Seven Days to discover the Haut-Var and Provence Verte

Welcome to France’s sunniest region – the Var, where a week of adventure and discovery awaits you. We invite you to set down your suitcases at Lou Calen, a natural haven of a hotel nestled in the village of Cotignac, a small medieval settlement whose famous limestone cliff overhangs its charming Provençal streets and squares. Prepare to be dazzled by the hidden treasures of Provence Verte and the Haut-Var. This week-long guide is full of suggestions for each day of your stay, to make sure you enjoy every part of this very special region set away from the busyness of the Mediterranean coast.

Monday / From waterfalls to villages

Start your day with an escape to the Caramy waterfall, a breathtaking natural rush. Not far from there, the Thoronet church abbey stands waiting in the heart of the forest, a jewel of Cistercian architecture. All year round, this abbey offers a rich cultural programme, and the day of your visit is sure to hold something special. For lunch, go to Chez Bruno in Lorgues, a Michelin starred restaurant, known for its love of truffles. In the afternoon, take a drive and discover two stunning villages of Provence Verte: Tourtour, classified among “the most beautiful villages in France”, and Salernes, the village where ceramics have flourished. On the way back to Cotignac, stop by for a short walk to the majestic Sillans La Cascade waterfall.

Tuesday / Full day in Cotignac

Start your day by exploring the troglodyte dwellings of the Cotignac rock, the famous limestone cliff formed by ancient waterfalls. Get back to the village in time for the weekly market (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and the excitement of its colourful stalls and bustling busyness. Have your lunch at the Union restaurant, a small traditional French bistro at the top of the main square in the shade of the hundred-year-old plane trees. In the afternoon, stroll through the picturesque winding streets of Cotignac, and make sure you knock on the doors of each art gallery and craft shop to fully enjoy the local experience. After this immersive day in your new local village, pause for an aperitif in one of the bars, and perhaps a last cultural moment at La Falaise Art Centre with its most recent exhibition.

Wednesday / Heading for the Verdon

Head to Lake Sainte-Croix and the Gorges du Verdon, the largest canyon in Europe, an hour’s drive from Cotignac, towards the Alps of Haute Provence. Once you’ve driven around the lake, visit the Chabassole beach, just a stone’s throw from the famous Galetas bridge that stretches over the entrance to the gorges. Hire an electric boat at Kako Beach, and glide effortlessly over the turquoise waters of the third largest lake in France. After a refined lunch at the Bastide de Moustiers, a Michelin-starred restaurant led by renowned chef Alain Ducasse, visit the stunning village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, truly Provence’s “most beautiful villages of France”. Return to Cotignac by the Valensole plateau, and take in the fabulous rows of lavender fields (in full flower at the beginning of the summer) to complete this beautiful getaway day.

Thursday / On the banks of the Argens

Have you heard of the Châteauvert Art Centre? It is a black metal cube, overlooking a sunny meadow on the edge of the Argens river, that celebrates art between its temporary exhibitions and its permanent sculptures in its garden – an essential place to visit for art lovers. For lunch, you absolutely have to taste the delicious pizzas at La Cigale Provençale, in Correns. Take a moment to stroll around the pretty village built into the right bank of the river, and celebrated for being the first organic village in France – where organic farming is a true philosophy of life. This is also the right place for a canoe trip, if that takes your fancy! The Argens offers a magnificent route marked by around forty rapids and exceptional panoramic views of the Sourn valley – we recommend Natur’Evasion for the best sporting experience.

Friday / Golf and gastronomy

What if you spent your morning playing a round of golf in Barbaroux, one of the most prestigious European golf courses? This lovely natural spot extends over 87 hectares of hills and valleys and is covered with pine and oaks. Remember to book your table for lunch at the Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de La Celle. Chef Nicolas Pierantoni crafts his dishes with the very best colours, scents and flavours of the region. Walk off your lunch by visiting the Cistercian abbey founded in the 13th century, a stunning example of the monastic history of Provence. Back in Cotignac, a beer-tasting session awaits you at the end of the afternoon at La TUF, finished by a live concert on the bar’s open-air terrace.

Saturday / Tasting tour

An electric bike ride is the best way to explore the surrounding Provençal landscapes. Mid morning is the perfect time to discover the most beautiful spots of Provence, and the opportunity to stop by at the local vineyards for a quick tasting. Extend this tasting session by taking lunch at Picotte in Cotignac and discover the day’s specialties that make their local cuisine renowned. Need a nap to soothe your digestion? Take a moment in your room, or if you’d rather work off your lunch, play a game of tennis on the court or a round of pétanques on the gravel court beside the restaurant at Lou Calen. Once Saturday evening draws in, why not resume your tasting sessions at Didier’s wine bar, who will regale you with excellent stories while playing a few tunes on his piano.

Sunday / Hiking on the Petit Bessillon

How does an 8km hike towards the summit of mount ‘Petit Bessillon’ sound to you? This three hour loop walk offers breathtaking views of the neighbouring villages, the big Bessillon mountain and the Maures mountains in the distance. This hike crosses the village of Pontevès, perched on a rocky outcrop and sitting on the remains of the medieval feudal castle that has two octagonal towers and an enchanting 15th century church. Why choose one of the more rural spots to take a break and enjoy a picnic made up by the hotel under the guidance of Benoit Witz, head chef of the Jardin Secret restaurant, which was just last year honoured with a Michelin green star. After your hike, head back to Lou Calen and relax with a well-deserved massage, before falling asleep by the hotel pool.

There is so much to see and so many memories to make! Seven days are not enough to discover the richness of the region, the local traditions and the seasonal Var landscapes. But don’t worry, our concierge guide will be ready to cater for your every need during your next visit to Provence Verte and the Haut-Var.