Provence 101

When most travelers hear Provence, they think of Peter Mayle country, with rolling lavender fields and quirky locals. And while this bucolic reverie does indeed exist, the vast region offers much more to discover. There are historically important towns, like Avignon and Arles; great wineries that can be toured along the Rhône; and rugged landscapes like the Gorges du Verdon, a paradise for hikers and rock climbers.

Courtesy of Robert Palomba

Getting There

It’s easy to explore along the French Riviera and inland Provence, but you should decide where you want the focus to be. If you’re after Peter Mayle’s Provence (ie the Luberon region), it’s easiest set out from Avignon or Marseilles, both quickly reachable from Paris, where you can rent a car and slowly meander through the small towns until you hit the coast.

If seaside escape and the summer scene of the Côte d’Azur are more of a draw, fly directly to Nice and base yourself in Cannes, Antibes or St. Tropez. Main cities, like Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and Nice are well-serviced by train routes. Check the country’s official train Website SNCF ( for time tables.

Courtesy of Domaine de la Baume

Getting Around

Unless you’re happy to stay put in a resort setting, like St.-Tropez, it’s best to rent a car to explore this expansive and beautiful region. The charming villages of the Bouches-du-Rhone and Vaucluse departments (see Lay of the Land) are relatively close and easy to explore in a few days of sightseeing.

Here are some sample distances between the region’s most popular towns:

Avignon to Aix-en-Provence: 51 miles

Avignon to Arles: 22 miles

Avignon to L’Ile-sur-la-Sorgue: 14 miles

Avignon to St.-Remy-de-Provence: 12 miles

Aix-en-Provence to Cannes: 94 miles

Aix en Provence to Salon-de-Provence: 20 miles

Aix-en-Provence to Marseilles: 19 miles

Marseille to Nice: 117 miles

Nice to St. Tropez: 70 miles

Nice to Antibes: 15 miles

Nice to St.-Paul-de-Vence: 11 miles

St.-Tropez to Monaco: 80 miles

St.-Tropez to Aix-en-Provence: 74 miles

St.-Tropez to Antibes: 60 miles

St.-Tropez to Cannes: 47 miles

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