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Help with itinerary in Provence

My husband and I are going to Provence in May, and I need help in planning our itinerary. I have a "wish list", but I don't know how much we can see in one day so that I can determine how long we should plan on staying. I originally thought four days, but now I'm thinking maybe five? I know two weeks would be great, but we just can't. My husband definitely doesn't want to drive, so we will be using buses, trains or tours.

Arles sounded nice for our home base, but because our flight out of Marseille is at 7:20 AM, I thought we might stay in Aix a night or two at the end. I also thought it might make more sense as far as some of the day trips also. I love to take pictures, so quaint little towns and great scenery are a priority for me. Roman ruins too. Wine tasting not necessary but OK if there's time.

Here is my wish list:

  1. Arles (arrive mid-day, so I thought we could tour that on our own that day)

  2. Le Baux - St. Remy

  3. Avignon - Nimes - Pont du Gard - Uzes (possibly--or other town if it might be better?)

  4. Orange - Chateauneuf du Pape (possibly, if there's time) - Vaison la Romaine

  5. Isle sur la Sorgue - Roussillon - Gordes - Lourmarin

  6. Aix-en-Provence - Cassis - Calanques (definitely don't want to miss)

I'm wondering how to group these, how many to see in a day (Can 2 and 3 be done in one day?), where is the best place to leave from, and whether we can see these on our own or if we should plan on using a guide. Private tours are definitely not in the budget, but small groups might be. Perhaps a guide is more important for certain sights and others are fine on our own? I would appreciate any suggestions on tours as well.

Thanks very much!

Posted by
1974 posts

We traveled to many of these places in Oct. 2013 by public transportation, but we had a week in Isle, four nights each in Marseille and Arles, and two nights in Aix. I believe the bus from Arles to St Remy only runs June-Sept. We went to St Remy by bus and it took up most of a day because we walked the Van Gogh trail there. Cassis is another most-of-a-day trip from Marseille on the bus. For the Calanques you would need to do a tour. Same with Roussillon and Gordes. We made a bus trip from Isle to Lourmarin. There went another day! You could easily enjoy a day each in Avignon and Nimes. Getting to Pont du Gard and Uzes is possible by public transportation but, again, very time-consuming. There are tour compenies, primarily from Avignon, that do several sites in one day, but we chose not to do those. If you were based in Avignon, you could conceivably do Orange and Vaison in one day. Happy planning!

Posted by
3897 posts

A swing around Orange and the famous Chateau, now much reduced (well, a ruin), is an easy day trip unless you get distracted by wine shops. Once you have seen the outdoor ampitheatre at Orange there is not a great deal to hold you there.

Posted by
11613 posts

I based in Nimes last summer and daytripped to Arles, Orange, and Pont du Gard by train/ bus. I chose Nimes because it has good public transportation connections to other places. In Orange, there is a very good restaurant built into the ruins of the amphitheatre.

Posted by
4125 posts

These are great destinations, but I do not think you will be able to see them all in the time you have without a car. Days 3, 5, and 6 seem particularly problematic.

The easiest sights are on rail lines (and there are some great ones). In season buses connect more sights, but may not run frequently.

You need to track down the bust schedules and a map and see what is really feasible and plan accordingly.

Posted by
6898 posts

I agree with Adam. I don't think that you will see all of these areas by using public transportation. I just can't believe that buses and trains run frequently enough for you to make this schedule. We were in Provence a couple of years ago and did see everything you have on your list. But, we had a rental car. Plus, we had only 3 days and it looks like you will have 5. Much better. We rented our car in the Nimes train station and stayed in Avignon. A lot of driving to see all of these places. The drive out to Roussillon, Gordes and Lourmarin was really an all-day affair. We did have a long lunch in Lourmarin. It was just beautiful there. As you mentioned in your post, there may be tour groups that can take you to some of these locations. By the way, it is very easy to drive in Provence. Just make sure you have a GPS

Posted by
3696 posts

I am a photographer and there is nothing worse for me than passing a beautiful field of lavender or sunflowers while on public transportation and not being able to stop. I always have a car whenever possible and provence is a really easy place to drive. I usually base myself in St. Remy and do day trips from there. My favorite town with a great market as well as easy to get in and out of with my car (not busy like Avignon or Aix).

Posted by
3696 posts

I have stayed at Les Atelier de l'Image (sp)(pricey but very nice) right in town, and I have also stayed at the Hotel Van Gogh (very reasonable and rather sparse) a couple of blocks walk into the center of town. I stayed at Atelier with a group of photographers so we probably got a break on the price.

Posted by
809 posts

My daughter and I spent a week in Languedoc/Provence last summer, staying in Montpellier [where she had done a summer study program] and Avignon; our flight from Marseille was at 6.40 am so we spent the last night at an airport hotel. We were mostly visiting the Roman ruins and did a lot with public transit - though when we got to Nimes in the morning we found an agricultural fair right outside the train station, so of course we had to look at the sheepdogs and goats and ducks, and as we headed off to the Arena we ran into a parade of old cars! So build in extra time... On our penultimate day, we still had a lot to see so we splurged on a day tour "Chocolate, wine, villages, monuments" with Provence Panorama, which totaled $250 for the two of us, and it was outstanding. We were the only people on the tour so could tailor it to our interests [of course that won't always happen] so instead of doing an olive oil tasting we stopped at Glanum, an excavated Roman village that was fascinating. I just visited the Provence Panorama website to remember the name of our tour and all the things we saw, and I see that my TripAdvisor review is on that page. It was a great day and we were able to see so many things: St Remy, Glanum, Les Baux, Pont du Gard [had lunch there], Orange, Chateauneuf du Pape, and then the chocolate/wine tasting. Of course there are a number of other tours, some half day ones that are less expensive.

I agree with the other responders that you really will not be able to see Avignon, Nimes, and Pont du Gard in one day using public transportation; P du G in particular is not easy to get to, so you'll need to prune your itinerary or try something like the tour we did. Good luck and have a great time!