Lying to the east of the Provencal village of Apt, just beyond the reach of the Luberon Valley, the mountains and surrounding valleys of the Grand Luberon embody all the stereotypes of what constitutes simple, rural French living.
The 3,690-foot (1,124-m) Mourre Negre is its highest point, dwarfing the lesser summits of the nearby Petite Luberon range and towering over the flat, desolate plain of the Plateau des Claparedes, which bursts to life in a sea of lavender fields stretching for miles all the way to the village of Bonnieux. The landscape is full of ancient hilltop villages, and everywhere you look there are reminders of a simpler time, such as the ever-present dry-stone bories, igloo-shaped huts of stone dating back as far as the thirteenth century and constructed for no other reason than to clear the surrounding fields of rocks to make them ready for plowing. The towering presence of Le Grand Blanc, with its vast forests of oak and cedar and limestone outcrops, is a beacon to travelers and locals alike.
A thin covering of generally poor soil is characteristic here and has prevented large-scale agriculture, allowing the many hamlets and villages of the region to maintain their traditional ways of life. Once refuges for the Waldenes religious sect in the fifteenth century, medieval towns such as Gordes and Roussillon now attract celebrities, expatriates, and sun-seeking tourists ail eager to experience a region that has altered little since the creation of the Pare Regional du Luberon in 1977, which encircles the area and ensures this tiny corner of rural France will retain its charm.