Mont Ventoux

As its name might suggest, the summit of Mont Ventoux is a windy place (vent means wind in french), but especially so when the famous mistral is blowing down the Rhône Valley. With its bold outline dominating the surrounding Carpentras plain and the Plateau de Vaucluse, and the tall observatory at its peak, Mont Ventoux is a notable landmark. At 1,909m (6,263 ft), it is not particularly high in comparison with the moutains of the Alps or Pyrenees, but it stands alone without rival.

The slopes of the mountain are covered with a wide variety of deciduous trees and conifers, and its flora and fauna are renowned. A large percentage of the wild flowers found in France occur on the slopes whilst polar species, such as Spitzbergen saxifrage and Icelandic poppies, flourish close to the summit. There are many tracks for ramblers to explore its riches.

Three roads, from Malaucène to the west, Bedoin to the south, and Sault to the east, provide vehicular access to the summit, though the final stretches are normally closed during the winter months from December to April. A trip over the mountain is not to be missed, though it is advisable to take a warm jacket - the summit temperature is some 12-20°C lower than at the foot. The views in all directions are stunning, with the Alps to the east, the mediterranean to the south, the plains leading to the Rhône to the west. The short interval immediately following a mistral provides the greatest clarity, though real enthusiasts should be there at dawn or sunset.

In winter, Mont Ventoux becomes a ski resort, with lifts from Mont Serein and Chalet-Reynard. Throughout the rest of the year, it is a target for sports cyclists. Periodicaly, the Tour de France includes a stage over Mont Ventoux, usually starting or finishing in Carpentras. (In 2000, the Tour passed through the centre of St Didier on a circuitous route to finish at the summit of Mont Ventoux.)

Mont Ventoux from St Didier