Once you’ve had your fill of Aix-en-Provence’s leafy boulevards and square-side cafes, you’ll soon realise it’s the ideal spot from which to explore the surrounding region. Whether you’re a wine aficionado, a history buff or an avid adventurer, these day trips out of Aix’s will tickle every fancy.
You’ll be one of many out of towners visiting this beautiful (and very popular) old village clinging to the side of Plateau de Vaucluse. Stone houses and narrow cobbled streets encircle an imposing 12th-century castle making for one seriously stunning visual, especially during sunrise and sunset when the entirety glows in a bright orange hue. So it’s no wonder Gordes has been home to famous artists like André Lhote, Marc Chagall, Jean Deyrolle, Victor Vasarely and Pol Mara. Learn more about the extensive history of the region as you explore the Saint-Firmin church, Bories village and the Sénanque Abbey.
An hour by car and a little longer by train will get you to the Gallo-Roman city of Arles on the banks of the Rhône. Its history dates back to the 7th century BC and is reflected in every sunny square and cobblestone alley of the rustic region. It’s also renowned for its influence on Van Gogh and his artwork which you can explore in depth at Fondation Vincent Van Gogh. Other highlights include the preserved colosseum of Les Arènes and Musée Réattu, but make the trip on Saturday to enjoy one of the best farmer’s markets in Provence.
There is a way to enjoy the French Riviera without the hordes of croc-schlepping tourists and it’s the best kept secret in the South of France. That secret is the quaint Mediterranean fishing village of Cassis. Shadowed by a centuries-old château and imposing rock formation, the picturesque, pastel-shaded town is known for its pebbled beaches, fresh seafood and the stunning parc national des Calanques. Arrive early (it only takes an hour by car and train) to hike through the area, exploring the limestone-edged inlets and breathtaking scenery.
4. Gorges du Verdon
Those looking for a bit of action and adventure from their day tripping should head to the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’ – Gorges du Verdon. The spectacular 21-kilometre-long natural wonder features sheer cliffs up to 700 metres high bordering the bright turquoise of the Verdon river. While there are many vantage points along its path, the best way to experience it is by canoe, kayak or whitewater raft.
An hour and a half drive will get you to this fairytale town of foodie highlights but be sure to take the route that passes the iconic Pont du Gard. The epic, perfectly preserved Roman aqueduct (and prime Instagramming opportunity) can be found half an hour before you reach Uzès. Once you arrive in town, explore the ducal palace and surrounding medieval residences before going to town at the local farmer’s markets. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, Place aux Herbes becomes a tight maze of stalls hawking cheese, bread, meat, olives, flowers, crafts, snacks and souvenirs – everything you need for the car ride home, basically.
6. Lavender fields
Is there anything more quintessentially Provencial than swathes of lavender fields in vivid full bloom? No, so it is basically essential that your trip to the region involves a few hundred images of yourself flitting around the flowers. You can explore the different farms on your own by car or bike or join one of many tours of the region departing Aix-en-Provence daily.
Provence is world renowned for its top notch wines particularly dry rosés, deep reds and aromatic whites. Make a day of the world’s best pastime with one of the many winery tours based in Aix-en-Provence, drinking your way through the best drops the region has to offer while possibly retaining some of the interesting information about history, production, etc, etc.