Fields of scented lavender, olive groves and pine forests – the Provence countryside is colourful and fragrant. Ancient vineyards carpet the hills and the dazzle of the Mediterranean is in the distance. A quaint, rustic charm radiates throughout the rolling landscape smattered with honey-hued villages bathed in the light which has inspired generations of great artists, from Van Gogh and Cézanne to Picasso and Matisse. There is no doubting the dreaminess of Provence, the only question is which cornflower blue-shuttered, rural retreat will you choose. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up our favourite hotels for you, from converted farmhouses to elegant châteaux.
A hilltop hamlet-style hideaway housed within ten stone buildings centred around an ancient olive tree, Hôtel Crillon le Brave has bottled the magic of Provence and sprinkled it throughout its quintessentially French interiors – think terracotta tiles, colourful throws and handpicked antique furniture. Every room comes with Van Gogh-approved views thanks to its elevated location, while some of the sumptuously styled suites boast private terraces to soak up the sunshine. After a cooling dip in the outdoor pool, tuck into a locally sourced meal at La Madeleine before watching the sun sink below the purple-tinged horizon from the outdoor terrace of La Table du Ventoux.
Originally a working farm and home to the Saut family’s bee-keeping grandfather, Domaine de Manville sits within a vast 100-acre estate of olive trees, scented wild herbs and lush green fields. Hints of the Domaine’s agricultural heritage can be found throughout the charmingly decorated rooms, suites and private villas, from rolltop bathtubs to traditional wooden shutters. Head to the pretty interior courtyard and have a light lunch under the shade of the trees, accompanied by a glass of delightful Rosé de Provence. Although you could happily fill your time just wandering the wildly beautiful grounds, there are crumbling castle ruins and artisan stalls selling pastel-coloured soaps and honey nougat just down the road in Les Baux, one of the loveliest hilltop medieval villages in France.
A Greco-Roman style bastide set in pretty gardens close to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and on the edge of the Alpilles Natural Park, Le Vallon De Valrugues & Spa is as tranquil as its surroundings. The rooms and suites are elegantly decorated, while a cluster of private villas takes the feel of exclusivity to the next level. Take a dip in your own outdoor Jacuzzi while staying at Villa Rosemary, or simply sunbathe to the songs of çicadas beside the private pool of Villa Valrugues. It’s practically compulsory to dine alfresco in Provence, which is where the bistro’s large terrace in the shade of mulberry plane trees comes in. Summer specialities include tomato mozzarella di Bufala salad, juicy melon with regional ham, and the famous Provençal anchovy purée.
Sitting within 20 glorious acres surrounded by olive groves, lavender fields, and cypress trees, Les Bories & Spa is a slice of rural Provence life. Spacious terraces overlook the rolling landscape and the scent of lavender fills the air from the aromatic gardens that surround the large outdoor pool. Soothe your senses in La Maison d’Ennea spa which uses products infused with local herbs and flowers and rejuvenating scrubs made from natural ingredients such as brown sugar and olive oil. As golden hour starts to set in, sip on a signature cocktail by the fountain, before savouring some of Chef Gregory Mirer’s inventive cuisine in the Michelin-starred restaurant.
With its grand gated entrance and classic façade framed by elegant Genoese-style towers, Le Pigonnet makes quite the first impression. This 18th century Provençal mansion gives the Garden of Eden a run for its money, with heavenly floral gardens and blooming rosary arcades merging into the same backdrop which inspired Cézanne’s Mont Sainte Victoire. Authentic, homemade French dishes sourced from daily market and the hotel’s aromatic herb garden are served at La Table du Pigonnet, which commands verdant views of the centenary chestnut trees.
A former family home turned timeless country retreat, Auberge de Cassagne & Spa is just five minutes from the leafy squares and boutique-lined cobbled streets of Avignon, and yet feels in a world of its own. Long summer days are best spent relaxing, wining and dining on the garden terrace surrounded by climbing vines, sun-dappled stone and filigree. Retire to your countrified room or suite tastefully decorated in floral prints and pastel shades after indulging in a sommelier-selected vintage from the hotel’s impressively stocked wine cellar.
Inspired to head to the hills of Provence? The best way to do so is by bicycle…read our local cycling guide to the area here.