The Wild Alpilles

The Wild Alpilles

The Massif des Alpilles extends northwest of the Bouches-du-Rhône. Here, civilisation has loosened its grip. And although time has stood still in these ancient villages, a day will be enough to soak up the atmosphere of the land of the famous French novelist, Daudet.

CircuitDurée5 jours
Visited Places
Les Baux-de-Provence
Etape 1EygalièresOrchards and Olive Groves

As you leave the Autoroute du Soleil, the Cavaillon exit is close to the village of Orgon. The town has some pretty little streets dominated by the ruins of the Chateau of the Duc de Guise. After a short break, leave the tourists rushing to the coast on the National 7 to dawdle among the olive groves on the D24. Nicknamed the Chemin de la Liberté (Freedom Road), this winding road running towards Eygalières was used by Jean Moulin, a figure of the Resistance. A centre of the Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles, the village is picturesque, clean and unfussy. Yet it is here that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Michel Drucker and many others chose to live. Walk up the Grand Rue for a magnificent panorama of the Alpilles and the mountain of La Caume.

Etape 2Maussane and Les Baux-de-ProvenceIn Olive Oil Country

Scenic routes, highlighted in green on the map, the D24, then the D78, guide us to Maussane. At their intersection, take an admiring look at the rocky outcrop of Le Destet. Maussane is worth a stop before the long stage of Les Baux-de-Provence. Located along an ancient Roman road, it is, with its neighbour Mouriès, the top olive oil producer in France. Two mills still operate here. Connaisseurs can dunk bread in the oil to savor it. Authentic Maussane lives under the benevolent gaze of Les Baux-de-Provence, barely 2 km away. Climb a short, twisting road to attack the old castle before strolling through the village and its shopping streets, looking for a shady square.

Etape 3Saint-Rémy-de-ProvenceIn Van Gogh's Footsteps

The narrow D27 runs, between cliffs and ravines, as far as Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Surprise, surprise, you will be the sole judge of its amazing route. In the preserved centre of Saint-Rémy, you can cool off at one of the many terraces. Above all, don’t miss a visit to the Glanum ruins. Many painters and writers have been inspired by the light and landscapes of the place. Van Gogh is just one of them. Leave Saint-Rémy between the cypress hedges which provide shelter from the mistral to Maillane, home of the aptly-named Frédéric Mistral, whose house you can visit. After Graveson on the D35E, the Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet impressively rise above a pine and oak forest.

Etape 4Tarascon et FontvieilleDaudet's Homeland

Barbentane is 6 km away via La Montagnette. Such a name would make you think of bends (montagne = mountain in French) but no, the route which passes through it is not the most winding. In 13 km, the D35 veers south to Tarascon and Beaucaire. A simple bridge across the Rhône separates the two towns. The historic centre of Tarascon is an ode to mediaeval architecture. By the D70 and the D33, glide towards Fontvieille. This is Daudet’s homeland. It’s impossible to avoid the mill, a real historic monument. In Paradou, 6 km away, you can stop & go to the Musée du Santon de Provence to admire its lively nativity scenes.

Etape 5MourièsOlive Trees and Vines in Profusion

The D17 re-crosses Maussane before reaching Mouriès, drowned in olive trees and vineyards. Still 21 km of a fairly straight road and there is Eyguières, overlooked by the top of the Tour des Opies, the highest point of the Alpilles. The reputation of Eyguières karting circuit has long since been known beyond the boundaries of the department. But it’s already late and if you choose to not head directly south, you can complete the loop by riding on to Orgon (15 km by the D569) across a vast plain, opening onto the white limestone hills. A fine way to finish this tour of the Alpilles.