Cycle Provence (20-28 April) - Alpine-Cols


Cycle Provence (20-28 April)

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Road cycling tour in Provence, April 2024.

Booking instructions:

if more than two months before the start date, please use the coupon code “deposit” to pay 20%.

Two months prior to departure, please return to this page and use the coupon code “balance” to pay 80%.

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  • Dates: 20 – 28 April 2024

A cycling trip you will never forget

There are few better places to cycle than in the arrière-pays (back country) between the French Riviera and the high mountains. Just a few kilometres from the overcrowded coast, the roads are quiet and the country unspoiled.

History seems to stand still in the numerous hilltop villages dotted around the area, where the local people still gather in the central square under the shade of plane trees to play boules and drink coffee (or pastis!) Many villages still have a traditional farmer’s market, where people come to do their weekly shopping. The pace of life is slow and comfortable and the weather warm and sunny for most of the year.

The scenery is always impressive and often stunning, thanks to the limestone rock formations shaped by water over millions of years. The Gorges du Verdon, part of the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence, have been a top tourist destination for over a century and are renowned the world over, as is the characteristic Provençal vegetation, the garrigue. Lavender, sage, rosemary and wild thyme thrive in the dry soils, while the trees are short and scrubby, mostly different varieties of evergreen oaks and juniper.

The back country has a very low population density and you can cycle for miles on excellent roads without seeing anyone. While not as mountainous as the heart of the Alps, there are plenty of serious climbs and delightful descents to enjoy.

Read below and click on the tabs for more, or download our e-brochure.

Is this cycling trip for you?

YES: if you want to cycle in beautiful Provence, far from the crowds on the coast

YES:   if you want to ride on mountainous routes.

YES:   if you want to make friends and have fun with other like-minded people.

YES:   if you want to stay in authentic, comfortable 4* and 3* hotels, with outstanding food.

NO:   if you are a beginner cyclist or you do not like cycling up hills.

NO  if you prefer low cost accommodation and cheap & cheerful food.

Here is the programme for the week, including the major climbs and the distance/elevation you can expect to ride.

Date Programme Climbs Distance & Elevation
Sat Arrival day (Nice) - -
Sun Loop from Carros Col de Vence 63km / 1,130m or 87km / 1,520m
Mon Carros to Castellane Col d'Ascros, col de St-Barnabé 114km / 2,560m or 122km / 2,970m
Tue Gorges du Verdon Pas de la Bau, col d'Ayen, col de Vaumale 109km / 1,980m or 130km / 2,570m
Wed Castellane to Callas Saint-Thyrs, col de Val Ferrière 84km / 1,400m or 100km / 1,670m
Thu Loop from Callas Tourtour 84km / 1,400m or 123km / 1,730m
Fri Callas to Carros Col de Saint-Arnoux, col d'Avaye, col du Pilon 108km / 1,740m or 123km / 2,100m
Sat Col de Turini Col de Châteauneuf de Contes, col de Turini 102km / 1,970m or 119km / 2,500m
Sun Departure day (Nice) - -

Download our e-brochure for route maps and profiles.


Stage 1: Loop from Carros

Discovery: 63km / 1,130m

Challenge: 87km / 1,520m

The week begins in Carros, just a short drive from Nice airport. Our first ride is a loop through the beautiful Provençal back country, and our first chance to see some of the famous hilltop villages. Carros itself is the first of these, soon followed by Gattières and Saint-Jeannet on the way to Vence.

The Discovery and Challenge routes diverge in Vence. The Discovery route heads directly north to the col de Vence (963m). This is a 9.7km climb at 6.6%, with ever more stunning views across the coastline below.

The Challenge route continues further to the south-west before turning north near Le Bar sur Loup and climbing the Vallée du Loup to Cipières (12km at 4.4%), enjoying a short descent and then climbing another 8kmat 4.8% to re-join the Discovery route at Courségoules.

Courségoules is a great place to stop for coffee and photos before the 25km descent back to Carros.

Stage 2: Carros to Castellane

Discovery: 114km / 2,560m

Challenge: 122km / 2,970m

Stage 2 will see us cycle from Carros to Castellane, at the gates of the Gorges du Verdon. We begin with a short climb via the charming hilltop village of Le Broc, and then follow a delightful route climbing steadily along the flank of the mountain to the col d’Ascros. This is a very popular road for local cyclists, and has been used several times by the Haute Route.

The two routes are the same until km 55, at which point the Discovery riders will turn south to follow another very quiet road to the hilltop village of St Auban.

The Challenge route descends all the way to the valley floor before climbing the col de Félines and the col du Buis on the way to St Auban.

The final 28km from St Auban to Castellane are the same for both routes, taking us over the col de St Barnabé before descending to the lac de Chaudanne and on into the town.

Stage 3: Gorges du Verdon

Discovery: 109km / 1,980m

Challenge: 130km / 2,570m

Stage 3 is a real treat for the eyes as we enjoy the astonishing scenery of the world-famous Gorges du Verdon. This is one of the original UNESCO World Heritage sites and is France’s answer to the Grand Canyon.

Starting and finishing in Castellane, we visit the Gorges from both sides. All along this route are quite exceptional views of the natural scenery. It is a magnificent spot and you will find yourself stopping every few metres to take pictures.

The difference between the Discovery and Challenge routes is the addition of the climb to the Pas de Bau, which adds 21km and 600m of climbing. The reward is – you probably guessed – the view, down hundreds of metres of sheer cliffs, with eagles and vultures floating on the wind currents far above the river.

At the end of the Gorges they open out with a magnificent vista across the lake. Enjoy it before turning back and starting the long climb to the col de Vaumale (12km, 5.8%), and seeing the Gorges from the other side!

Stage 4: Castellane to Callas

Discovery: 84km / 1,400m

Challenge: 100km / 1,670m

After two tough stages it’s time for an easier one! Not only are the climbs on stage 4 straightforward, we will descend far more than we climb.

We leave Castellane by a quiet, rural road to the south, and climb steadily for the first 5km at 6% though a limestone ravine. We continue on minor roads until km 30, where we join the Route Napoléon for 7km of gentle climb until the turn-off to Mons.

We are back in hilltop village territory, and Mons is the first of several. It’s a great place to stop for a coffee.

A few kilometres later the two routes diverge. The Discovery route turns right and descends directly to the charming village of Seillans, while the Challenge route makes a loop to the east and passes by Callian, another scenic hilltop village.

The two routes meet up again for the last 15km to our destination in Callas.

Stage 5: Loop from Callas

Discovery: 84km / 1,400m

Challenge: 123km / 1,730m

Stage 5 is a change of scenery from the deep gorges and steep escarpments we have seen so far. The countryside on this stage is rolling hills through the garrigue, the characteristic Provençal vegetation. The trees are short and scrubby, mostly different varieties of evergreen oaks and juniper. Lavender, sage, rosemary and wild thyme thrive in the dry limestone soils.

The area is not densely populated. We pass through the occasional village and vineyard, but for long stretches we are unlikely to see anyone else.

The longest climb is 8.5km at 4.6%, and brings us from the outskirts of Salernes to the charming hilltop village of Tourtour (km 61).

The Challenge route goes further to the west, remaining almost exclusively on the quietest back roads through vineyards and garrigue. None of the climbs are long, but there’s not much that’s completely flat!

Stage 6: Callas to Carros

Discovery: 108km / 1,740m

Challenge: 123km / 2,100m

Stage 6 brings us back to our starting point, by a wonderfully scenic route through historic villages and with stunning views down to the distant coast. The two routes start slightly differently before coming together at Bargemon, and then separate at Seillans, the first of many of the best-known hilltop villages of Provence.

The Discovery route turns left in Seillans and climbs for 8km to the col d’Abaye (780m), then continues to Mons before descending 9km, climbing through Saint-Cézaire and on up to the col de la Lèque (692m) and the col du Pilon (783m). From here it’s an easy descent to Grasse and along to Vence, passing through Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Saint-Jeannet and Gattières, each one more charming than the last!

The Challenge route adds some additional climbs, initially via a different route to Bargemon, then by riding through Fayence on the way to Mons and finally at the finish via Carros itself.

Stage 7 Col de Turini

Discovery: 102km, / 1,970m

Challenge: 119km / 2,500m

The col de Turini (1,607m) is arguably the most iconic col in the region, mostly due to its long association with the Monte Carlo rally. The spectacular series of hairpin bends will be familiar to many. The col has been used 4 times by the Tour de France, most recently in 2020.

It is quite a challenging ride from Carros, so we have only included it in the Challenge route (+17km, +530m). The Discovery route takes a shortcut, descending to Lantosque after the col de Porte, above Lucéram. The first and last part of the two routes are identical.

Starting from Carros, we cross the valley and climb immediately through a series of historic villages: Colomars, Aspremont, Tourette-Levens and Coaraze. Just before the col de Porte we separate and the Challenge riders climb another 15km and 640m to reach the col de Turini.

After a highly photogenic descent we reach Lantosque. From here it’s an easy 33km of false flat descending to the finish.

We will begin and end the tour at the 4* Hôtel Lou Castelet in Carros, just 15 minutes from Nice airport.

20 to 28 April 2024

Package price (twin-share): €3,175

Single supplement: €400

We offer a 5% “welcome back” discount to all returnees, and a 10% discount for a second trip in the same year. Ask us for the code!


Your money is safe

As required by EU law, your payments are fully protected by an approved insurance policy against the very unlikely event of financial failure/insolvency of Alpine Cols. Full details are on the page “About Us“.


What’s included

  • Accommodation (including 4 nights in a 4* hotel and 2 nights in a 3* hotel)
  • Meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner, including drinks with the meal)
  • On-the-road support vehicle with free energy drinks and snacks, space for extra clothes etc.
  • Mechanical assistance
  • On-the-bike guiding (and coaching if desired)
  • Photographs and videos taken during the week (digital copies)


Not included

  • Travel to and from Nice aiport
  • Airport transfers (15 minutes)
  • Bicycle hire (ask for a quote)
  • Minibar or drinks at the hotel bar
  • Coffee or snacks during café stops
  • Massage (optional extra)