French Riviera

South of France: Provence & French Riviera Itinerary

The south of France is easily one of the most impressive travel destinations in Europe. Here you’ll find beautiful mountainscapes, stunning coastal views and plenty of small towns and villages that beckon you to say hello.

If you’re visiting the region, you’ll discover towns that take you back in time, that thrill with outdoor adventures and that offer cultural experiences that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I loved it a lot, hence I’ve already been there three times!

In a perfect world, you can spend months exploring every stunning spot in the south of France. However, most likely won’t have time to visit each and every town in the region, here’s a list of some of the more popular small towns and villages in the south of France to add to your itinerary. 

South of France: Provence & French Riviera Itinerary

Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur


Planning Your Provence & French Riviera Trip

1. Rent a Car in France

While renting a car isn’t an absolute must in the French Riviera, I highly recommend it for Provence. While some places can be seen by train or bus (eg. of some tours here), you’ll miss out on many small towns worth your time if you don’t have a vehicle.

I’m saying this as during my first visit to the south of France I didn’t rent a car and while I was able to enjoy myself (I took this exact tour!), I preferred my second and third trip when I had a car with me and could explore things on my own pace and freely. I also stumbled by some incredible spots that I wouldn’t be able to see on a group tour. 

You can find the best deal on car rental on Discover Car Hire. Personal tip: their car insurance is much cheaper than booking it at the counter, so you might want to book it beforehand. Beautiful MoroccoPlay Video

IMPORTANT: if you pre-book a car from outside of Europe your rental will be significantly cheaper as extra taxes won’t be added based on your computer’s IP. However, this only works if you have a non-EU driver’s license. 

Rental Car in France

2. Base Yourself Somewhere in Provence and Cote d’Azur Instead of Changing Hotels

It might be tempting to stay in different towns throughout your trip, but it’s not the best idea. Pick one hotel in Provence and one in the French Riviera and explore other spots during the day. Why?

Especially in Provence, big chains of hotels don’t exist and what you can find are family owned guesthouses. That said, most of the hotels have limited check-in and check-out time, and some even have a curfew. If you wanted to check into a different spot every night, you’ll miss out on incredible sunsets and sunrises, so it’s simply not worth it.

Gordes

3. Decide Where Will You Fly To

Senanque Abbey

There are two convenient airports in the area: Marseille and Nice. You could fly into Marseille and fly out of Nice, or fly in and out of Nice if that’s cheaper. Check Skyscanner and find the best possible option.


4. Take Time Into Consideration

Provence road trip

Even if you carefully plan your route, you might want to spend more time in some spots, or simply stop on the side of the road and enjoy the view. Don’t go to France to just tick some cute villages of your list, but really enjoy each place and the atmosphere of Provence and French Riviera.


Marseille to Nice Itinerary – 8 Days

Day 1:  Fly into Marseille. 

SLEEP IN: Aix-en-Provence

Pick up your rental car and drive to Aix-en-Provence. Enjoy the dinner in some of the outdoor restaurants. 

Day 2:  Aix-en-Provence – Massif des Calanques – Cassis

Day 2:  Aix-en-Provence - Massif des Calanques - Cassis

Spend the morning exploring Aix-en-Provence. In the afternoon drive to Massif des Calanques for some hiking and stop in Cassis afterward for a snack.

Massif des Calanques France

Day 3: Pont du Gard – Avignon – Rustrel

Pont du Gard - Avignon - Rustrel

Drive to see Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD to carry water over 50 kilometers. Then continue to Avignon and walk through the Medieval battlements to reach the historic center dominated by the fortified Papal Palace. Finish the day with a light hike on Colorado Provencal near Rustrel.

Arles
Colorado Provencal Rustrel

Day 4:  Arles – Le Baux de Provence – Carrières de Lumières – Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole

Arles - Le Baux de Provence - Carrières de Lumières - Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole

Spend the morning in Arles following the footsteps of Van Gogh and check out the amphitheater. If you’re visiting on a Saturday there will be a big market there. To continue your Van Gogh and art journey that day, visit Carrieres de Lumieres, a spectacular art exhibition, stop for lunch at Le Baux de Provence nearby, and step foot at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole.

Arles France
Provence France

Day 5: Luberon Valley: Senanque – Gordes – Menerbes – Lourmarin (optional: Oppede)

Day 5: Luberon Valley: Senanque - Gordes - Menerbes - Lourmarin (optional: Oppede)

Drive to Senanque Abbey, regardless whether it’s a lavender season or not, it’s beautiful all year long.  Then stop by Gordes for lunch and admire the views. Continue onto Menerbes and Oppede, the latter is a partially abandoned village best known for its Medieval château once occupied by Nazis. Spend the golden hour and sunset at Lourmarin, before heading back to Aix.

Amazon Fashion dress
Gordes France
Oppede France
Lourmarin Provence

Day 6:  Valensole – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – Verdon Gorge

If you’re visiting Provence during Lavender season you need to check out Valensole area. Valensole is home to many gorgeous lavender farms that are a must-see when in full bloom.

Day 6:  Valensole - Moustiers-Sainte-Marie - Verdon Gorge

After you’re lavender-out stop by Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of the most beautiful villages in France, with a waterfall running through the center of town. Finish by kayaking on Verdon Gorge. 

Valensole
Moustiers Sainte Marie
Valensole
Verdon Gorge

Day 7:  Grasse – St Paul de Vence – Antibes

SLEEP IN: Nice

That day you’ll leave Provence and start exploring Cote d’Azur. Then visit the epicenter of perfume making – Grasse, and tour their perfumeries.

Continue onto a hilltop village of St-Paul-de-Vence, where contemporary painters perpetuate art as a living tradition. Finish the day with a dinner in either Antibes or Nice.

Cote d'Azur France
St Paul du Vence

Day 8:  Villefranche-sur-Mer – Eze – Monaco

Villefranche-sur-Mer - Eze - Monaco

Take the train or drive to nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer and explore it, then see the pink Villa Rothschild nearby. Spend the afternoon or evening in Monaco. Don’t forget to check out my favorite village Eze on the way.

Eze, France
Eze France
cat France
Villefranche-sur-Mer France

Day 9:  Nice

Enjoy your morning and fly out.

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