In the footsteps of Van Gogh
The Provence is one of the most fascinating regions of Europe, a land of incredible natural diversity and home to pink flamingos, herons, cormorants and more than 400 species of other birds. The vast wetland plains, ponds and rice paddies are protected against the modern world. You will bike and boat through a land of salt marshes, rich in flora, fauna and wildlife, a country in itself with its long horned black bulls, white horses, gypsies, and Camargue cowboys.
Highlights of this unique bike and boat tour in France include the medieval fortress town of Aigues–Mortes and the Gallo-Roman city of Arles, which dates back to the 7th Century with its major Roman sites. This was home to Van Gogh between February 1888 and May 1889. During this period he produced about 300 drawings and paintings, among them “Bedroom in Arles.” Inspired by the vibrant light of the region, he also created “Starry Night” which he painted on the plains at the northern edge of the Alpilles Mountains.
Avignon, the heart of Provence, also known as The “Windy City” stretches in all its beauty on the left bank of the Rhône river. Avignon is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts; its historic centre, with the amazing Palace of the Popes and the 12 C cathedral Notre-Dame-des-Doms, is an ideal place to wander about in search of beautiful surprises. Please read the daily itinerary below to learn more about what you will see and experience as you motor through Provence waterways.
This tour can also be done in a reverse version, starting in Aigues-Morte and finishing in Avignon:
- Arrival in Aigues-Mortes
- Aigues-Mortes, round tour: 34 miles (55 km)
- Aigues-Mortes – Arles: 16 miles (25 km)
- Arles – Vallabrèques: 34 miles (55 km)
- Vallabrègues – Aramon: 22 miles (35 km)
- Aramon – Avignon: 25 miles (40 km)
- Avignon round tour: 18,6 miles (30 km)
The daily program of the 8-day tour
Individual arrival in Avignon. Avignon’s architecture is marked by papal history since in the early 14th century, the pontifical court was exiled to France. The cardinals, arriving at the papal court and finding no accommodation in Avignon, began to build magnificent residences across the river in Villeneuve (“new town”). Boarding is at 6 p.m.
After breakfast we will cycle on the other side of the river Rhone, crossing the island Ĭle de la Barthelasse. The island of Barthelasse is home to many species of birds: sparrow-hawks, brown kites, minor harrier and moorhens. Trees along the river shore (poplars, willows, ormi and alders) are home to sparrows, thrushes and herons. We cycle among vineyards and orchards. We will visit Villeneuve les Avignon, once known to be the of the cardinals town In the afternoon time to discover the historic centre of Avignon.
The boat navigates to Aramon. From here you will make a circolare route through a hilly landscape to the best preserved Roman aqueduct in all of Europe, the Pont du Gard. This bridge, with its three levels of stone arches, spans the Gardon Valley, being part of an aqueduct built during the 1st century in order to transport water from the Eure spring near Uzès to the Roman town of Nîmes, a distance of over 50 kilometers. You pass ancient villages and hillside vineyards Overnight in Aramon.
The boat navigates to Vallabrèques, a village on the banks of the Rhône Located on the plains at the northern edge of the Alpilles, 20 km south of Avignon, is where Van Gogh painted Starry Night. Here starts the circular cycle tour, you will pass a landscape of limestone cliffs, flower fields, and olive trees. You cycle along quiet country roads to Barbentane with its castle, situated on the confluence of the Rhone and Durance rivers. Then you continue cycling to the impressive abbey of Saint Michel de Frigulet. Then a nice downhill ride to Bourbon, a nice medieval town. Your overnight is in Vallabrèques.
Today’s stage is more challenging than usual, but the breathtaking panoramic views are worth the sweat! A long, downhill road will take you towards St-Rémy-de-Provence. Lodged in a bare rock spur detached from the Alpilles, the picturesque village of Les Baux-de-Provence, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France, because it is the birthplace of Nostradamus and Van Gogh stayed here during his mental illness. This stage will bring you through the chain of the Alpilles, whose arid peaks standing out against the blue sky are reminiscent of some Greek landscapes. The day ends in the beautiful town of Arles. Today the whole morning is dedicated to visit Arles, the ancient capital of Gaul with beautiful Roman ruins. This town and it surroundings are what inspired Van Gogh in several of his paintings. He sought to find “a different light” which the Provençal countryside and its luminosity provided.
This morning there is time enough to visit the town of Arles. You will also have the opportunity to be welcomed by a professional guide, who will accompany you around the jewels of the town.You will cycle among cane and rice fields on very pleasant and easy country roads with white horses and Camargue bulls as your companions. You arrive at the lock of Saint-Gilles from where the boat navigates to Aigues-Morte.
Literally translated Aigues-Mortes means “dead waters”, probably referring to the location of the town in the heart of the marshy Camargue region on France’s Mediterranean coast. However, do not be deceived by this description. In this charming medieval town with its massive towers and walkable defensive curtain wall surrounding it, visitors can still wander about in a 13th century town. Today’s cycling will provide the opportunity to explore Camargue, where nature still prevails over civilization. A quiet, uneven dirt road between a canal and some salty ponds, where you will probably see some flocks of pink flamingos feeding in the shallow waters, will lead you to the seaside village of Le-Grau-du-Roi. In the afternoon, you can’t miss a visit to the incredible salt marshes on the way back to Aigues Mortes, where the production of salt goes back to Antiquity. It’s an easy, flat cycling day, which will make for a great first encounter with Camargue’s beauty.
After breakfast ends your tour
An easy to moderate self-guided or group bike and boat tour on country roads. Average daily distances between 12,5 and 37 miles (20 and 65 km). Route on bike paths and low traffic roads in rural and city areas. Short stretches are on unpaved roads and few on not avoidable busy roads.
Average daily distances: between 25 – 55 km / 16 – 34 mi
Total km: Total 240 km / 149 mi
FROM AVIGNON: Saturday 27.03, 10.04, 24.04, 8.05, 22.05, 5.06, 19.06, 3.07, 17.07, 31.07, 14.08, 28.08, 11.09, 25.09, 9.10, 23.10.2021
FROM AIGUES-MORTES: Saturday 3.04, 17.04, 1.05, 15.05, 29.05, 12.06, 26.06, 10.07, 24.07, 7.08, 21.08, 4.09, 18.09, 2.10, 16.10.2021
1 or more people.
START / FINISH:
Avignon / Aigues-Mortes