“The South of France” is a hugely popular summer destination among travelers worldwide. Dreamy flower fields, aqua coastline and festivals – what’s not to like? Huge crowds and expensive prices for one.
This is where I offer you an attractive alternative: Autumn in Provence.
I really enjoy traveling in this region during the shoulder season of late September, October and November. The crowds are smaller, hotels are lower priced, it’s easier to book last minute and the weather is still pretty beautiful (in fact, my water-loving husband has been known to take a dip in Marseille’s gorgeous Calanques as late as October!)
My first trip to Provence was in November of 2011 and since then I’ve spent several more years exploring the region and enjoying it’s autumnal charm.
The most centrally located airport to the Provence Region is the Marseille/Provence Airport (code: MRS). The airport has undergone a renovation in the past few years and it’s a pretty chill airport to fly in and out of.
Flights from the US tend to route through another major European city like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, etc. The airport is also serviced by several European budget airlines such as RyanAir, Vueling and EasyJet.
I would say it’s almost essential to rent a car for exploring the small towns in Provence. You can do so easily at the airport but I suggest you rent it online beforehand via a site like KAYAK to get a better rate. Also FYI for my American friends, we have found also that for some reason when we rent it from a United States IP address we get a lower price!
Weather & What to Pack
Just for reference, here is a breakdown of the average temps for Marseille in the fall months:
|Month||Average High/Low (Fahrenheit)||Average High/Low (Celcius)||Days of Rain|
|September||78° / 61°||25.5° / 16.1°||3|
|October||70° / 55°||21.1° / 12.7°||6|
|November||60° / 47°||15.5° / 8.3°||5|
As you can see, it’s pretty mild weather. I would say a daily uniform of jeans, comfortable walking shoes or boots, tops that can layer (short sleeves for the warm sunny days and sweater for overcast/chillier ones), scarves and a light leather or jean jacket. If you tend to get colder you can pack a heavier coat but honestly I’ve never needed one, even when I visited in winter.
I made the mistake of choosing fashion over comfort during my first trip to Provence and tried to walk around cobble stoned villages in heels! Oy. I would say save yourself the pain and opt for a flat or chunky heeled boot or walking shoe that’s comfortable to walk and explore in. Also make sure to pack sneakers or hiking boots if you plan on taking advantage of the beautiful trails. If you are visiting in September or October you can optimistically throw a bathing suit in your suitcase in case it’s warm enough to take a dip in the Calanques.
Taste All The Wine
In my opinion you can’t miss the vineyards in the South of France in the autumn months. Even if you’re not a big drinker or wine connoisseur, the landscape and scenery alone is worth a day of touring around and visiting the vineyards. Trust me, driving through the beautiful Plantane tree tunnels with their changing golden leaves is a magical experience you will not forget. Of course, it does help if you like wine (and have a reliable DD)!
Here is a comprehensive guide to the wine regions included in Provence. Personally, I enjoy the Bandol, Cassis, & Aix en Provence area (this includes my absolute FAVORITE vineyard Chateau LaCoste), particularly for rosé and white wines.
If you travel a bit north towards Avignon into the Rhône Valley you will find the prestigious region of Chateauneuf du Pape which is well known for it’s reds. You can visit the little town there and as you drive along the countryside roads you will pass vineyard after vineyard.
The Luberon region (within the Rhône) is also filled with vineyards – we had a great experience staying at Chateau Perreal, a vineyard with vacation rentals onsite (this is pretty common).
(From Top Left: Rosé at Chateau LaCoste, Foliage in Chateaneuf de Pape, Outside Chateau Perreal in the Luberon, Pool at Chateau Perreal at sunset.)
Visit Fairytale Towns
It’s no coincidence that painters like Van Gogh and Monet used the South of France as a consistent subject: the towns and landscapes are right out of a painting! Speaking of Van Gogh, the town of Arles is home to the cafe that was the subject of his famous “Cafe Terrace at Night” and is worth seeing. Other favorite towns in the region that are gorgeous during fall are Gordes, a postcard perfect perched village, Isle Sur La Sorgue, a tiny town filled with canals and antiques, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a small hamlet with a “magical” natural fountain at the top of a hill. Honorable mentions include: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Les-Baux-des-Provence, and Lourmarin.
The great thing about these towns is that a lot of them are close together so you can knock out several in a day, making the most of your vacation! I’ve put them on a google map you can reference below:
Also the larger cities of Aix en Provence and Avignon are worth spending at least a day visiting – Aix is great for shopping and Avignon is great for history (the immense Papal Palace there was the seat of the Catholic Church from 1309 to 1376).
Featured Post: My Favorite Spots in Provence
(From Top Left: Arles, Isle Sur La Sorgue, Aix en Provence, Walking in the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, The Pool at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, View of Gordes from outside the town)
Really Get to Know Marseille
As I’ve shared in some of my other posts, I think Marseille is a completely underrated French city and you could spend days or weeks exploring it. If you are limited on time though, you can definitely get to see a lot of the main sites (Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, to name a few) in a few days.
Featured Post: Why You Shouldn’t Skip Marseille
(From Top Left: Marseille’s Vieux Port, The funky Cours Julien Neighborhood, a street in the Panier Neighborhood).
Enjoy the Amazing Nature
This region is RICH in beautiful nature and scenery. One of my favorite things to do here is visit the Calanques, a series of inlets that run along the Mediterranean coast from Marseille to Cassis. Most of them are only accessible by foot or boat. From Cassis (approx half hour drive from Marseille), you can take a Calanque Cruise, which will show you all the different Calanques from the boat. That option won’t allow you to swim in the Calanques, but is a good option if you want to see them all in a shorter amount of time.
There are also plenty of options for hiking, one being the Mont Saint Victoire at the outskirts of Aix en Provence. This resource provides guides to other options in the area with detailed info on length, time and difficulty.
(From Top: Port Miou Calanque near Cassis, View of Marseille from the Mountains, Mont Sainte Victoire.)
There are honestly so many wonderful activities to do in the South of France in the fall, I would say it’s hard to go wrong when planning your trip. I hope you consider visiting during this beautiful time and that this guide is a helpful starting guide to creating your perfect itinerary.