And there it is, I succumbed. For years I’ve been telling myself that I need to go see the lavender fields, for years I’ve been missing it because I always woke up too late. But not this time! You have to know that going to see the lavender fields and especially in Valensole requires a minimum of planning. Indeed, the window is very thin, you can’t come at any time of the year! We will see it below, but in the best case we have between 3 weeks and one month, at the end of July and the beginning of August, to admire all that.
In this article, I will tell you everything I know, whether it is to stay several days (I stayed there for a week) or for a day coming from the southern cities as it is generally done. But I will give you the good places, the nice corners, the best times to come, in short absolutely all the questions I asked myself and to which I could find answers, to organize this great trip.
But I will also talk about photography! Because, in addition to being the star of Instagram for 3 weeks, Valensole and its lavender fields are also a great place to watch the milky way. Let’s take a look at it all.
When to see the lavender fields in Valensole
As I told you in the preamble, the lavender fields bloom late and are cut soon after, usually a month after at the latest. But it depends on the place ! Because the flowering depends on the heat and the altitude while the end depends on the producers! In the south of France, it will go from the end of May to mid-August. But in Valensole :
- in general it starts mid-June. Except that sometimes it is late. Last year, because of the weather, it started the last week of June.
- and the show ends in mid-July. It depends on two things. First of all, the last bloomings which are done at this period, but especially the cuttings which begin the 2nd week of July. In general, they start cutting on July 14, or a bit before.
But in Valensole, there are so many lavender fields that it takes time, so even the 3rd week of July you can have some. Except that I don’t recommend it. You won’t have the lavender fields as far as the eye can see, and the 2/3 emblematic places (with trees, houses) might already be cut. That’s why I recommend the 2nd week of July at the latest, as far as Valensole is concerned.
So last year, as it started late and they started cutting on July 13th, we had only 3 weeks. So the window is short!
But if you plan for the last week of June or the first week of July, you’re sure to hit the nail on the head.
See the lavender fields in Valensole
So you have to know that in this region, you will find lavender fields a little bit everywhere. But really everywhere. Except that most of them are small, sometimes wild. Pretty but nothing crazy. But what is great about Valensole is that it is a huge plateau with lavender fields as far as the eye can see and very nice places.
The plateau of Valensole, I will indicate it to you in the map below, is really easy of access and it is almost impossible to miss it. There are two roads, one that goes north, one that goes south, and between the two, lavender. And it is even better than that because the fields are not limited to these two roads, it is just necessary to have a little more time to go to see further.
We call it the Valensole plateau, but it starts before the (pretty) village of Valensole and goes all the way to Puimoisson, which is hardly mentioned. On more than 10km, it is a succession of lavender so there is room for everyone, it is super practical! And what is also nice, it is that we will find fields of sunflowers. They are not always open, however I had the chance to see them, I will also tell you where
The most beautiful places
So I think a lot of us have seen photos of Valensole on various social networks and so we have several images, several pretty iconic places that stand out and that we’re going to want to capture. No worry, they are rather easily found. And there are others which deserve the detour!
My very first tip is to take the dirt roads that go into the lavender fields. The main roads are good, but the paths are better. First of all you will have much less people! People mainly come for one day and will go around, come to the 2/3 main fields and hop they leave. But they come in droves. So by taking these little paths you’ll be in the middle of the fields (they’re super large, I repeat) and pretty much alone. It’s much more pleasant. Then, taking these small paths leads to nice places. Rolling fields, photogenic trees, nice views of the mountains and no one getting in the way (which is not a luxury :D) No really, test these paths, you have time to do it!
The most famous and popular place of the Valensole plateau is probably the famous hut located in the heart of a beautiful lavender field. It’s called the house of Marius but it’s just because there is a billboard of this store in front of it (by the way, very efficient not to miss it!).
This hut is really great because the field is not flat, it’s a bit hilly so it’s even more photogenic. It’s a great place for the sunrise or the sunset and you can take pictures from several possible directions, really nice.
On the other hand, it is really the most touristic place. To have nobody on the photo is almost a feat because we will have both photographers and people wanting to immortalize themselves in the lavender fields. So it makes a little traffic. But that is organized rather well, each one its line and hop. But it’s funny to see the ballet of pretty dresses
Another hut with a cypress tree is very photogenic. Located at the very beginning of the plateau, just after the exit of the village, it may however disappoint some. Indeed, this lavender field has been abandoned and is therefore no longer maintained. So we will see weeds, a little more crazy side. It gives another cachet and it remains photogenic, not bad at all for the sunrise !
Just before the village of Valensole, we will find a huge playground: the Angelvin lavender fields. And there, it is great. First of all we are going to find these famous “wavy” fields which give a great perspective. And what is cool, it is that we find there notably trees at the end, very photogenic trees of which the famous heart shaped tree (well, according to the seasons!). It’s also a very popular place so if you want this tree for the sunset, you’ll have to arrive early 😀
And right next door, we’ll have the sunflower fields. This is also great! Especially that we have lavender and sunflower side by side, that can give nice pictures especially for the sunset. And especially that these two fields are immense. Moreover if we take the way between the two fields, we arrive at a small house right in the axis with the mountains behind for the sunset. It’s a must, especially since there are a little less people around here
And a little bit before on the road to Manosque, there is another very large sunflower field, also very nice. Well oriented for the sunset, and just next to it we will find another lavender field
If you go to the end of the plateau, you have the road that goes down to Puimoisson. Take the paths that go into the fields because you will come across beautiful places, hills, trees, places with almost no people.
I really like the road that goes from Valensole to Puimoisson, the one that passes to the south of the plateau, because there is no one there. There are big fields on both sides of the road, and in particular a place I like a little bit out of the way on the right, with hills and the mountains just behind. I’ll show you all that on the map
Just at the exit of Gréoux les Bains, on the road that goes to Valensole, there are nice little lavender fields that have the particularity of not having any straight lines. It’s surprising, photogenic again, it deserves a few little photo breaks!
Map of Valensole
I have indicated in the map below the different locations, the nice places. But don’t hesitate to discover by yourself, take the paths, the roads even if you don’t know where it leads, that’s often how you get surprises!
Sunrise and sunset in Valensole
If you’re into beautiful colors or photography (or both, really), the lavender fields are a great place to watch the sunrise and sunset. So already for the colors in the sky, yes, but especially because the lavender will really change color. At the end of the day, the colors are going to be very vivid, the purple really strong and orange tints thanks to the sun.
All the points I have indicated above are good spots. Just remember to check the weather forecast, especially for the sunrise, so you don’t wake up for nothing 😀
And the classic advice, a sunrise starts before sunrise time, the colors are more beautiful before, just as for the sunset it’s even better after. And advantage, there are less people, everyone leaves once it’s down!
Photographing the Milky Way in Valensole
Still in the theme of photography, the Valensole plateau is also a great place to photograph the Milky Way. Except that here, it requires a little organization.
Indeed, it is necessary to have a dark night, so no full moon. The ideal being to come for the new moon, and normally there will be one on the 3/4 weeks of flowering of the lavender.
Then, you have to know where the milky way is. Because… it turns! and it is not necessarily in the right place at the right time. So for that I advise to use the application Photopills which has, among other things, a milky way planner. That is to say that you can know where it is at a given time, in which direction. Super practical.
Finally, the weather. If the sky is cloudy and doesn’t plan to clear, it’s kind of useless to go out. So you have to plan ahead a little bit.
In terms of technique, there are several ways to photograph the Milky Way. Some basics:
- exposure time of 15 seconds max, otherwise you see the stars moving
- the largest possible aperture, i.e. 2.8 or more (the best being 1.4 or 1.8)
- a manual focus at infinity
- high ISO but not too much (to avoid noise), so between 1600 or 3200
- a delay of 2 seconds or more to launch the picture (to avoid moving the camera) or a remote control (much better)
This is the simple version. Then there are other ways to sublimate the photo, the foreground or the milky way.
As you focus on infinity with a maximum aperture, the foreground will probably be blurred. So for that you will have to take the same picture (well you can change the parameters, iso, exposure… just not the location) on the foreground, then on the milky way. So we have the foreground and the background in focus. Finally you need to assemble these photos in Photoshop.
The more photos you make with different focus (1st, 2nd… background), the sharper your photo will be. But it takes time.
To sublimate the Milky Way, you have a technique that consists of taking several photos in a row and overlaying them in Photoshop again. On the other hand, as the earth rotates, there is a risk that the stars are a little out of place. You need to use a little software called Sequator which will take this parameter into account before compiling the photos. I recommend this great video from the photographer Alyn Wallace.
Finally, another possibility is to use a star tracker. This means that you will be able to take many pictures and long exposures of the Milky Way without worrying because your camera will follow the rotation of the earth. Super practical! Well, afterwards, you have to compile these pictures and take a clear picture of the foreground because it will be blurred, since the camera will have moved.
What to do near Valensole
So I confess that as I was working during the day, I didn’t have much time to visit the surroundings. However we will find a lot of things to do !
- the lake of Esparron is located at the exit of Gréoux les bains and it is really pretty. Formed by a dam, we have very nice landscapes, some small beaches and not many people. I liked to attend the sunset, there are nice lights
- Gréoux les bains is a small thermal city. Well, I wasn’t there for that, but it looks famous so why not. I stayed there because it’s pretty and practical
- the lake of Sainte Croix, a beautiful lake with crazy colors! It’s quite touristic but we understand why. Positive point, there are so many beaches that there is space for everyone.
- The Gorges du Verdon start here. Unfortunately I didn’t have the courage (with the heat) to go very far, but it’s beautiful!
- The superb village of Moustiers Sainte Marie, capital city of earthenware but not only! It is at the foot of the mountains, really very very pretty. Small streets, it goes up and down, it’s beautiful, it’s typical and the setting is great.
- the small town of Manosque. I won’t be able to tell you about it, I didn’t manage to park there and therefore couldn’t discover it. But it looks nice!
- on the highway I passed by Sisteron and it looks great, especially with its citadel perched above the city
- Not far you have the Baronnies Provençales that I don’t know at all
Practical information about Valensole
How long to visit the lavender fields of Valensole
Well… it depends! It depends on what you want to do, what your goals are. You can do it in one day from Aix, Marseille, or other cities in the area. You go around, that can be enough. Two days is a good idea, it allows you to take a little more time.
If your goal is to take pictures and take time, then it would be between 3 days and a week. Because there are many points of view! And to take the milky way, the different sunsets, it is better to have some time. In general the photographers stay 4/5 days. That avoids the hazards of the weather.
After that, you can also stay longer and use your landing spot to radiate around.
Where to stay in the area
So I settled in Gréoux les Bains. It’s a nice little village, 20min from Valensole and ideal for exploring the region.
For private lodgings, house or apartments, we will find nice apartments and houses between 50 and 100€, as you can see here. But it is also the case in Valensole! It is necessary to take it early on the other hand because that is booked very quickly.
In terms of bed & breakfast, guest houses and nice hotels, there is a lot to possibilities in the area. I think in particular of this guest room with swimming pool and jacuzzi, an apartment in this superb castle ! Or, cherry on the cake, the Lou Limbert gite which offers a superb view on the lavender fields !
For a small price, we will go towards this pretty village house at 65€ per night, or a little further on the Best Western of Manosque
How to get to Valensole
Well, without a car it’s complicated. There is a regional train station in Manosque, two TGV train stations in Aix and Marseille. And from there you will need a car. Because even if you get to Gréoux or Valensole by bus, it is impossible to go to the heart of the lavender fields by transport. Then you could take a cab but it will really cost a lot of money. I’ll tell you about it below, there are some rare agencies for day tours.
Discover the lavender fields of Valensole with a tour
So in general I prefer to discover places alone. But that’s because I’m lucky enough to have a driving license. If you want to discover Valensole without a car, it is possible to go through agencies that propose a day of discovery from Aix en Provence or Marseille. In general, it starts with the visit of l’Occitane in the morning or a distillery of the plateau of Valensole, a lunch in Valensole at noon and the afternoon in the lavender. A nice program!
And that’s it! Now you know pretty much everything about the lavender fields of Valensole. When to go (which is kind of the most important), the nicest places, where to stay, what to do in the area… And what’s really cool is that it doesn’t stop at lavender, the surrounding landscapes are beautiful and if you do a little bit of photography it will be a real paradise for you! So whether it’s for a day of discovery or several days, you can be sure not to regret it 🙂