Near Mont Ventoux 4 Villages You Should Visit
Mont Ventoux soars from the Provencal orchards and vineyards to its stark limestone summit at 1909 metres (6,263 ft). In the winter, the top of Mont Ventoux can have snow, and then a tiny ski hill operates. The stark white limestone peak is visible all year from a fair distance on a clear day. Mont Ventoux – the windy mountain – has an almost mystical status, or maybe more like magnetic, amongst cyclists wanting to conquer “the Giant of Provence.” While only some bikers can best a Tour de France professional’s time, three route options to the mountain summit exist. However, a more accessible alternative involves driving to the top for the view.
This article focuses on four (4) villages near Mont Ventoux; there are 51 communes surrounding the mountain. While these four (and many others) villages share the same geography and historical background, each town is unique and worth visiting. Three of these towns, Crillon-le-Brave, Le Barroux and Sault, are perched villages.
Like many Medieval towns in Vaucluse, when Caromb was established, it was surrounded by rampart walls. The main road, Cours de la République, leads into the village and follows the path of the walls. But if you venture onto the narrow side streets and alleys, you’ll discover fountains, unique shops and restaurants, a large belfry, and amazing views of Mont Ventoux. Snuggled in the countryside, Caromb is known for its figs, specifically, the Noire de Caromb, and its annual fig festival in July.
The village of Caromb has a population of about 4000 inhabitants giving it a friendly atmosphere and a sense of community. The local winery association organizes an annual wine festival in November. It is an opportunity for people to gather before winter.
Market day: Tuesdays, 08:00-12:30 at Place Nationale.
Must-see: Historical buildings, fig festival, Paty Lake.
• The Saint-Maurice Church was dedicated to the 3rd-century Swiss martyr Saint Maurice. It is one of the largest churches in the district and is classified as a historical monument. The church has a unique octagonal bell tower (beffroi), an altarpiece (triptych) by Grabuset, and an Italian organ from 1701.
• La Pré Fantasti is the impressive former residence of Pope Urban VIII and a refuge for his two nephews who practised alchemy (forbidden at the time). Folklore stories recount the nephews suffering from “divine punishment,” and their ghosts returned to haunt the old house.
• The summertime annual Fig Festival is hosted by la Confrérie de la Figue (Brotherhood of the Fig). Learn about fig farming and the different varieties of figs. You can also purchase fig (and other food) products and an assortment of merchandise from local artisans.
• Paty Lake (Lac du Paty) is a lovely area for picnics, swimming, walks or simply relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s free and accessible year-round, and pets are welcome!
The hamlet of Crillon-le-Brave is nestled at the southern edge of Mont Ventoux. During Roman and Medieval times, the hilltop location made it defensible and allowed for more land in the valley to be used for farming. Crillon-le-Brave is named after the courageous general Louis des Balbes de Berton de Crillon (the Brave Crillon), who fought in the French religious wars in the late 1500s.
After the French Revolution, the village remained relatively prosperous. But, during the 1900s, the population declined due to the two world wars and the failing water supply. However, in the early 1970s, new inhabitants revitalized the village. Although it is still a tiny town (population less than 500), it includes a café, bakery, hotel, restaurant, church, and school.
Because of its central location, use Crillon-le-Brave as a base to explore the area. In addition, its proximity to Mont Ventoux (the Beast of Provence) makes it attractive to cyclists and fans of the Tour de France.
Market day: Saturdays, 08:00-12:00 at Place de la Mairie. (Weather and season dependent).
Must-see: Hotel, spa, cycling
• The 5-star Hotel Crillon le Brave had only 11 rooms when it opened in 1989. Today, it occupies eight buildings in the village connected by pathways and passages. It has 16 rooms, 18 suites, and a gourmet restaurant, La Table de Ventoux.
• The Spa des Écuries is part of the Hotel Crillon le Brave and is located inside the renovated 18th-century stone-vaulted stables. Whether you need an intense massage after cycling Mont Ventoux or a place to relax and refocus, the spa staff offer personalized service to rejuvenate your body and spirit.
• Crillon-le-Brave is an excellent base for those who want the challenge of cycling Mont Ventoux. However, for those who enjoy more relaxed bike rides, there are other scenic trips, including cycling to Bédoin and touring the local vineyards, wineries, and orchards.
The village Le Barroux is perched on a limestone outcrop in the Vaucluse, between Carpentras and Vaison-le-Romaine. It is well worth a visit. There is a 12th-century castle situated on the hilltop, and the panoramic view encompasses the vineyards of the southern Rhône towards Mont Ventoux and the jagged peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail.
Market day: unknown
Must-see: Château de Barroux, Church, Abbey, Medieval festival
• The Château du Barroux was initially constructed to defend against Saracen and Italian incursions. Unfortunately, the castle was damaged again during The French Revolution and by German troops during WWII. Today, the castle is privately owned by the Vayson de Pradenne family. You can book a castle tour that includes a tearoom and a distillery.
• Saint Jean Baptiste Church was built in the 14th century in the typical Roman style of the era. It is now classified as a historical monument.
• Abbey Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux was built in 1978, following the vision of Benedictine monk Dom Gérard Calvet. You can visit the Abbey or book a spiritual retreat of several days or longer.
To the southeast of Mont Ventoux, you will find the charming village of Sault. It is the centre of local lavender production. Because the town is perched on a rocky outcrop above the valley Sault Valley (hence the name), there are fantastic views of the lavender fields, which in the summer are beautiful hues of blues and purples as the plants are in full flower.
As you stroll the streets, you’ll likely see plenty of premium-quality bicycles. This is because the village of Sault is one of the starting points for cycling Mont Ventoux. And the town has amenities to support them, including cafes, shops, and restaurants.
Market day: Wednesdays, 08:30-12:30 at Market Square. (It’s the oldest market in Provence, running since 1515, so plan your visit for the market day!)
Must-see: municipal museum, nougat factory, Chemin de Memoire, all things lavender
• The municipal museum is open in July and August. They have a unique collection of artefacts from prehistoric times to the French Revolution. In addition, they have an Egyptian mummy from the 20th dynasty and Diderot’s original encyclopedia.
• Established in 1887, the Boyer Nougat Factory is still a family-owned business that prepares confections by hand. The shop also houses a museum and library devoted to preserving traditional recipes, ingredients, and culinary secrets passed down through generations. In addition, they now have a lovely coffee shop where you can order hot drinks or sample housemade ice cream.
• During World War Two, Sault was a critical location for the Maquis, the French Resistance. On the main road into the old village, you’ll find a memorial (part of the Chemins de Mémoire) honouring over 350 people from across the region who were killed or sent to concentration camps for resisting German forces.
• Sault is famous for its lavender. First, visit La Ferme aux Lavandes to learn about cultivation and harvest. Then, walk Lavender Road, a five-kilometre circuit around the local lavender fields. There are plenty of shops and handicrafts dedicated to all things purple, as well as an essential oil distillery and soap factory. Finally, mark August 15th on your calendar because, rain or shine, it’s the annual Fête de Lavande.