Arguably the most irresistible region in France, Provence ranges from the snow-capped mountains of the southern Alps to the delta plains of the Camargue, and boasts Europe’s greatest canyon, the Gorges du Verdon. Fortified towns guard its ancient borders; countless villages perch defensively on hilltops; and great cities like Arles, Aix and Avignon are full of cultural glories. The sensual inducements of Provence include sunshine, food and wine, and the heady perfumes of Mediterranean vegetation. Small wonder it has for so long attracted the rich and famous, the artistic and reclusive, and ever-growing throngs of summer visitors.

The Mediterranean shoreline of Provence is covered separately in our Côte d’Azur chapter. Away from the coastal resorts, inland Provence remains remarkably unscathed. Evidence of its many inhabitants – Greeks, Romans, raiding Saracens, schismatic popes, and an endless succssion of competing counts and princes – remains everywhere apparent. Provence only became fully integrated into France in the nineteenth century and, though just a tiny minority speak the Provençal language, the accent is distinctive even to a foreign ear. In the east, the rhythms of speech become clearly Italian.

Unless you have months to expore, the main difficulty in visiting Provence is choosing where to go. In the west, along the Rhône valley, are the Roman cities of Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine and Arles, and the papal city of Avignon, with its fantastic summer festival. Aix-en-Provence, the mini-Paris of the region, was home to Cézanne, for whom the Mont Ste-Victoire was an enduring subject, while Van Gogh is forever linked with St-Rémy and Arles. The Gorges du Verdon, the Parc National du Mercantour along the Italian border, Mont Ventoux northeast of Carpentras, and the flamingo-filled lagoons of the Camargue offer stunning and widely disparate landscapes.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

All the clichés about Paris are true – stylish, romantic, glamorous and utterly compelling – yet it retains surprises that continue to delight even the mos…

26 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, afforda…

26 Aug 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
22 incredible pictures of Corsica

22 incredible pictures of Corsica

Just off the south of France, and closer to the coast of Italy, the small, mountainous island of Corsica lies in wait for the three million tourists that visit …

14 Jul 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month