France, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Vaucluse, Luberon, Sénanque Abbey, Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, view of the Cistercian abbey with lavender fields
Sénanque Abbey with lavender fields - stock photo

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Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Top choice in The Luberon

If you're searching for that classic postcard shot of the medieval abbey surrounded by a sea of purple lavender, look no further. This sublime Cistercian abbey provides one of the most iconic shots of the Luberon, and it's equally popular these days for selfies. The best displays are usually in July and August. You can wander around the grounds on your own from 9.45am to 11am, but at other times (and to visit the abbey’s cloistered interior) you must join a guided tour.

Founded in 1148, the abbey is still home to a small monastic community, members of which conduct guided tours (in French) throughout the year. There are several per hour during peak lavender season, dropping down to just a couple a day in winter. Reservations are essential (you can even book a place online), as are conservative dress and reverential silence.

The abbey is in a valley about 5km drive north of Gordes, on the D177, or a 1½-hour walk on the GR6 trail. Parking is limited, and the track up to the abbey gets rough and muddy during heavy rain. Note also that the abbey is closed on religious holidays, so it’s always worth checking in advance.