A Provence walking holiday in the Lavandou & the Golden Islands
The origin of the name is misleading. Lavandou evokes “lavande” – or lavender. Whilst there is lavender growing on the surrounding hills it is more likely that the town’s name derives from the Provençal word for washbasin: Lavadou. Centuries-old paintings of Le Lavandou, depict fishermen’s wives washing their clothes on the large flat stones of the communal wash basins.
Hiking in Provence: exploring Le Lavandou
Le Lavandou boasts an exceptional climate with around 300 days of sun per year and a luscious green bay extending 12km the length of the Mediterranean Sea. Le Lavandou used to be a small fishing village but is now a well-known tourist destination with a large harbour overlooking the beautiful Golden Islands. Despite the influx of tourism and the rise in hotels, guest houses, restaurants etc, the town retains much of its authentic charm of days gone by.
There are 12 beautiful beaches for you to sunbath on and many wild cove and creeks for snorkelling and diving in the clear water. You can enjoy beautiful self-guided hiking trails along the coast and inland trails through the lush Mediterranean vegetation. The town centre has several shops and boutiques and the port is lively with a choice of good seafood restaurants. Centre stage is the “boulodrome” – the red gravel playing surface at the port where the locals and tourists show off their skills in the game of pétanque (French lawn bowling). The evening competitions, where locals take their pétanque very seriously, are a pleasure to watch!
A trip to the Golden Islands: self-guided walking tour of Port Cros
This walking tour in Provence takes you from the Lavandou by boat to Port Cros, the smallest of the 3 Golden Islands, (4 km long and 3 km wide), and the most wild and mountainous. You spend a day exploring the island on foot on hiking trails through the fragrant Mediterranean vegetation, overlooking the clear turquoise water. There are 5 forts on Port Cros, witnesses to the defensive history of the island. It is possible to visit the Estissac Fort that offers a breathtaking view over the island.
Self-guided walking trip on the island of Porquerolles
You can take a boat from the Lavandou to the island of Porquerolles for yet another amazing self-guided walking tour. Porquerolles is the largest of the 3 islands (7km long and 3 km wide), with idyllic beaches. It is the most inhabited and the most visited of the 3 Golden Islands but don’t let this put you off! The island boasts hot summers but with a wonderful sea breeze and mild winters (rarely under 0 degrees), optimal weather conditions for the 200 hectares of vineyards that grow on the island and produce a well reputed local wine.
Porquerolles has a beautiful centre with small colourful houses, some almost hidden by the abundance of flowers growing outside. No sky-rise buildings or modern sea front apartments to be found here as the architectural harmony of the island is fiercely protected. You will find however beautiful hiking trails with endless swimming opportunities! Here, in this little stretch of paradise, you' be forgiven for feeling as though you were far away on an island in the Caribbean or the Pacific if it wasn’t for the call of cicadas, reminding you that you are indeed in Provence!