The poster child of Provence, Gordes does a brilliant job of attracting visitors into its heart every year. As one of the most beautiful villages in Provence (and officially, of France), it’s often included on itineraries for the South of France.
But this hilltop beauty is hiding a not-so-well-known secret. A stone’s throw from the famous village, you’ll find another historical settlement of more humble beginnings.
Le Village des Bories is a fascinating place that speaks volumes about the kind of people who once lived here and worked the land. It tells of how they lived and how incredibly resourceful they were.
Visiting le Village des Bories
We’ve visited Gordes countless times on our explorations around the Luberon Valley, but we’d never made the side trip to le Village des Bories until recently. Although it is signposted, it’s not overly obvious if you’re not looking for it. And the village isn’t as widely publicised as many other Provence attractions.
We visited on a damp Autumnal Sunday afternoon and largely had the village to ourselves. And although it was a rather soggy introduction, it made us appreciate both the robust construction and the hardiness of the village’s former residents all the more.
Taking our time to explore the village, we ducked in and out of low-hung doorways, examining the displays housed within, and imagining how life was when the original occupants were in residence.
We largely just cut our own route through the village (i.e. followed our eager 5-year-old). We weaved through and between the bories as the stone paths would allow, ducking under olive branches and jumping over deep puddles as went.
The bories all have simple signs outside – appropriately etched into stone – to explain what they were once used for. Many were used to house animals, others to store food; there were at least two wine cisterns and even a silkworm rearing house!
After exploring the bories, climbing up to inspect storehouses, and admiring the beautifully distressed façades, we walked back towards the entrance of the village. It was here we heard music coming from one of the more recent stone houses and we popped inside to find a short documentary about the village playing in a loop.
The top floor housed a small museum, with exhibits and displays written in both French and English. Above the chimney, you’ll find the family tree of some of the original inhabitants of Gordes which I found quite fascinating!
Tips for Visiting the Bories of Gordes
If you’re planning to incorporate the village des Bories on your itinerary of Southern France, here are the key things you should know before you visit.
Gordes and the Village des Bories is an easy day trip from Aix or Avignon. From either city, it will take you around an hour to drive there. As you’re approaching Gordes, look out for the discreet white signs indicating the turn off for the Village des Bories.
The entrance is on your left. If you get to the roundabout, you’ve gone too far. So circle around it and return the way you’ve come. There’s a large car park for buses and caravans next to the roadside where you need to turn. Once you’ve turned off the main road, you’ll follow a long, narrow road for around 1.7 km until you reach the car park for the village.
Drive slowly – it’s a two-way road despite the size!
As mentioned above, there is a car park at the entrance to the village. If you’re travelling in a camper or bus, you’ll need to park in the large car park next to the main road – or risk getting stuck. If you’re a nervous driver, or just prefer to walk, it may also be a good idea to park in this car park. Both car parks are free of charge.
The Village des Bories is open every day from 9 am to sunset. Just be aware that sunset falls early during the winter months and you’ll want to arrive no later than 2pm to allow yourself time to explore the site before closing time. The only period during the year that it’s closed is between Xmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Cost to Visit
The current cost to visit the Village des Bories is €6/Adult or €4/Teenagers aged 12-17. It is free for under 12’s making it a cheap family outing for those of us with little ones!
Other Attractions Nearby
A trip to the bories village will only take you an hour or two, so you can easily fit it in around a day trip to some of the area’s other key attractions.
Gordes is the quintessential Provence village and one that is well worth taking the time to discover. Wander past the striking château and let yourself get lost in the cobbled lanes. Peek inside the Eglise Saint-Firmin to see it’s surprising interior artwork, and take in the views across the light-filled Luberon valley.
Abbey de Senanque
Visit this Cistercian abbey surrounded by lavender fields. In the summer, it’s swarming with visitors, but come winter it’s a serene place to stop for a visit. Marvel at its beauty, take an unguided tour (there are guided tours available – but only in French), and browse the beautiful gift shop.
The village of Roussillon is only a stone’s throw from Gordes, and it’s easy to spot with its rust-red cliffs. Built next to an ochre mine, the village has a rich and varied colour-scheme ranging from bright orange to muted pinks. It’s famous for its art and you can see this evident in the art galleries that pepper the town.
Be sure to take in the village square with its Instagram-famous town hall, walk through the belfry to the old town, and up to the orientation table at the top of the village.
The Ochre Trail
The ochre trail is a short walk through the incredible landscapes of a former ochre quarry. Located in Roussillon, the trail takes in the dusty canyons and rust coloured cliffs of this spectacular site.
Wander through the lesser-known village of Goult. Follow the signs up through the charming village to the reconstituted Jerusalem Mill, then continue down to the Terrasses de Cultures – a large garden which lovingly preserves and displays the ancient agricultural techniques of the region.
The Musee de la Lavande is a petite museum on the edge of the Luberon. It tells the story and importance of ‘blue gold’ in Provence throughout history. Find out how lavender has been grown, harvested and distilled in the past, and how the process works today at the lavender farm of Château du Bois. Afterwards, visit the boutique to buy products made with the finest lavender in the region.
The Village des Bories is a fantastic Provence attraction that’s suitable for the whole family to enjoy. Discover one of the Luberon Valley’s best-kept secrets while learning more about the unique history & heritage of this remarkable area.