Exploring Provence allows for so many fun things to do in combination, especially for those who love both history and outdoor sports, in particular hiking, climbing or biking.
Many of the chapels, castles/chateaux and historical monuments are located in areas that you can reach only by foot or biking. When coming to Provence with the intention of hiking and seeing the sites, there are a few things you should know and/or do before preparing for your adventure.
When I first started to explore Provence, I wasn’t an avid hiker, cycler or mountain climbing person. Sure, I was an outdoorsy kind of girl, but growing up and living most of my life next to the coast in Southern California meant that you would find me passing the time at the beach or jet-skiing and water skiing at the local lake. I never hiked, biked or mountain climbed until I moved to France. Consequently, I knew nothing about it. I don’t just mean safety tips, I also mean where to go, how to get there, how to navigate my GPS and how not to get lost.
There are so many hikes in Provence that there would be no way to conquer them all in a single life time, though I would like to. Driving down any country road you will inevitably see cars pulled off to the side of the road because a hike is nearby.
Don’t Try and Be a Hiking Guru by Yourself
Now, in the beginning or my infancy on hiking-know-how, I would just follow the lead of others. That meant me saying, “Oh look there’s a hike! Let’s go”, and proceed to park my car and start on the trail. The only problem with that in my zealousness I never knew where I was going. Some of the trails I have found actually start off as one trail only to end up at a crossroads with several trails jutting out and not knowing which one is the right one to take. Believe me, there are wrong ones. After several experiences of following the wrong trails my husband starting getting upset with me and told me that I had better start to do my research before going on anymore hikes or he would refuse to go with me and I’d be going alone……with the wild boars.
Not wanting to fight off the beastly animals by myself, I set about to find a few sources on hiking the surrounding area. I wanted not only sources that told me about where the hikes were, but also GPS locations, topographical maps, colored trail lines, the difficulty of the hike, how long the duration of the hike was and any other information I would need before setting out.
My Top Picks for Information about Hiking in Provence
For my first adventures, I was able to weed it down to a book, a box of walking cards and one hiking magazine. Though there are infinitely more, here are my top suggestions so you can have both an interesting and safe hiking experience while on vacation.
Walking in Provence by Janette Norton
Product: Walking in Provence – West: Drôme Provençal, Vaucluse, Var
Price: $11.75 for Kindle, $21.45 Paperback
Where to Purchase: Amazon.com
My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
Walking in Provence hits it right on the money for me and not just because it concentrates on the area in which I live. Firstly, the writer gives you some background history on Provence, the specialties of the areas, the markets, the historic monuments, etc. This is a really good and quick overview to give some nice background and helpful information, especially if this is the first time you will be in Provence or the first time you’re going to go out on a limb and hike this beautiful region.
Next, the writer breaks everything down into three areas of Provence and within those areas she breaks it down even further to tell you about the best hikes in those areas, along with an overview map. I love this because I’m a visual person and I want to be able to centralize where I am headed and what else is around there.
Thirdly, she tells you about 30 different hikes that are her favorite and gives you detailed information about those hikes, which is all the stuff necessary to ensure you have a great time and don’t get lost. That not getting lost part is essential!
Lastly, there is a nice, little appendix that gives some both fun and important information. My favorite fun-bit being the glossary of Provencal words.
All is all, Walking in Provence is nicely put together, a good read and it gives all the information required to have a good, safe trip.
Walker’s Provence in a Box by Adrian Woodford
Product: Walker’s Provence in a Box
Price: $19.95 a box
Where to Purchase: Amazon.com
My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
Walker’s Provence in a Box is, without a doubt, one of the more ingenious things I’ve ever come across. It’s literally a box of 35, laminated cards, which has a walk/hike on each of them. Each card has:
· The distance of the walk
· How difficult the walk is
· Place to stay near your walk
· A map of the walk
· An itinerary of the walk and
· Beautiful photos of Provence.
The walks/hikes can range from a short stint to a couple of days depending on how much of an avid hiker or newbie you are. The cool thing about the laminated cards is that you can take the one card you want for the day, put it in your pocket or backpack and leave the box behind. No worries if it’s rainy or you’re building up some sweat, the lamination protects the cards!
The only Con with respect to the many Pros is that you should bring a guide book or map as a backup because some of the information is not always complete enough to get you by. If you know the area well enough, you should be fine, but if you don’t you will need additional guide book or source. Still, it’s well worth the purchase.
En Balade La Provence- Magazine
Product: En Balade La Provence – Magazine
Price: 2,80 Euros per issue
Where to Purchase: laprovence.com
My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
I’m an avid reader of this magazine which is all about hiking in Provence and Corsica. I first came upon this nice piece of helpfulness while waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket. The very first hike I took from one of their suggestions lead me to an all day love affair with the Mediterranean and I was hooked for life.
The first part of the magazine features several hikes (normally 10) and devotes a few pages to each hike. There are lots of photos, practical information like difficulty, distance, where to park, where to start the hike, etc. It also gives a very nice and lengthy article on what you will expect to find and see and also the history of the area and any historical monuments you will see on your hike. It also gives information on a good restaurant selection in the area, a recommend place to stay and what other things to see and do.
Towards the back of the magazine, it gives a short synopsis on weekend hikes and outdoorsy things to do, groups to contact in order to do outings with other like-minded people and different suggestions of what to do in the region based on what time of the year you are planning a visit.
I love this magazine and practically eat it up when I get the next issue. It’s really contributed to me meeting other people who also love to hike or just enjoy getting out in nature and having fun with the regional festivities.
There are two Cons with regards to this magazine:
- As far as I know, it only comes in French. So I would not recommend it as sole guide it if you don’t know any French at all. The one exception would be if you are an avid hiker. From the information given and your experience you could easily figure out the necessary information. However, if you are not an avid hiker then I recommend using it along with another guide book in English to help you out.
- I’ve only been able to find it at the supermarket or online here.
The magazine is only 2.80€ for each issue so well worth the investment even if you get it just to see the wonderful photos of the area and hikes. It could also help you to decide what hikes you would like to take and then combine that with a hiking book in English.
Final Thoughts on Hiking in Provence
So there you have it, my three recommended sources for having a wonderful time while hiking and sightseeing in Provence. Besides just knowing the area and where to go, as always, be safe and follow some simple rules (this is not a complete set of rules by any means):
- Bring plenty of water (especially in the summer months when it is extremely hot and humid)
- Bring food and extra snacks
- Avoid getting run down. Take breaks
- We’re appropriate clothing for the weather. It gets very cold in Provence in the winter so always bring or wear a jacket and warm clothes.
- Wear long pants in the summer to protect against scraps and scratches from the plant life and bug bites.
- Avoid hiking in areas where signs are posted saying “chasse”or “chasse gardée” or chasse en cours”. This means hunters are around and the season here runs from October 1 through February 28/29. Stay far way during hunting season!
- Even if you are hiking on clearly marked trails during hunting season, invest in a bright orange jacket/vest/sweatshirt. That way you can be clearly seen in the event that hunters are present.
- Have fun and always respect nature and our precious monuments so others can enjoy them in the future.
I would love to hear how your adventure went and also if you find my suggested guides helpful so please let me know by leaving me a comment below.