As part of a week or so visiting Provence, are the villages of Luberon (Gordes, Roussillon, Lacoste, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgne) worth a visit? Do I need two days to visit at least three of them? I will be using both Aix and Arles as a base with a car rental so probably be traveling from Aix to the villages.
People rave about Isle-sur-Sorgue, but I didn't see a whole lot going on there. BUT, it was in November and it was not a market day. So probably best to plan for market day there.
The great thing about having a car is that if nothing's going in one town, just drive to the next. Check local papers and even watch for posters around the area for events that might slip through other sources. And/or just ask around with the locals, and check with the tourist offices, of course.
In 2014, we visited both Gordes and Roussillon on a small-group tour from Avignon with Provence Panorama. Gordes was pretty enough, but Roussillon is one of my all-time favorite places. The ocher rock formations surrounding the city are beautiful. My 2019 RS guide says that it has "all the trendy charm of Santa Fe on a hilltop", and that's a pretty good description - I would add that it felt like you were living in a Williams-Sonoma catalog. I also remember that the people working in the shops and cafes and were universally nice and patient.
I would like to go back to Roussillon, if only to get more of the best truffle oil I've ever found.
I would definitely allow two days to check them out. We went through La Coste, and I remember the views and outdoor sculptures.
One year, I spent 3 weeks in L'Isle sur La Sorgue. IMO, the things to do there are to go to the market and wander around the town and look at the antiques shops and it is a great base for exploration of that part of Provence -- less than 40 minutes to all the other towns on your list, for example. That being said, if I were visiting for a day trip, I would go on a market day and get there very early. Things could have changed with COVID-19 but when I was there the market became so crowded during the busiest time that I found it unenjoyable. I stayed in town and would go first thing in the morning and return to my accommodations and then go again when the market was about to close. Then I would spend the rest of the day at wine bar near the market. By around 11 AM at the market, it's almost like you can't stop to look at anything because so many people are moving around and pushing you along.
Roussillon is very touristy but it is so beautiful that it is worth checking out. My holiday card for the year we visited is a picture of one of my children with ochre outcroppings behind him and my other child in a picture with greenery behind her. The cool thing is that they were standing next to each other on a bridge. You could do Gordes and L'Isle sur la Sorgue in one day and Roussillon and Lacoste in the other. I don't think any of these towns needs more than three to fours for a day trip type of visit unless you just want to hang out in the town for a while, which BTW is wonderful. I spent many a a day in Provence doing nothing in small towns but strolling around and stopping in shops and cafes, etc. For both days, you would have between an hour to a 90 minute drive to your starting point and from your second city back home to Arles or Aix-en-Provence.
I absolutely adore Roussillon. We've been there in a thunderstorm too, and it is even more beautiful if that is possible with a black sky and bright light on the colours. Magnificent. I adore Roussillon .
I stayed in (actually just outside) L'Isle-sur-le-Sorgue for a week in June a few years ago and LOVED it. Technically ISLS is not in the Luberon, but is considered the gateway to it. The Luberon villages themselves are dry and hilly, while ISLS is, not surprisingly, an island surrounded by rivulets. For us, having water around was much more appealing than being in the very hot, very dry Luberon. But we did do a day trip to the Rousillon market and the other villages and enjoyed our day in the Luberon.
A highlight for us was to go up to the Fontaine de Vaucluse (the source of the river Sorgue) and canoe down to the town, where the company will pick up the boats and bus you back to your cars.
ISLS is also more conveniently located for other day trips you may want to make, such as Avignon, Pont-du-Gard and Nimes.
L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue's Sunday market brings in major crowds. I'm sure parking is a challenge, so that should be planned ahead of time. I enjoyed the market, but I opted also to visit on a non-market day so I could enjoy the town itself; it's difficult to appreciate the charm amidst all the market stalls.
If you're interested in the antique shops, note that most of them seemed to open only around the weekend. If you show up midweek, you'll probably just be looking in their windows.
To the OP: all are worth a visit, definitely. But not necessarily as overnights, especially with a rental car to drive on narrow busy roads, or trying to find a parking spot in small, crowded towns.
We took a a one day minivan tour of the region - we based in Avignon for our one week stay in Provence, lots of companies around town offer these day tours - no worries about driving or parking - and we went to all of the towns you listed, plus more. I am sure there are similar tour companies offering service from Aix and Arles, too.
You could technically do all three in a long day, with little more than a fly by, as the tours do. But you can easily go and visit more, over many more days, depending on your interest. For example, in Roussillon, you need to go on the little walk through the red hills, departing from the village. When visiting Gordes, you also need to go to the Abbey down below. A nice lunch can also eat into that time -- because the food can be glorious.
If you stay in Aix, you might want to take the trip past Lourmarin and through Bonnieux, on your way to Lacoste. Both are quite nice villages. There are a couple of domaines I quite liked near there, as well. Plan your days so you can hit at least one market day.