North of Bédoin


One Day Itinerary

Travelling north of Bédoin, whether by car or bike, takes you into the spectacular northern section of the Drômes de Provence. Most of the countryside in all directions from the village is quiet and getting away from the crowds is easy, however, this itinerary offers the most stunning scenery of all and is  the least populated.

Bédoin to Malaucene

Take the D19 out of the village past the war memorial. After about 3kms the road takes a sharp bend to the west and you begin the climb up to the Col de la Madeleine. You reach the summit of the col at 400m and then descend through the pine forest with views over the Drôme – your destination for later in the day. At the T junction turn right onto the D38, it’s about 3.5kms into the village of Malaucène. here is the start of the northern ascent of Mt Ventoux and there’s much rivalry between the two villages as to which is the gateway to the mountain (it’s Bédoin of course). if you haven’t yet had your breakfast I recommend the Café de Cours – it’s one of the few places left in France which still serve tartines and the coffee is excellent.


Malaucene > Les Trois Rivières

Take the D938 out of Malaucène towards Vaison la Romaine, after 2.0kms turn right onto the D13 and follow the road to Entrechaux. If you’re feeling fit you can take a quick pause to walk up the steep path to the castle and enjoy the views over the area. At the roundabout at the bottom of the village turn left into the Route de Faucon for a short detour to one of our favourite watering holes, Les Trios Rivières. It’s a watering hole as it’s never deep enough to swim here but there’s no better place to sit in a deckchair reading a book with your feet dangling in the water. There’s the added bonus of one of France’s most delightful Roman bridges.

Les Trois Rivières

Les Trois Rivières Roman Bridge

Les Trois Rivières > Les Gorges du Toulourenc

Retrace your steps back to the D13 and continue in the direction of Buis les Baronnies. After 4kms turn right onto the D40 and then, after just over a kilometer turn right onto the D40A. The road takes you down to the Gorges du Toulourenc carpark (2.4kms). Leave your car and almost everything else here and walk the 150m or so to the Pont du Toulourenc. Scramble down the bank and begin the wonderful walk up the Gorge.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: You are going to need suitable footwear for this treat – ideally jellies or rock shoes. Flip flops don’t work and trainers are quickly become like diving boots.)

From the bridge the river is fairly open but as you make your way up it gradually narrows into steep sided cliffs which have the effect of squeezing the water into a series of pools and torrents – getting increasingly more fun as you proceed. Eventually you will find yourself scaling rocks over which the river cascades creating slides and waterfalls. It should be said that, at its upper reaches, the Toulourenc is not for everyone, but there’s plenty of places to sit on a sunny rock as the more adventurous press on.

Les Gorges du Toulourenc

Les Gorges du Toulourenc > Buis Les Baronnies

Take the D40A back onto the D5 and turn right at the junction towards Buis Les Baronnies – it’s about 10kms. It’s a pretty drive through the valley with the foothills of Mt Ventoux looming up to your right. Don’t miss (actually you CAN’T miss) the church at Pierrelongue – it’s frankly insane. Buis les Baronnies is a good place for lunch, any of the restaurants in the plane tree covered square are good but I particularly recommend La Fourchette ( 7 Pl. du Marché) – ask for a seat outside under the arches in the summer.

If you’re a fan of extreme walking this a great place to test your skills. Personally I haven’t seen anywhere else on the sentiers de grande randonnée which requires you to have brought your own rope, but there are a couple here which specifically ask for ‘Alpine experience’! However, there are others which are slightly less scary – but only slightly.

Buis Les Baronnies

Buis Les Baronnies > Sainte-Jalle

The next 30kms are the definitely the highlight of the day. The road over the Col D’Ey and then into the valley to Sainte-Jalle is quite twisty and I would be sceptical of Google maps’ estimate of 39minutes to complete the route. In any event, you will want to stop and take things in and so a good hour might be more accurate.

From Buis les Baronnies take the D546 (Route de Sederon). After about 2kms you will come to a spot where Hannibal apparently passed by on his way to sack the Roman Empire. Whatever – it’s worth a stop to have a paddle in the Ouvèze. Then continue up the road for about 2.0km and turn left onto the D108 – this is the climb up to the Col D’Ey. Pause to take a photograph at the Vue du Mont Ventoux – it’s one of the few aspects where the famous Beast of Provence actually looks like a mountain (see top of the page).

At the summit continue on the D108 down into the valley and on to Sainte-Jalle. For a village which gets a ‘must visit’ star on French maps, for me it’s a tiny bit disappointing. The old church is quite interesting but the castle is privately owned and definitely out of bounds. That said there’s a pretty decent café with a terrace by the river if you fancy a glass of rosé. (Bistrot des Lavandes). You’ll pass it as you continue on the way, having turned left onto the D64 signposted Nyons.

View from the Col D'ey to Sainte-Jalle

Sainte-Jalle > Nyons

The road between Sainte-Jalle takes you through the heart of the northern Drôme de Provence. In a country with the embarrassment of geographical riches such as France, the Drôme often gets over-looked. It may not have the majestic drama of the Alps, nor the prettiness of the Vosges, nor the extinct volcanoes like the Auvergne but it’s right up there for scenery and, above all, tranquility.

Nyons is the black olive capital of the region and it has been exporting it’s wizened little black bullets of nutty flavour for centuries. The area used to do apricots in abundance too but olives proved more economically attractive and the apricots have gone to make way for more olives. However production here still retains a homely scale here. The steep hillsides prevent the spread of industrial size vulgarity that you might witness in Andalucia. If you decided against lunch in Buis les Baronnies (or indeed if you decided to do this itinerary in reverse) then the square is an perfect place to eat and take in the atmosphere.

Olives from Nyons

Nyons > Vaison la Romaine

The 30 minute drive from Nyons to Vaison la Romaine is pretty straightforward being essntially one road. However, in that quaintly quirky French way, the D538 does change to the D938 as you cross the departmental border from the Drôme to the Vaucluse.

The Romans loved Provence* and reasons that seemed more aesthetic than strategic, they loved Vaison as well. I recommend visiting the ruins of the old Roman city. It’s tempting to think that you can get a perfectly good sense of things through the iron railings on the roadside but they really are worth the entrance fee. Without it you’re going to miss the beautifully preserved amphitheater which you (mostly) cannot see from the road.

The other attaction of Vaison is the castle. Perched on an outcrop of rock on the south side of the Ouvève, which you cross by – you’ve guessed it, the Roman bridge – there’s a path that takes you up through the houses of the old town to the summit. The castle itself is a bit of ruin, as castles should be, and in fact you can’t currently enter within what remains of its walls. However there’s wonderful views in all directions and its a great place to consider what a splendid day you’ve had.

*The name Provence coms from the fact that the Romans thought the region was so like home that they named it ‘Provincia’ – i.e a province of the old country. It’s a disappointingly prosaic name for such a wonderful region and typical of what happens when you leave the naming of a place to bureaucracy.

The Roman Bridge at Vaison la Romaine.