Sainte‑Victoire mountain

The Sainte-Victoire mountain extends between Aix-en-Provence and Pourrières, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, at the junction with the Var, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It culminates at 1,011 meters and is 18 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. It has become a true symbol of Provence, especially thanks to the numerous works painted by Paul Cézanne that represent it.

You can explore the site during a hike on the east or west side. Many trails wind through the mountain and offer breathtaking views. For the sportspersons, there are other activities available on the site such as rock climbing, mountain biking and paragliding.

Since 2004, the Sainte-Victoire mountain has been recognized as a “Grand Site de France”. It is part of the national natural heritage and is the largest contiguous wooded area in the Bouches-du-Rhône department.

Historical monuments

During your discovery of Sainte-Victoire, enjoy its religious heritage. Indeed, the history of the site is marked by major events and emblematic characters. By walking along the Sainte-Victoire trails, you can learn more about the natural environment as well as the historical monuments of the massif.

The Sainte-Victoire Priory, built in the XVIIth century, is located on the site of a former hermitage dating back to the Vth century. The priory has a chapel and a convent which today serves as a mountain refuge. It is located almost at the top of the Sainte-Victoire and offers a unique panorama.

You can also visit the Saint Ser Hermitage, a chapel rebuilt after several destructions. It reminds us of the hermit Servus who lived in a cave in the Vth century and who was executed.

Your hike will certainly lead you to the Croix de Provence (Provence Cross), perched at the tip of the massif. At the Pic des Mouches, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the rolling plains of the Pays d’Aix, and sometimes, when the weather is good, you will even be able to see the sea, the Mont Ventoux and the Alps in the distance.

 

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Landscapes

After the fire that ravaged more than 5,000 hectares of Sainte-Victoire’s vegetation in 1989, the massif rising from its ashes now offers a wide variety of landscapes. To the south, the sharp walls dominate the Arc basin. To the north lie the limestone plateaus of Bibémus, Cengle and Pallières. Thanks to its biological diversity it is part of the Natura 2000 network. More than 900 different plants grow there.

Many species have found refuge in the Sainte-Victoire massif such as chamois, but also Barbary sheeps and albino pigeons. The orientation of the site and therefore the difference in sunshine between the north and south faces leads to the diversification of the vegetation.

At the base of the Sainte-Victoire River, the Sainte-Victoire National Geological Nature Reserve covers nearly 140 hectares. It was created to protect its paleontological site of dinosaur eggs. For several years now, it has also aimed at making an inventory of the living heritage and informing visitors about the richness of the site.

Activities

A favourite place for nature activities, the Sainte-Victoire mountain offers a wide range of leisure and sports activities on its slopes: mountain biking, paragliding, climbing… On your own or with an instructor, try one of these different activities in this ideal setting.

Hiking enthusiasts will be able to explore the area with their family thanks to the 250 kilometers of trails that criss-cross the Sainte-Victoire. You will be able to begin your hike from the town of Le Tholonet, Vauvenargues, Puyloubier or Saint Antonin sur Bayon.

Among the most famous hikes, the Bimont dam is a reference. You will be able to appreciate the 180 meters long and 87 meters high structure and the view on the Sainte-Victoire. The sportspersons can take the path that climbs to the top of the “Sainte”. You can also appreciate the charm of the hinterland and the view of the Aix mountains during a hike to Lake Zola. This dam allowed the creation of a turquoise lake with the Sainte-Victoire in the background.

At the departmental domain of Roques Hautes, settle down for a picnic under the pine trees while the children can enjoy flying their kite.

The Sainte-Victoire massif was a real muse to the painter Cézanne who painted more than 80 canvases representing the mountain. As you stroll around, you will discover the landscapes that were a source of inspiration for the artist’s works. He particularly used to go to the village of Pourrières, near Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, which opens to the north on the Sainte-Victoire massif and to the south on fields of vines.

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