What do see and do in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in Provence

Written by on April 15, 2019 in Provence-Alpes

Beautiful riverside restaurant in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Provence famous for its very blue water from a spring

One of the charms of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the river that runs around and through it. This river, the Sorgue, is a favorite of tourists and fishermen alike, with its crystal-clear waters sparkling in the sun. The source of the river lies just five miles east of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in one of the most beautiful spots in Provence.


The river Sorgue flowing fast past tree lined banks

Follow the Sorgue upstream, past shady trees, olive groves, and vineyards. Then you’ll arrive at the pretty little town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (“fountain of the Vaucluse”).

Walk a bit further on and you’ll see a high cliff and wonder, “How does the river get around that?” And then you realize that it doesn’t. No, it arises fully formed from one of the largest springs in the world, right at the foot of the cliff.

Almost jewel-like turquoise waters of the river Sorgue

This spring, the “fountain” that gives the town its name, emerges from a deep grotto where the waters of the region gather. Then it rises into a bluish pool that seems very still until you realize how much water is coming out of it. This water bursts out of one side and cascades down huge rocks before slowing to form the Sorgue River. It’s incredible how this pool of water, which is only maybe 30 feet across, can provide enough water for an entire river.

Things to do in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Ancient mill wheel along the Sorgue river at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

After gazing in wonder at the cliff and spring, enjoy a relaxing meal or snack at one of the inviting dining spots that line the shores of the flowing river. They range from restaurants and cafés to simple créperies and ice cream parlours. Or you can enjoy a leisurely picnic along the banks of the river.

small painted and dressed figurines at the Santon museum in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Besides the natural beauty, there are plenty of attractions to keep the attention of visitors of all ages. You might like to go down into the underground world of grottos and stalactites at the Museum of the Underground World (tours in English). Or the Santon Museum, with one of the best collections of these traditional figurines in all of Provence. For history buffs there is the Jean Garcin Museum, which documents life in France during World War II (audio guides in English). And for those with an artistic bent, you can visit the Vallis Clausa Museum (free entry) to see how paper was made back in the Middle Ages.

If you’d like a more active visit, you can rent a canoe and paddle down the river to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. It’s an easy ride, perfect for beginners and families, and there are several rental companies along the road into Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. It’s a great way to stay cool on a hot summer day.

How to get to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Driving is the easiest way to reach Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and many people combine it with a visit to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. If a car is not available, you can take a cab or bus  or hire a bike from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue or another nearby town. Local buses within the TransVaucluse network make stops in and around Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. Be sure to check the TransVaucluse bus schedules online.

The ideal time to visit Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is after it has been raining and the waters are at their highest.

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