in Luberon's ochre country is a tour of the Bruoux Mines, in Gargas, a disused underground quarry converted into an imposing cathedral of colour.

Ochre jarsA brightly painted building nestling in yellow ochre cliffs and pine woods just outside Roussillon, the Conservatoire des ocres et de la couleur plunges you into a dazzling world of colour.

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