The Luberon Christmas Experience

2023 Trip: Tuesday, December 12 – Tuesday, December 19

This special trip intended as a return trip for travelers who previously experienced the Luberon in warmer months.

Bonnieux in December

We spent three wonderful weeks in Bonnieux over Christmas 2021; our daughter Kelly (now living in Paris) joined us for part of this time. This was the 10th time we’ve enjoyed the Luberon in December and the fifth Christmas we’ve celebrated there. It’s one of our favorite times of year, though quite a contrast to what we experience in May and September when we host our Luberon Experience groups.

We were delighted to host our first Luberon Christmas Experience group in December 2022, and now we’re looking forward to sharing the holiday season in the Luberon with another group of travelers in December 2023. We can welcome up to 13 people. Our wonderful hotel in Bonnieux is normally closed at this time of year, but they’re very enthusiastic about this special week and will open just for our group. We’re looking forward to gathering with friends by the fireplace. One night Charley will play the piano and we’ll sing some traditional French carols and songs.

A quiet evening in Bonnieux – that’s our apartment with the stars

Expect a much quieter Luberon in December! With few tourists, many shops and eating places are closed for the off-season. But more than 175,000 people live year-round in the 77 municipalities of the Luberon Regional Nature Park and many second-home owners come for the holidays. It’s a special time for locals to gather with friends to celebrate the season.

We’ll discover many Christmas traditions unique in Provence. The Christmas “crèche” incorporates nativity figures and “santons” (handpainted villagers arranged in a scene), displayed in churches, businesses, and homes. The crèche in Bonnieux’s old church is one of the most extensive in Provence.

One section of the wonderful crèche in Bonnieux’s old church

Many villages, towns and wineries host special Christmas festivals and markets (Marchés de Noël) where you can shop for gifts, enjoy entertainment, and eat special food. The major outdoor markets and the big supermarkets are filled with Christmas foods, decorations, and gifts. It’s a festive time, but also quiet and simple… a big part of what draws us back to Bonnieux so often in December.

Weekend Christmas market in the village of Lourmarin

The beauty of the area continues to be spectacular, especially the long views across the countryside. There are 300 days of sunshine in Provence, and we’ve enjoyed many beautiful, clear December days. It can also be cold; if you join us on this trip, you’ll need a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves for extended times outdoors. You should also be prepared for other possible winter weather, including fog and wind… and maybe even a little snow.

Highlights of The Luberon Christmas Experience

Highlights of this special Luberon Experience week will include:

  • An introduction to the unique Christmas traditions of Provence.
  • A special visit to the famous Crèche Provençale at the Vieille Église (old church) in Bonnieux. We will arrange a private visit with the local man who lovingly prepares this crèche and decorates the church every year. 2022 was the 30th year! The crèche includes over 500 santons.
  • A morning at the lively Saturday market in the nearby town of Apt, one of the largest in Provence and very active all year. We may also visit the Sunday market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
  • Excursions to local Christmas markets and festivals, hosted by towns, villages and wineries. We’ll also visit at least one winery for a tour and tasting.
  • Private visits with local artisans to learn about their work… and perhaps do a little holiday shopping.
  • A day trip to the beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence, hosted by our partner in Provence, Jennifer Dugdale. Our day in Aix will include the Aix Christmas market, the santon fair, local food shops, and more. We hope to visit a family-owned santon workshop that’s been in Aix since 1934.
  • A truffle hunt and tasting with friends who have a farm on the south side of the Luberon. We’ll learn all about this delicacy, very popular during the Christmas season. We’ll search for truffles with the help of three dogs and then enjoy champagne and truffle hors d’oeuvres.
  • Explorations of small Luberon villages such as Castellet, Saignon and Goult, where we’ll wander quiet streets, discover unique Christmas decorations, and enjoy the views.
  • A stop at a large supermarket to see what the French buy (and eat and drink) during the holiday season. You may end up filling a shopping basket with treasures to take home.
  • Optional walks in the countryside.
  • Other unique experiences to discover the magic of Christmas in Provence.
  • Free time to relax and enjoy the village and countryside at this quiet and beautiful time of year.

Our bûche De Noël, a special log-shaped Christmas cake

Memorable meals in a variety of settings are an important part of every European Experience. During this week we’ll experience the specialties and cuisine of Provence, featuring seasonal products and holiday delicacies. Be sure to save room for dessert! On this trip we’ll have more meals together than our typical Experience. Restaurants in the countryside operate on unique schedules in the off-season, so we’ll enjoy all our evening meals as a group. There will be one, maybe two, lunches on-your-own, depending on our final schedule.

Learn more about the Christmas season in Provence

Bonnieux and the Crèches de Noël (Kathy’s blog)

Holiday Traditions in Provence (A Virtual European Experience with Kathy and Jennifer)

Arrival and Departure

We’ll meet travelers at the Avignon TGV station on the first Tuesday afternoon; this is also our drop-off point the following Tuesday morning.

You might begin or end your stay in France with a few days in Paris, Avignon, Arles or Marseille. We can help arrange transportation to the Marseille airport if you plan to begin your trip home on the last day.

Learn more about this special trip: The Magic of Christmas in Europe (Kathy’s blog)

Leaders: Kathy Wood, Charley Wood, Christian Linke

Prices: $3,950 per person, double occupancy. $4,400 single occupancy of a double room.