Les Baux de Provence Day Trip from Toulon Avignon Montpellier or Marseille

Les Baux-de-Provence Day Trip from Toulon, Avignon, or Marseille

Purchases made through some links on this page may provide The Detour Effect with commissions (at no extra cost to you). Thank you!

After sailing into the Mediterranean port cities of Toulon or Marseille in the South of France, most day trippers will be eyeing the ritzy French Riviera cities of Nice, Cannes, or Saint-Tropez. If you’re looking to leave the crowded beaches behind, or simply prefer the more pastoral regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, consider taking a unique day trip north to see a 10th century fortified town, its 13th century castle, and an immersive sound and light show in Les Baux-de-Provence.

Les Baux is also a must-visit for those staying in Avignon, Arles, Nîmes, or Montpellier; travelers based in those locations probably chose this region of Provence with a day trip to Les Baux in mind to begin with.

“Ye, Alpine peaks and all blue hills of Baux, unto the latest hour of time will show the traces of our teachings carved in stone.”

Mirèio by Frédéric Mistral

Getting to Les Baux-de-Provence by Car

In most of my posts, I focus on how to reach destinations throughout France via public transportation because 1) I think it’s the best way to see the country and experience local life, 2) it’s affordable, 3) I personally will do everything possible to avoid having to rent a car because driving invites extra stress. I’ve written about using public transportation to visit castles in the Loire Valley, the Occitanie medieval citadel of Carcassonne, and to take day trips from Paris to Giverny, Strasbourg, Fontainebleau, and Mont Saint-Michel.

That said, some rural areas of France truly are not accessible by public transportation no matter how much I try to force it. I have surrendered to renting cars a few times, most recently for a day trip to Les Baux-de-Provence from Toulon.

At just a 1hr 30min drive, most of which is a straight shot on the highway, renting a car to reach Les Baux from Toulon is undeniably the easiest option if you don’t have significant anxiety about driving. There are multiple rental car agencies in Toulon, including Enterprise and Avis. 

However, if you are trying to reach Les Baux from Avignon, Arles, Saint-Rémy, Montpellier, Nîmes, or Marseille, this opens up more options via public transportation.

Drive times to Les Baux by rental car or taxi:
Saint Rémy-de-Provence: 20 min
Arles: 30-40 min
Avignon: 40-50 min
Nîmes: 45-60 min
Aix-en-Provence: 1 hr
Marseille: 1 – 1.5 hrs
Montpellier: 1.5 hrs
Toulon: 1.5 – 2 hrs

Getting to Les Baux-de-Provence on Public Transportation

Summertime

Getting to Les Baux-de-Provence on public transportation from Arles, Saint Rémy-de-Provence, or Avignon in the summertime is pretty straightforward. Bus line 707 Eté (“eté” means summer) drops off directly at the castle in Les Baux from July 8-August 31. 

From Nîmes, Montpellier, or Marseille Saint-Charles, you would first need to take a train to Avignon or Arles, then take the 707 eté bus line the rest of the way to Les Baux. Going to Avignon to catch the 707 is usually better because it will be a direct train; if you choose the train route to Arles, you would have to transfer at Avignon anyway.

Spring, Fall, Winter, early Summer

During the off season when bus line 707 does not stop in Les Baux, those staying in Arles can take bus line 702 to Maussane-les-Alpilles and then take a 10 minute taxi the rest of the way to Les Baux. Bus 704 to Saint-Rémy is a backup option requiring a 20 minute taxi ride.

Those staying in Avignon could take bus line 707 (its year-around service rather than the eté summer line) to Saint-Rémy and then take a 20 minute taxi to Les Baux.

From Montpellier, Nîmes, or Marseilles Saint-Charles station, you can take a train to Arles (it is not direct; there will be a transfer at Avignon), hop on the 702 bus to Maussane, then take a 10 minute taxi ride to Les Baux. 

Alternatively, since taking the train to Arles requires a transfer at Avignon, you could consider just getting off at Avignon, hopping on bus 707 to Saint-Rémy, and then taking a 20 minute taxi to Les Baux. It comes down to whether you’d rather deal with transferring trains or pay a little more for a longer taxi ride.

If you prefer to have all of the transportation logistics taken care of for you, consider joining a guided day trip to Les Baux-de-Provence. Tour operators offer them from Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille.

What to Do on a Day Trip to Les Baux-de-Provence

The top two attractions in Les Baux-de-Provence are the fortified castle and village at Château des Baux, and the quarry where the immersive Carrières des Lumières sound and light show is projected. 

Château des Baux-de-Provence

“If I were once enthroned there, a sovereign and an empress, in a fair mantle bedecked, of golden-flowered brocade, with pearls and emeralds dazzling round my head, then would my heart for my poor country yearn; and I, the queen, would unto Baux return. And I would make my capital at Baux, and on the rock where lie its ruins low I would rebuild our ancient castle, and a white tower on the top thereof should stand, whose head should touch the stars.”

Mirèio by Frédéric Mistral 

The landscape of Les Baux is naturally hospitable with its springs, valleys, and caves, but most advantageous for prehistoric settlers, Roman conquerors, medieval villagers, and modern climbers alike have been its rocky outcroppings. The craggy plateau Les Baux is built upon, and built into, creates the perfect lookout point for observing surrounding lands. The soft limestone is great for mining the very materials used to construct the castle and village. Like the Native American cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde or the stunning ancient city of Petra in Jordan, “troglodyte houses” were carved into the rock in Les Baux, and the Keep of the castle was also partially carved into the rock.

It’s from this characteristic rock that Les Baux-de-Provence takes its name. The Provençal word “bau” (pronounced like “take a bow”) means “escarpment.” The dictionary defines an escarpment as “a long, steep slope, especially one at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights.” The letter “x” on the end of “baux” makes the word plural. 

Archaeological evidence tells us that humankind settled in Les Baux long before the fortified town was established by the Lords of Baux in the 10th century and the castle was ordered to be built in the 13th century. In Neolithic times, a farming community used the rocky spur for shelter and buried their dead in its cavities.

The first writings about a fortification on the site were in 960 AD. Since that time we have many accounts of Les Baux being at the center of wartime skirmishes and political intrigue, including the Wars of Les Baux or “Baussenque Wars” from 1145-1162 (the central issue being whether Provence should be a part of the Catalan dynasty), the oppressive reign of “Scourge of Provence” Raymond de Turenne and his pillaging rampage from 1386-1398, and the Wars of Religion in 1631.

Having just written at length about the castle and medieval village at Carcassonne, it’s interesting to delve into the parallel history of Les Baux. Carcassonne was also tied up in the same conflicts between the Counts of Toulouse and Barcelona regarding Catalan’s claims to Provence. It seems the Trencavel lords of Carcassonne tended to side with Barcelona while the Lords of Baux tended to side with Toulouse. As another sidenote, I thought it was interesting to compare their antiquity; there is proof of Neolithic settlement in both places, but in Les Baux it’s much older at 6000 BC vs. Carcassonne’s 3500 BC.

After the last Princess of Baux died without an heir in 1426, the seigneurie changed hands until Les Baux eventually became an asset of the Kingdom of France. Wartime instability and royal wishes to weaken Les Baux as a rebel stronghold ultimately reduced the significance of the site, which fell to ruin after a siege in the early 1630s and was mostly abandoned over the ensuing centuries.

Visiting Château des Baux-de-Provence is a unique experience because a lot of it has not been restored; it is still a ruin with a rocky, crumbled look and thus feels “authentic.” Its medieval village, by contrast, is dotted with gift shops and cafes, but still retains its Old World charm because of buildings like the 12th century Saint-Vincent Church and Saint-Blaise Chapel, or the old Eyguieres gate which was the only entrance to the city prior to 1866. The Yves Brayer Museum is a love letter to Provence and France.

While visiting Les Baux, travelers can walk the castle ramparts, climb its towers, look out over the stunning landscape of Val d’Enfer (“Valley of Hell” because of the primordial, oddly-shaped rock formations) and Alpilles, and study the replica war machines, which include a trebuchet (the largest in France), ballista, battering ram, and couillard. Demonstrations of these operational machines are held in the summer; check out the seasonal program here.

Château des Baux-de-Provence Pricing, Tours, and Things to Know

At the time of this writing, an entrance ticket for the château is €8 per adult during low season or €10 during the high season of July 15-August 31. There are reduced rates for seniors, children, students, disabled, and families of 4. There is also a combined Carrières des Lumières + Château des Baux-de-Provence ticket for €18 off-season or €20 in high season called the “Baux-de-Provence Pass.”

Free audioguides in 10 languages are available upon arrival.

There are not any lockers or luggage storage options. Pets are only allowed if on a leash. Strollers are not recommended. The Château des Baux is not very accessible to people with reduced mobility.

Château des Baux-de-Provence Parking

The designated castle parking is paid, so if you do not have reduced mobility, I would recommend parking further up the road at one of the many free parking spaces for Carrières des Lumières and then walking to the castle.

Carrières des Lumières

“Let four men rally, and to the Fairies’ Cavern in the valley they call Enfer, bear up this wounded man. The deadlier the hurt, the sooner can the old witch heal. Scale first the cliffs of Baux, and circling vultures the cave’s mouth will show.”

Mirèio by Frédéric Mistral. The poet Jules Canonge visited Fairies’ Cavern and supposed that, since Dante once visited Provence, Val d’Enfer must have inspired “Inferno”.

Just next door and walking distance from the castle is the giant Grands Fonds quarry which was heavily mined for limestone in the 1800s and used as the atmospheric setting for Jean Cocteau’s 1959 film The Testament of Orpheus.

Since the 1970s, the quarry has been used as an art space where light shows are projected onto the immense stone walls. Today, the Carrières des Lumières (quarries of light) multimedia show combines classical music with swirling, moving images of timeless paintings by artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Bosch, Raphael, Cezanne, and Vermeer. The theme changes each year. When I got to see the show in 2023, the theme was “From Vermeer to Van Gogh, the Dutch Masters.”

I have seen other sound and light shows, including the rather disappointing Van Gogh Exhibit Denver. The only other time I’ve been impressed by this type of show was at Blois castle in the Loire Valley; otherwise, I don’t tend to find them as immersive as the marketing would lead you to believe. As a result, the Carrières des Lumières show in Les Baux went above and beyond my expectations. Perhaps the difference is the sheer enormity of the carved out quarry, with its 7,000 m² of surface area to project onto and the absolutely towering stone pillars. Images cover the ceilings, walls, and floors of the Dante Room so that you truly feel as if you’ve been inserted into the scene. I was not simply observing Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhône, but taking a walk along the depicted riverbank in Arles. I was inside a tavern drinking with Jan Steen’s merrymakers and I was chased by Mondrian’s abstract lines as they spread across the room towards me.

Visitors constantly gain new vantage points and perspectives on the art as they walk throughout the exhibit, ascending ramps or stairs and circling around rocky supports. Since the view is not exactly the same wall-to-wall, you notice small details about each painting that you may never have focused on in a static setting.

Carrières des Lumières Pricing, Tours, and Things to Know

Carrieres des Lumieres entrance France
“I’d like to combine melancholy and sunshine… There’s a sadness in Provence which no one has expressed… I’d like to put reason in the grass and tears in the sky, like Poussin.” – Paul Cezanne

The entire show is about an hour long, at which point the loop starts over again from the beginning. Your timed entry ticket is set up to start at the beginning of the loop, but you can stay for a repeat. At the time of this writing, a ticket is €14.50 per adult with reduced rates for seniors, children, students, people with reduced mobility, and families of 4. There is also a combined Carrières des Lumières + Château des Baux-de-Provence ticket for €18, or €20 during the high season of July 15-August 31, called the “Baux-de-Provence Pass.”

Carrières des Lumières does not offer in-house official tours. Third party operators provide tours that involve transportation and entrance to the show, including this Half-Day Van Gogh & Carrières de Lumières Tour from Avignon, but I doubt a guide would interpret the art for the group while inside. It would be disruptive for other attendees considering the music and the quiet reflective vibe.

There are not any lockers or luggage storage options. I had been advised that wearing a jacket is a good idea because the caverns are so cold, but my visit wasn’t cold at all; maybe it depends on the season. Strollers are allowed and the quarry is wheelchair accessible. Animals are not allowed.

Carrières des Lumières Parking

The driving road up to Carrières des Lumières and Château des Baux-de-Provence is winding. There are some paid parking lots close to their entrances, but there are also a ton of free parking lots and pull-offs lining the road. You’ll want to drive up, up, up looking for a lot that still has space. If all the parking lots are full, which they are likely to be, you can pull off onto the shoulder to park on the side of the road. Tons of cars were doing this – it is not prohibited as long as you use common sense about picking a space that looks safe. Don’t park on a blind curve or fail to get completely off the road and out of drivers’ way. 

If you park somewhat far away from the cave entrance, the walk to get there traces alongside woodlands and strange rock formations. When I was there, modern art sculptures dotted the forest and I wished I had the time to wander and investigate them. If you are not on a schedule, take the time to check out the surprises waiting for you all along the roadside. 

Other Things to Do Near Les Baux-de-Provence

  • Follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh in Arles and Saint Rémy (visit the hospital where he stayed, locations that he painted, etc). Starry Night Over the Rhône will soon return to the city where it was painted; it’s being lent to Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles for an exhibition starting June 1, 2024.
  • Visit the Roman ruins at Glanum in Saint Rémy
  • Adventure in Alpilles Regional Natural Park (Les Baux is actually within the park)
  • Eat at the famous Michelin Star restaurant L’Oustau de Baumanière
  • Admire the windmill in Fontvieille that inspired poet Alphonse Daudet
  • Enjoy an olive oil tasting or wine tasting at nearby vineyards
  • Learn about the ethnography of Provence at the Museon Arlaten in Arles

🏨 Find budget hostels in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur here and standard hotel options here.
✈️ Coming to France from further afield? Use an Airalo eSIM for affordable international cell data and don’t forget to protect your investment with travel insurance.

When the Good Lord begins to doubt the world, he remembers that he created Provence.

Frédéric Mistral

Related:
jean cocteau testament of orpheus
The Testament of Orpheus movie filmed in Grands Fonds quarry
Van Gogh book
Van Gogh, by Ingo F. Walther
Van Gogh biography The Life
Van Gogh: The Life (NYT bestselling biography)
Rick Steves Provence and the French Riviera Travel Guide
Rick Steves Provence and the French Riviera Travel Guide
Fodors Provence and the French Riviera travel guide
Fodor’s Provence and the French Riviera Travel Guide
The Master Painters of the Dutch Golden Age Their Lives and Works in 500 Images
The Master Painters of the Dutch Golden Age: Their Lives and Works in 500 Images
Pin It:

SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER

Sign up to receive the Monthly Location Independence Newsletter! Once a month I interview a "Pin Pal" about their adventures and share tips on living nomadically (visas, vanlife, remote work, and more).

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

My dream is to write travel and hiking content full-time. All of my guides and itineraries are free and my travels are self-funded. If you enjoy my site and would like to support, you can donate any amount to my Ko-fi page. Thank you!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *