Bouches du Rhone translates as ‘mouth of the Rhone’, referring to the River Rhone which bisects the department. It is a largely urban area, with Marseille at its heart, and with Aix en Provence just inland. The marshland of the Carmargue is also located in the south west of the area. The Bouches du Rhone has many Roman monuments (Pont du Gard, Arles amphitheatre and the ruins of Glanum to name just a few), and two of the world’s most famous artists – Van Gogh and Cezanne - spent much of their lives here.
The Var (named after the river that used to run through it - a change of borders means that the Var River is to the east of the Department), is the coastal region that includes Toulon and St Tropez. It is bordered in the north by the River Verdon and much of the department is covered with forests. The beaches of The Var are the main attraction for tourism, but the department is also known for the spectacular Gorges du Verdon – a paradise for nature lovers. Add to this a highly successful wine industry, pretty hilltop villages and fascinating medieval architecture, it’s easy to see why the area attracts so many visitors each year.
To the east of The Var lies the Alpes Maritimes Department, which many people refer to as the French Riviera, or the Cote d’Azur. The coastline includes many of the glamorous resorts, such as Cannes, Antibes and Nice, but the department also runs back into the foothills of the Alps in the north. The beaches of the Mediterranean have their own attraction, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to be enjoyed in the hills; you’ll also find some of the most beautifully preserved medieval hilltop villages.
Vaucluse is the area to the north of Marseille & Aix, bordered to the west by the River Rhone and to the south by the River Durance. It is blessed by having fertile plains ideal for agriculture – fruit, vegetables & vines (to make Cote du Rhone wine) all flourish in this region. The landscape includes the mountainous Dentelles de Montmirail and the dominant Mont Ventoux (1912m), famous for it’s role in the Tour de France. You will also find the area known as the Luberon here, which many people consider to be the heart of Provence. The main city in Vaucluse is Avignon, and to the north lies the ancient Roman city of Orange.
Official figures put the population of Provence at 4.88 million (2008), with dense population in Marseille, Aix and Nice.