Famous for sitting on the underground source of the emerald-green River Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is a photogenic village squeezed into a lush, narrow valley backed by soaring 230-meter (755-foot) cliffs.
A mystery surrounds the village as no-one has yet been able to discover the underground spring that leads into the Sorgue; what is known is that the river is fed via a multitude of underground channels that are calm in summer, allowing a natural pool to form above ground for swimming. However, the pool quickly floods after heavy rainfall in autumn and again following the spring snow melt from the mountains of the Luberon. At these times the underground spring becomes much more powerful and water is thrown up from the subterranean depths at such a speed that rapids form on the river.
Thanks to its remote location, many of the buildings in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse are little changed since medieval times and today it is one of the most popular visitor spots in northern Provence, its cobbled streets lined with souvenir stalls, bars and terraced restaurants. In addition to its natural beauty, a ruined castle perches above the village, which also has a couple of interesting small museums and a printmaker still powered by ancient water wheel.
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is 25 km (15.5 miles) east of Avignon and is best reached by car; take some change to pay for parking (around €4 per day). Visitor information is found at Résidence Jean Garcin, open daily from 9:30am to 12:30pm and from 1:30 to 5:30pm.