Valensole is a very interesting little town built on the side of a hill overlooking a small river valley. It's located at the northern edge of the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon, on the Valensole Plateau, famous for the lavender fields.
Valensole Santons |
Allemagne-en-Provence 14 km |
Forcalquier 30 km |
Gréoux-les-Bains 13 km |
Manosque 20 km |
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie 29 km |
Quinson 35 km |
Riez 14 km |
Roumoules 17 km |
Sisteron 50 km |
Vinon-sur-Verdon 25 km |
Hotels near Valensole: |
13 km Greoux-les-Bains |
20 km Manosque |
29 km Moustiers-Sainte-Marie |
30 km Forcalquier |
50 km Sisteron |
The town is quite large and the streets are interesting, so you'll need a few hours (or a couple of days) and some energy to see it all. The town center has a compact main street with shop, restaurants and cafés, a wonderful old fountain, a wonderful old sundial, and a large and interesting lavoir. The cafés are open, friendly places, light inside and shady outside.
Our latest visit to Valensole was on their annual vide grenier (flea market) day, lending the town a lot more activity than normal for a Sunday. Even without the added activity, though, this is a dynamic and interesting little town.
The streets of the old town traverse back and forth from the center up to the top of the hill. The houses are neatly restored, many decorated with lovely Provençal colors, and often outlined in a soft grey trim. We found many picturesque old shutters, little wrought-iron balconies and ancient doorways.
With the Vide Grenier de la Grande-Rue, residents set up their individual flea-market stalls in front of their houses. With many of the residents sitting or standing about in the streets, and the leisurely shoppers wandering about, the old town had the festive air of one huge family party.
Many lavender distilleries are scattered about the countryside surrounding Valensole. We saw a few just on our drive into town, up the valley from Gréoux.
We were told that one of the Valensole distilleries is the only one left [in the region?] that still uses the classic method: separating the flowers from the stalks, using the stalks to fuel the furnace and cooking the flowers - rather than throwing everything together into an hermetic pressure-cooker type of still. The Office de Tourisme was closed on Sunday, where we had hoped to get more information on this.
The sundial, near the fountain, high above the boulangerie, is "only" a century old. Dated 1903, with subtle colors, it has a simple but pretty design.
Other than Saint Mayeul, Valensole was the home of the Admiral of Villeneuve, who commanded the French fleet at Trafalgar.
Association Métiers d'Ici-04
0492 74 82 60
Presents the exploitation of lavender, with guided visits to the distillery Cuma le Riou by request. Includes an exposition of ancient tools used in lavender raising and a sales room.
Open: 1 July - 31 Aug, 9h-19h; Sept-June by rendez-vous.
Tel: 0492 748 053; Fax: 0492 74 80 53
Groups of 15-50 welcome.
Gites ruraux available.
Visite Guidée sur le Thème Lavande - Guided tours about lavender
Office de Tourisme de Valensole
Tel: 0492 749 002
Le Petit Arlane
Centre Naturiste (Nudist Camp)
Route de Riez
Club affiliate: FFN
Tel: 0492 748 270; Fax: 492 74 99 35
Naturist camping, 75 hectares with 80 emplacements, 11 appartements.
Valensole was an ancient rural commune (pagus) of the Variacens tribe, later occupied by the Romans. The primitive habitation was located on the plane near the hamlet of Arlane, about 4 km east of the current town. Following the Barbarian invasions, it was moved to the hilltop of the current location.
Gallo-Roman vestiges have been discovered here, including tombs an medals.
The Wars of Religion were particularly bloody here during the second half of the 16th century.
The town became important from the 10th century, owned half and half by the Counts of Provence and the domain of the Fauchers. The last of the Faucher family was Saint Mayeul (906-994), Abbey of Cluny. Mayeul gave over all his worldly belongings to the Count of Provence; on the Count's death, he gave Valensole to Cluny who became the town's lord.
Office de Tourisme
Tel : 04 92 74 90 02
Located in the center near the fountain, down a few steps beside the lavoir.
Every Sat - Marché - Market
2nd Wed - Marché - Market
23-27 June - Foire de la Saint-Jean
Every July - Fête de la Lavande - all-day events, markets; Visit to fields and distilleries; Folklorique groups; Floats
End July - Foire aux Santons
Les Grande Marges
Scea Les Marges, Les Grandes Marges
Tel: 0492 748 113
Olive oil available.
Fishing permits (carte de pêche)
Tel: 0492 748 011, or 0493 936 259
IGN (1/25,000) #3342 ET "Plateau de Valensole"
There are a few loop hikes from Valensole, but they are more through farmland and lavender fields than wooded hills, so not great for hot summer days.
Lodging - Hotels