Mont Ventoux is the highest point in Provence. If you’re a fan of the Tour de France on TV, the chances are you’ll have seen this mountain – it’s steep inclines have been included in 16 races from 1958 – 2016.
At 1910 metres high, it really is a majestic mountain. From it’s peak you have incredible 360 degree views over the Rhone Valley, the Vaucluse plateau and Drome. It’s said that on a sunny, clear day, you can even see as far as Marseille. Surrounded by vineyards and fields of bright lavender in the summer months, and just 20km from the historic town of Carpentras, this is a beautiful part of Provence to add to your itinerary.
The Giant of Provence
A road was created in 1879 and a weather station established on its slopes. It feels like wherever you are in Provence you can see Mont Ventoux and its “steeple”, transmission pole. In fact the locals have nicknamed the mountain “the Eye” as it feels like it’s watching over everyone. It’s also known as the Giant of Provence.
Though the peaks do get a covering of snow from winter to spring, it looks snow-covered year round thanks to the limestone which reflects the sunlight.
It’s a classified UNESCO Biosphere reserve and the slopes have their own micro-climate properties. At the base of the mountain there’s a Mediterranean feel to the vegetation whilst at the top there’s a polar-like environment. The mountain takes its name from “Vente”, wind, as it’s often very windy at the top (240 days of the year) and has recorded some of the strongest winds in the world at 320 km/h.
“Driving to the top of the Mont Ventoux is more than a drive. It’s an experience. You leave village life behind and emerge into a lunar-like clearing among the trees. There are more than 400 types of flora and fauna and spotting mountain flowers is a joy. The views circle around you as you step out into the cool fresh high altitude air, even in the height of summer” says Emily Durand of Your Private Provence.
What to see and do at Mont Ventoux
It’s popular with cyclists though it’s not an easy ride unless you have an e-bike. There are plenty of hire shops in the area. There are different routes for cyclists and it’s famous for its appearance on the tour de France, a true endurance stage with its steep inclines, twists and turns and summer heat.
Mont Ventoux is also great for hikers and there are several trails that criss cross its slopes. One of the best times to hike here is at sunrise when you can watch the whole area light up, it’s a soul-inspiring sight. French writer Frederic Mistral said of it: “We saw the sun rise like a great King of glory, between the dazzling peaks of Alps covered with snow.”
You can also do wine tasting at the base of the mountain. At wine co-operative TerraVentoux they offer guided walks and electric bike ride tour. At their shop you can buy wine and local produce. It’s absolutely irresistible and for me, one of the highlights of a trip to this area.
See hiking and biking info at: provence-cycling.co.uk
Discover more about Provence at: www.provenceguide.com
Discover Carpentras – an ancient town with a buzzing market
Where to see the lavender in Provence
Spring in Provence – glorious photos to make you daydream