a colorful itinerary!
Deserts of ocher sands, red rock formations erected vertically, orange cliffs cut into gullies, all under an intense blue sky and a blazing sun. Does that remind you of anything?
John Wayne, the scarf around his neck, cowboy boots on his foot and hat on his head in Stagecoach … maybe.
Yes, we are in the American Wild West in the heart of Provence!
The remains of an open pit mining operation transformed the landscape
This exceptional site located about 40 miles east of Avignon on the D900 and 6 miles from Apt in the town of Rustrel, is a former ocher quarry. It is reminiscent of the landscapes of the American West and the Grand Canyon. A change of scenery is guaranteed… in the heart of Provence!
It is difficult today to imagine its industrial past in the 19th century with several factories extracting ocher used then as a natural dye. At its peak around 1929, this activity employed a thousand workers in Vaucluse district and 40,000 tons of ocher were even exported. But this activity gradually declined when the United States began to produce synthetic ochres. From the 1950s, factories closed one after the other until operations ceased definitively in the second half of the 20th century.
Today the place is returned to nature and operated as a tourist site for its geological and landscape curiosities. There are still traces of this mining activity, especially the rails where the wagons transported the earth stripped of its ocher.
The discovery of Provençal Colorado is possible thanks to the marked trails between chestnut trees and maritime pines, hills, cliffs, fairy chimneys and nipples on a wide palette of colors ranging from immaculate white to mustard yellow, from bright red to brown via the orange. Up to 25 shades identified contrast with the azure blue sky.
The Provençal Colorado tour
Allow at least 1 hour on the GR6/97 trail for a short walk, but longer marked trails allow you to go all around. Those who prefer to refine the discovery will choose a 3.4 miles trail for 3 hours of hiking through Mediterranean vegetation, cirques and panoramas over the Doa Valley. Access is free but the parking lot of Mille Couleurs, managed by the association of plot owners, is chargeable (€5 per car) and allows you to leave your car in the shade and even have a picnic on furnished tables nearby. And for the more curious, a guided tour is recommended.
Bring a good pair of shoes and don’t forget a large bottle of water!