|Important: Itinéraire et l'information uniquement disponible en Anglais.
Wichtig: Nur englische Routenbeschreibung.
Level of difficulty: 2
Like much of France, the Provence is an area with many different faces. You will get to see some of these faces during this surprising 8-day round trip that will take you through a landscape dotted with traces left by the Greeks and Romans, among many others. History, art and nature combine to form one lasting impression. The works of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, drenched in shimmering orange and red, are there to prove it.
Avignon is called the gate to the Provence with good reason, and it is an excellent place to start your vacation. Inside the town ramparts, accentuated by towers and gates, you will find a great many attractions, like the 14th century Palais des Papes, (Popes' Palace) the Place d'Horloge and of course the Pont St. Bénézet, made world-famous through the song 'Sur le pont d'Avignon'. But it is also a wonderful town for simply strolling around, or for sitting down and relaxing at one of the many sidewalk cafés.
The first stage brings you to Graveson. Located between the olive trees, fields of lavender and cypresses, it is one of those typical Provençal places, with squares, fountains and sidewalk cafés that come to life towards the end of the afternoon.
The next day you'll ride through Tarascon with its fairytale snow-white castle on your way to Arles. The town of Arles was founded by the Greeks and later expanded by the Romans, who made a 'little Rome' out of it. The town still emanates this rich past. Vincent van Gogh spent 15 months in Arles and painted more than 300 canvases during that time.
After Arles the landscape changes completely. You'll now enter the Camargue. Salty marshes, lakes, pasture and dunes form a fascinating environment for many sorts of plants and animals. For centuries this region was inhabited by gypsies and cowboys, the so-called guardians, who took care of the wild horses and bulls. Of the countless birds that brood here, the flamingo is the most striking and surprising.
You'll stay for two nights in Saintes-Maries de-la-Mer, a cheerful little town with many shops and restaurants. The large church is well worth visiting. You can take one of the many walking or cycling routes on your resting day. Another possibility is a visit to the Parc Ornithologique, where you can admire the many birds so abundant in this region at your leisure.
When you leave the Camargue after your resting day, the landscape yet again changes dramatically. You'll head towards the north, to the hilly area of the Alpilles. But first you&'ll spend an hour riding the unsurfaced Digues de la Mer (sea dikes). You'll spend the night close to the town of Fontvielle.
The next day you'll ride through the Alpilles, a limestone mountain range between the Rhône and the Durance with peaks around 400 meters, jagged and bare like a kind of mini Alps.
Descending from the Alpilles you reach Saint Rémy de Provence, a friendly town abounding in restaurants and shops. Van Gogh was admitted here after he had cut off his ear. Indeed, the environment won't be foreign to you, with its cornfields, crows and cypresses, all set ablaze by a real 'Van Gogh sunset'.
At the end of the day you'll return to Avignon, the same town you left a week earlier. The only two differences: you have ridden around 250 kilometers and the unforgettable sights and experiences have forever enriched you.
Day tot day programme + km
Day 1 Arrival in Avignon.
Day 2 Avignon – Graveson, 66
Day 3 Graveson – Arles, 51
Day 4 Arles – Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 59
Day 5 Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, day off.
Day 6 Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – Fontvieille, 68
Day 7 Fontvieille – Avignon, 48
Day 8 Departure.
1 km = 0.62 miles