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At Large in Haute-Provence

Mane, Lurs, Cruis, and Simian la-Rotonde all boast the Villages et Cités de Caractère label. We invite you onto this initiatory route that connects these remarkable towns, where less than 2,000 people live. Grab your helmet, jacket, and gloves and take off on this roller coaster ride. with your eyes wide open.

CircuitDurée4 jours
Lieux visités
Forcalquier & Mane
Lure Mountain
Etape 1Forcalquier and ManeAge-Old Locations

This itinerary will be a rendezvous with uncharted territory for many. Once you leave the Autoroute des Alpes at La Brillanne, you ride just ten kilometres to reach its starting point: age-old Forcalquier, crossed by the Via Domitia, a road built in 118 B.C. to link Italy to the Iberian peninsula. From the top of the town where the citadel looms, wedged between the mountains of Lure and the Luberon, you will be led towards the first marvel in nearby Mane. Encircling its hill around a double city wall, this unusual village is worth a stop if you have the whole day to do the rest of the route. In a 12th century priory, its ethnological conservatory offers a tour of its gardens of 6,000 perfume and medicinal plants.

Etape 2LursA Town of Character

A bit further south, still on the D13, Dauphin’s ridge offers a clear view that spans from the domes of the Saint-Michel Observatory to the Pelissier Forest, which extends to Manosque. Already, you’ll get a sense of the atmosphere of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence villages that mark out this route. Let’s go back to Forcalquier and further north by the big bends on the D112 as you head to Lurs. The rapeseed fields brighten up the ambient brown of the winter landscapes, which exchange their dark hues for a more attractive green in spring. Built according to the same plan as Mane, Lurs, close to the Durance, is a town of character which you reach by a road fringed with olive trees. Like so many others in Provence, it’s a perched village. From Lurs, the panorama onto the Durance valley and the surrounding mountains is magnificent.

Etape 3Lure MountainAnd its Pine-Fringed Roads

Two kilometres away, along the D116 you can visit the oldest oil mill in France which is still operating. On the left, built on a summit just before Sigonce, the chapel of Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours watches over the road. Pines and oaks share the space up to the national forest of Le Prieuré. Down below a small bridge, the Laye makes its way between huge light-coloured slabs. On arrival in Cruis, between lavender fields and garrigues, follow the D 951 west to Saint-Etienne-les-Orgues. This charming village, sitting at the foot of Lure mountain, is worth a break on its lively main square. When the road is passable, the little Lure resort (13 km away) is also worth a visit, if only to explore the road that leads to it through pinewoods and the beechwood Forêt de Défends.

Etape 4Banon and SimianeWhere Provence Rub Shoulders with the Alps

Although it has been completely re-surfaced, you won’t return to civilisation on the D950, which runs up to Banon. Even in this village, famous for its goat cheese, you will not come across many people apart from in summer. In this part of Provence which is so close to the Alps, harshness is part of the charms of a winter break. When warmth and colours return it will be good to rediscover these changed landscapes where olive trees, near their northernmost limit, rub shoulders with fine lavender, which is grown from an altitude of 600 metres. At the south-west extremity of the department, here we are at Simiane-la-Rotonde and its surprising Roman rotunda. After visiting it our route returns whence it came, or whence we rode, as far as Le Rocher d’Ongles by the D 51, D 12A and D 950. There, after Limans, the D313 glides back to Forcalquier.