Sainte-Victoire Mountain (Montagne Sainte-Victoire)
Extending for around 11 miles (18 kilometers) across the Var and Bouches-du-Rhône regions east of Aix-en-Provence, Sainte-Victoire Mountain was immortalized by postimpressionist painter and Aix favorite son Paul Cézanne, who painted the rocky outcrop countless times during his life.
The area is popular with hikers as well as visitors taking bike tours, and the panoramic views from the summit make the climb worthwhile. The prominent cross, known as the Croix de Provence, atop the ridge was installed in 1875 to ward off a smallpox epidemic that was threatening France at the time. It is engraved in French, Greek, Latin, and Occitan, the lingua franca of Provence.
Things to Know Before You Go
Sainte-Victoire Mountain has marked paths, but the climb can be steep and may not be suitable for those with limited mobility.
If you’re planning to hike to the top, remember to take water, snacks, and sunscreen and to wear suitable footwear.
Keen photographers will enjoy capturing the mountainside at sunset, when the limestone turns golden in the low sunlight.
The hike to the Croix de Provence is one of the most popular walking routes.
How to Get There
Sainte-Victoire Mountain is located in the commune of Vauvenargues, roughly 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of Aix-en-Provence. Bike tours depart from Aix and follow the trails up the mountain. Local buses from Aix heading towards the villages of Puyloubier and Vauvenargues stop close to trailheads; ask the driver for the best stop. There is also car parking at the base of the mountain.
When to Get There
Sainte-Victoire Mountain is accessible all year round but may be closed by authorities at certain times, for example, if there is a high wildfire risk. The north face of the mountain is in shadow for much of the afternoon, and temperatures can be cooler at this time. The south face is most impressive at sunset.
Visit the Lavender Fields of Valensole
For another iconic Provençal sight, head to the lavender fields of Valensole, on the edge of Verdon Regional Natural Park, during late June and July. The town holds an annual lavender festival on the third Sunday of July, when the fragrant plant is celebrated with tours of perfume distilleries, stalls selling lavender products, and more.
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