The lavender fields in France seem to be on everyone’s bucket list and for good reason. During the summer months the entire region erupts beautiful shades of purple. The rows of purple beauties are not only amazing to see in person but they make for great photos. So much so, this is the 3rd time I’ve visited the south of France!
Although I have just returned from France and have not gone through all my photographs yet, I want to share a few of the lavender fields. Hopefully, they will entice you to visit Provence and the lavender fields for yourself. It’s an experience you will never forget!
When to Visit the Lavender Fields
First things first. The lavender fields are best viewed from late June to mid-late July. If you go outside of this time period you may not see massive fields of lovely purple lavender. In June it will start to bloom but will still be green, and by late July or early August it’s harvested. The best time to view the fields is the first or second week of July (which was the time I went).
Note that there are other areas of Provence that will have different blooming and harvesting times. This is because bloom times depend on elevation and climate. So if you come a bit too early or late in the season just drive around and you’ll be sure to find another field with that beautiful purple lavender.
Remember, in July it’s going to be hot. Insanely hot. During the middle of the day if you are out in the fields, you will feel like a chicken roasting in an oven. Take precautions against the sun and bring and drink plenty of water! It’s so easy to get dehydrated. Make sure you have several bottles of water with you just in case. That being said, the tap water is drinkable in France so you can always refill easily if you need. Or you can just take a break and scoff down half your body weight’s worth of ice cream to cool down!
Plateau de Valensole
When most people imagine the lavender fields of Provence, they are imagining the Plateau du Valensole. The plateau sits at 2000 feet high and is the largest lavender field in all of France at more than 300 square miles. One lavender field lies beautifully embedded next to the other, and you can see endless purple fields – flat or over rolling hills. And in between, you might see fields of yellow sunflowers. Paradise for every landscape photographer.
Getting up at o-dark-thirty is not be the easiest thing for me, but it is one of the best times to photograph. My motivation for getting up is that ten years down the road I will look at the photograph below and remember the morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m., rode in a van for an hour, and watched the sky light up with my good friends.
“If you want to be reminded of the love of the Lord, just watch the sunrise.” ~Jeannette Walls
Shoot in the early morning or evening to have the best light and get the best photos. This will alleviate hordes of tourists or the harsh shadows from the sun in your photos. However, keep in mind there’s no guarantee you’ll have the place to yourselves. But since it’s summer and daylight savings time it doesn’t get dark till at least 9:00 pm so you have plenty of time to do your shoot!
My Hands Down Favorite Photograph
It only rained one of the days that we were in Provence. And on this particular day, it rained hard. While I’m sure the tourists would have rather had late afternoon sun, we were excited. Storms and stormclouds can make for dramatic photos. Storms can also bring about rainbows – or at least fragmented rainbows as in the photo below.
Sometimes the greatest storms bring out the greatest beauty… Life can be a storm, but your hope is a rainbow and your friends and family are the gold. -Steve Mariboli
Tips for Visiting the Lavender Fields
You’ll need to drive. Although there are buses that run throughout the region their hours are incredibly limited and it’s near impossible to do this trip without a car. For those who can only drive an automatic car (like me) you’ll need a friend who can drive manual or you’ll have to pay much more to rent an automatic car.
Your other bet is to find an organized tour. Organized tours take all the stress out of planning and allow you to sit back and enjoy. However, no one wants to get stuck on a large tour bus with dozens of others tourists. At least I don’t. So I would opt for a smaller organized tour. Smaller groups are more nimble, allowing the group to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time. Add in the ability to create tighter bonds with fellow travelers and I think you can see why small groups are the preferred option for me. I’ve visited Provence 3 times over the years – all on organized tours – and have had great experiences. The two companies I have used with and would recommend:
For Photographers: Tim Mannakee Photography Holidays
Photography tours are a great way to see a place and leave with the perfect souvenir – amazing photos! All the photos in this post were taken on Tim’s Lavender tour. Tim is a great leader who knows where to be at just the right time. Even if you are a photography novice, Tim will help you achieve great images. Word of warning, however, if you do not like getting up at o-dark-thirty, this will be a tough tour for you.
For Non-Photographers: Aroma Tours
Aroma Tours will always hold a special place in my heart. My first trip to Provence with Aroma Tours. Their specialty is offering unique, off-the-beaten-path tours. Great food. Great wine. Great memories.
There’s just something about Provence. If you visit, I guarantee you will long to return, awed by the sight of fields of lavender, poppies, sunflowers… and much, much more.