The Colors of Roussillon

Going to Roussillon, like Gordes, from Bonnieux, is challenging if you are relying on the public transport. We forewent going to Gordes on our first day in Bonnieux, and went to Menerbes instead. We didn’t want to miss Roussillon, that’s why we made sure to arrange for a visit the next day.

What makes a trip to Roussillon challenging? There was only 1 bus route, and that was why we chose to base ourselves in Bonnieux. To add to that, its bus stop is in Pont Julian, about 10-minutes taxi ride from Bonnieux Centre. Taxis are uncommon in these small villages.

Our efforts paid off. We made it in time to Pont Julian to catch the bus that will take us to Roussillon. Like most of our other bus trips, we were the only passengers. The bus ride was quite short, and cheap at 1.50Euros. We were dropped right below the village and a short walk away from Sentier des Ocres.

This is Roussillon village, with a small population of 1265 in 2006, and one the Most Beautiful villages of France. It is famous for its ochre-red village, in contrast to the white-washed houses in nearby Bonnieux and Gordes.


We only had 1.5 hours in Roussillon before the bus to Pont Julian arrives. If we miss this bus, we would have to walk back to Bonnieux, and we DIDN’T want that for sure. We had to choose between the village or the ochre mine.

Of course it had to be the ochre mine!

France was celebrating European Heritage Days (I think) when we visited so we got in for free! Again, being pressed for time, we chose to take the short track which should take about 35 minutes.


We could only gasp “Wowwww!!!” when this view appeared before us. It was a pine forest of red, orange and yellow soil mixture. They say it is the Colorado of France.


What caused the formation of colorful sands/cliffs in Roussillon? Millions of years ago, Provence was below sea level. The green sea sand composed of minerals, quartz, limestone and glauconite, covered the shallow depths of the sea bed. When the sea withdrew, land emerged and the green sand was exposed to air. The climate during that period featured very heavy rains which caused the sandy soil to leach and glauconite dissolve. Other minerals crystalized as siliceous clay, kaolinite and iron oxides. Kaolinite remains white when pure while the natural random quantities of iron oxide give it a range of colors from yellow to red. An ochre is a combination of kaolinite as the dominant material and iron lightly seasoned with quartz.

Enough of geology studies, let’s just enjoy nature and the colors of Roussillon it had to offer.


The short circuit walk was just right to keep us fascinated with the burst of red, oranges and yellows while we hike comfortably. It was an easy level hike that can be done by kids and adults alike. We made it a little bit longer than the timed 35-minutes as we had fun taking photos of the wonderful view. The sky was gray at the time and I imagine how nice it would have been with a contrast of the blue skies and white clouds.

But as it is, we made a nice choice of Roussillon. It was unlike any other we had seen or we would have seen in Provence. The pains of getting here was worth it!

3 thoughts on “The Colors of Roussillon

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