In addition to all the beautiful views of Mont Ventoux, there are equally spectacular views from Mont Ventoux. From Malaucène or any of the surrounding hill towns you can take an inspiring circle drive along the base and over the crest of the mountain, following the D974. This road winds through the extraordinarily lush south-facing greenery that Mont Ventoux protects from vicious mistral winds. Abundant orchards and olive groves peppered with stone farmhouses make this one of Provence's loveliest landscapes. Stop for a drink in busy Bédoin, with its 18th-century Jesuit church at the top of the Old Town maze.
Mont Ventoux was the site of the first recorded attempt at l'escalade (mountain climbing), when Italian poet-philosopher Petrarch grunted his way up in 1336. Although people had climbed mountains before, this was the first "do it because it's there" feat. Reaching the summit itself (at 6,263 feet) requires a bit of legwork. From either Chalet
Reynard or the tiny ski center Mont Serein you can leave your car and hike up to the peak's tall observatory tower. The climb is not overly taxing, and when you reach the top you are rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of the Alps. And to the south, barring the possibility of high-summer haze, you'll take in views of the Rhône Valley, the Luberon, and even Marseille. Hiking maps are available at maisons de la presse (newsstands) and tourist offices. Town-to-town treks are also a great way to explore the area; one of the most beautiful trails is from Malaucène to Séguret. In the off-season, lonely Mont Ventoux is plagued with an ungodly reputation due to destructive winds. Attempts at saving its soul are evidenced by the chapels lining its slopes. Whether it's possessed by the devil or not, don't attempt to climb it in inclement weather. From late fall to early spring, in fact, the summit is closed by snow.
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