©Le Pelley S.

5 excursions to awaken your senses in the Luberon Regional Nature Reserve

A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Geopark, the Luberon Regional Nature Reserve is home to stunning mountains and remarkable plant and animal life. Keep your eyes peeled during your walks – you might just come across an Egyptian vulture or Zygaena moth fluttering above a red hellborine, the reserve’s iconic orchid. Get set for a feast for the senses!

Venture into the “Mines de Bruoux” in Gargas

Treat yourself to a tour of the history and prehistory-packed geological site of Gargas in the Luberon, surrounded by vines and ochre quarries standing out against green, pine-laden hills. The Mines de Bruoux in Gargas , a “Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional” site, promises a fascinating voyage into the heart of the Luberon’s ochre traditions. Lined with head-spinning cliffs bedecked with flamboyant colours and a gigantic labyrinth of underground shafts, the quarry is a genuine adventure unto itself! Discover the monumental remains of the golden years of the ochre industry as you explore the 40 km of galleries, rising to a staggering 15 metres in height, in the company of your guide. The 650-metre underground route offers a superb glimpse into the geological, historic and industrial treasures of this preserved site.

Get familiar with fragrance at the “Musée de la Lavande” in Coustellet

Located in Calavon valley, in Coustellet, not far from Gordes, the Musée de la Lavande (a “Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional” museum) is an astonishing repository of Provence lavender. Set inside a traditional Provencal country house built with Gordes dry stone, bedecked with a lavender plot, olive trees and umbrella pines, this must-see museum is both rejuvenating and definitely different! It is the first museum dedicated to Provence fine lavender or “lavandula officinalis Chaix”. This iconic ethnology site at the heart of the Luberon Regional Nature Reserve exalts the many facets of the queen of flowers, together with the expertise of its growers. Opt for the “Vraie Lavande de Provence” tour to learn everything you need to know about the history, botany, growing, harvesting, distillation, uses and properties of this symbolic, sweet-smelling shrub.

An immersion in Provencal flora at the “Jardin Conservatoire des Plantes Tinctoriales”

Perched on a rocky spur between the Durance river and Luberon mountain, the delightfully-authentic village of Lauris is home to the Jardin Conservatoire des Plantes Tinctoriales, a holder of the “Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional” label. Unique in France, this botanical garden, boasting magnificent vistas over Durance valley, is entirely dedicated to dye plants used for dyeing, cosmetics and food. The walk along the 50 thematic plots unveils over 300 varieties of dye plants traditionally grown in Europe and all over the world. What’s more, the passionate botanist-gardener in charge of this beautiful little haven is always delighted to answer questions!

A voyage back in time at the Artemisia Museum in Forcalquier

An ancient stronghold of the Counts of Provence, the historic quarter of Forcalquier offers an alluring array of old lanes, squares, Gothic fountains and magnificent old houses, perfect for a relaxing stroll. The Artemisia Museum, set inside the prestigious, 13th-century Couvent des Cordeliers, is a haven of peace swathed in gardens, exhaling a thousand and one precious fragrances. Among them, you’ll find roses, aromatic plants, perennials and heritage fruit orchards. The interactive and immersive layout invites visitors to delve into the fascinating history of aromatic, medicinal and perfume plant growing on Lure mountain – now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve -, through 7 exhibition spaces exploring ancient herbalists, local biodiversity, lavender and alcohol distilleries, and cosmetics and perfume manufacture.

Continue the adventure at the La Thomassine conservatory in Manosque

Reputed for its AOC wines and literature alike, the hills of the home town of Provencal author Jean Giono promise a magnificent show of orchards and botanical gardens, planted with a magnificent palette of plants tamed by the hand of man. Don’t miss a visit to La Thomassine, a holder of the “Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional” label: a rural botanical conservatory sheltering 400 heritage fruit tree varieties (apples, pears, olives, almonds, peach, fig and more), testifying to the ancient and intimate ties between man and nature. Promising a delightful and instructive stroll, the guided tour of this unique site offers up a world of plants good enough to eat… Start your tour with a visit to the permanent exhibition to gain a better understanding of the ancient fruit domestication process, designed to select and proliferate wild fruit varieties adapted to the local soil.

Natural spaces differently