Roussillon is wonderful village that is notable for its red rocks. You could be forgiven for thinking you've taken a wrong turn into Utah, with the starkly contrasting blue sky, red rocks and green vegetation.
The red earth comes from a large vein of ochre in the earth, and you'll see that Rousillon has used this natural pigment in the rendering of its houses.
History & Culture in Roussillon
The Geology & Ochre of Roussillon - The ochre vein in this region of France is one of the largest in the world, and it stretches through the Luberon from Apt to Roussillon. It is commonly referred to the Colorado Provencal. The ochre was mined very successfully in the 19th & 20th centuries, until synthetic pigments started to be manufactured in the 1950's. On the outskirts of Roussillon there is a disused quarry where an 'Ochre Trail' has been created. You can follow trails where you can examine the red rock up close in a 30 minute or a 60 minute walk. The ochre pigment has been quarried here for many years which left some of the formations that you will see. There is also a centre dedicated to ochre on the road to Apt - the Ochre & Colour Conservatory that offers guided visits around an old factory, information on the geology and history, and workshops on the use of the colour in a variety of decoration techniques.
Sights & Attractions in Roussillon
Roussillon lacks the historical buildings that nearby villages in the Luberon have - there are no grand castles or churches here. Instead, what you'll find is a less imposing village, unique in its use of ochre rendering, with little lanes and alleys tumbling through a mix of ramshackle buildings and somewhat swankier restored residences. Look out for beautuifully carved, ancient wooden doors, hidden stairways and stone arches.
The church sits at the top of the village. It originated in the 11th century and has undergone a number of rebuilds and enhancements over the centuries thanks to its position on the cliff edge. Above the church there is a little square with a viewing platform and orientation table where you can find a great view of the Luberon all the way up to the mountains of Vaucluse.
There are a few vineyards in the area that you can visit and sample their fine Provencal wines and buy yourself a bottle or two...or even a case!
Probably thanks to its connection to pigments, plus its location and the natural light of the Luberon, Roussillon has been popular with artists for many years. This has led to a number of art galleries opening in the village and you can follow an art itinery where you will visit participating galleries and artists workshops, specialising in paintings, sculpture, jewellery and ceramics. Ask for the Parcours de l'Art leaflet at the tourist office.
Events in Roussillon
The town market is held on Thursdays. At the beginning of June, there is a pottery market and on midsummers eve on the 22nd & 23rd June, Roussillon hosts St Jean des Couleurs with torchlit processions and bonfires followed by daytime markets and an agricultural fair.
Things to Do in Roussillon
When visiting by car, you'll find a pay car park at either end of the village - they are both quite small and you may have to park further away on the roads leading up to Roussillon before walking to the village. Or if you are staying here, ask if your accommodation provider has car parking!
There are several short hikes in the area and you can buy maps from the tourist office. The ochre geology has given rise to different plants and and trees in this area compared to the rest of the Luberon, and you may come across silicicola (southern redcedar), Norwegian pine trees, heather and wild orchids on your travels.
Dining in Roussillon
Hotels in Roussillon
Surprisingly, for a popular village like Roussillon, there aren't any really nice hotels in the village or the immediate surrounding area. There is one 2 star hotel in the village, Les Reves d'Ocres which offers basic accommodation, and there are a handful of equally basic but pleasant Chambres d'Hote within walking distance of the village. Apartment and villa rentals are also available.
For something a bit more luxurious, you'll have to go a bit further afield. About four miles away in Joucas is the Relais & Chateau Le Phebus Hotel & Spa, a lovely boutique luxury hotel created from an old stone farmhouse. Alternatively, about two miles south is La Coquillade Hotel. It is also a Relais & Chateau hotel and has a Michelin starred restaurant along with the usual luxury surroundings and service.