Roussillon is designated as one of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France,” and with good reason. Its brilliant array of colors–reds, oranges, greens, and blues of seemingly every shade–is enough to beckon even the most weary traveler.
As one approaches this village, along D227 from the east (my favorite drive in), the verdant green landscape meets the bright orange ochre cliffs and offers contrasts striking in their beauty. The typically cloudless blue skies of this part of Provence offer the perfect backdrop and, if you look back to see the Luberon hills on the distant horizon, you will be compelled to pull to the side of the road to fully appreciate the scene.

Photo: Mark Sammons


Photo: W.T. Manfull

Before even setting foot in this charming village, you’ll understand why cameras and paintbrushes are obligatory. You won’t be able to put your camera away!

Provencal Cafe, a painting by Monte Dolack inspired from his visit to Roussillon. Dolack mixed “powdered earth pigments [from Roussillon] with acrylic mediums” for this painting (except he bright red shutters), a practice he has used on other works, too.

Even if you have never envisioned yourself as a painter, Roussillon may inspire you so much that you find yourself buying ochre pigments from the Conservatoire des Ocres et de la Couleur (the Ochre and Color Conservatory) on the outskirts of the other side of the village as you depart on the D104. (I, a person suffering from no illusions that I can paint, bought a box of ochre pigments to give it a try anyway!)

Photo: W.T. Manfull

Roussillon (population about 1000) is located in the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, about 27 kilometers (17 miles) north of our beloved stomping grounds in Lourmarin . It is most famous for its replete deposits of ochre pigments (more on this in a minute) but it was also the setting (renamed Peyraud) for Laurence Wylie’s 1957 cultural study of French country life, culminating in a book entitled Village in the Vaucluse.

Photos: W.T. Manfull

The village is absolutely charming. As one of the prettiest villages in France, I suppose it would have to be. But the draw of Roussillon, for me, is that this village has a natural charm that eludes other pretty villages.



Photos: W.T. Manfull

Yes, over the years–with more art galleries and swanky shops–it has recognized the value of attracting tourists’ dollars. (Quite a few of my dollars have stayed in Roussillon where I found some of my favorite tablecloths!) Both tourism and home ownership by non-residents have increased significantly in recent years.

Photo: W.T. Manfull


19th-century clock with its bell tower and campanile. Photo: David Scott Allen

However, the narrow lanes lined with buildings the color of the various shades of orange and topped with red tiles maintain their allure. The 19th-century clock with its bell tower and campanile is beautiful. You will want to stop at the vistas to admire stunning views of the land’s palette of colors, as far as the eye can see. Tiny squares dot the village, offering places to congregate and admire the details of this village, of which there are many.

Photo: David Scott Allen


Photo: Mary Norcross


Photo: Mary Norcross


Photo: David Scott Allen

The village is small and easily can be explored in a day. With an ever-growing number of restaurants–many with terraces offering lovely views–plan to have lunch,too.

Photos: David Scott Allen

If you are up for a hike, go to the Sentier des Ocres (the Ochre Trail) where you have the choice of a 30-minute or a 60-minute hike along trails through the main ochre areas. It is very well marked, so when you are finished you’ve not only expended the calories of lunch, you have learned a lot about the geology of ochre and history of ochre mining. Once the world’s largest supplier of ochre pigments,the quarries were closed in 1930, after about 150 years of mining.

Watercolor of the pharmacy in Rousillon created by our daughter at age 8

If you happen to be in Roussillon on a Thursday morning, you can visit their small but winsome market. Located on the main square in front of the pharmacy, you’ll find a few short rows of tables each featuring their speciality: jams, macarons, calissons, table linens, ceramics, sausages, cheese, and and a little fresh produce. (Their market is not the reason to visit–go to Aix-en-Provence if you are looking for a special market on Thursdays–but it is a very nice bonus if you happen to find yourself in Roussillon on market day!) I always keep a basket in the car when traveling in Provence!

 roussillon-9013349-2.jpg roussillon-9013359.jpg


Photos: W.T. Manfull

If your visit to the village ends in time to visit the Ochre and Color Conservatory on the way out on D104, definitely make a stop. It is located in a former ochre plant, the Mathieu factory, which is interesting itself. But, you can also learn exactly how the pigments are extracted and where they have been used. Tiles, ceramics, and pottery, of course, but did you know they were used to create the paintings in the Lascaux caves as well as some Louis Vuitton bags? (Check for the times for English tours.)

Photo: Mary Norcross

My ochre pigments did not turn me into a Cézanne but they sure provided some fun trying and are one of several souvenirs of Roussillon I’ve collected on multiple trips to this beau village.

Photo: F.S. Gilbert


  1. Lovely photos… one of our favorite villages too! And I was delighted to see a photo of a poster by our good friend Françoise Valenti, whose gallery is on the main pedestrian street. Her art is inspiring and colorful, and her welcome is equally bright. Be sure to stop by if you visit Roussillon.

  2. Roussillon is such a beautiful village! We have been there last summer for the first time and I loved it so much!
    Thanks a lot for these wonderful memories, Monika

  3. I had forgotten that Roussillon was the very first place you took us upon our arrival to Provence. We must go back next time, and really take in all of this this beautiful village. It is really fun to see more of Towny's and other people's photos, too. xo, David

  4. I love Roussillon and your photos are stunning. Just like being there. Taking a class at the Conservatoire des Ocres et de la Couleur would be a fabulous activity for anyone visiting the area. They offer an amazing array of courses on everything from plaster finishes, painting, color theory, to photography for both professionals and amateurs ( I have a wish list of at least a dozen I'd like to take.

  5. Nineteenth-century American architectural and landscape theorists like A.J. Downing and A.J. Davis rebelled against the then-current rage for painting houses white, and advocated attaining more harmonious effects by painting houses to match the local soil color. Roussillon seems to have arrived at that seductive harmony simply by using the earthen materials that were around them in abundant supply.

  6. Susan,
    This has been one of your best blogs. It's hard to tell where one story ends and another begins. The photos are magnificant ! The warm colorful colors make me feel like buying the box of colors and see what I could do !!
    The winning truffle pig was by far far the star of the show!!

  7. Loved this village! The photos brought back great memories of our visit there. On the drive back to Lourmarin we happened upon a field of lavender that took our breath away. Thanks Susan for sharing such lovely photos.


  8. Hi Kathy, It's such a pretty village that it is hard not to have lovely photos, isn't it?! I checked out her website and will definitely stop by when I am there next visit. In case readers want to see more of her work, visit:

  9. Hi Monika, I am glad you enjoyed the post. It is a special place. What are some of your other favorite villages?

  10. That lunch was simple but memorable–so much fun! The post was brought to life with some many lovely photos, including yours!

  11. I would love to take a class there. In the mean time, I am going to have a go with those pigments again…I have a big canvas begging to be brushed!

  12. That is so interesting! I love your "seductive harmony" description. Thanks so much for your input.

  13. Would you please paint that pig?!

  14. Hi Sharon, Did your children like the magnificent colors? Glad you liked the post (and thanks for your perseverance in getting your comment up!).

  15. Oh how very beautiful! Thank you for sharing your photographs and story.

  16. Hi Liz, Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Knowing how lovely your photos are and how good those recipes sound–I intend to make those chocolate cookies soon — I thank you for your kind feedback! (Readers who want to read about these cookies can visit Bizzy Lizzy — .)

  17. This makes me want to pack our bags and head for the south of France. However, our next trip to Europe is slated for Prague where our niece lives, works and gets homesick for family. I'll have to live the dream of Provence vicariously through your wonderful blog.

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