We set off from Avignon on January morning and found ourselves in the tiny French village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, which is tucked in a Vaucluse or “closed valley” at the source of the River Sorgue. This is one of the most visited places in the Vaucluse and in the Summer the village of just 600 inhabitants is said to be overrun with tourists. Luckily, we were visiting in the off-season, so that wasn’t a problem for us.
When you descend upon this Provençal gem, two main features dominate: the extremely beautiful, emerald green water and the dramatic limestone cliffs that surround the town. We arrived just before dusk, in time to enjoy the glow of the setting sun radiating off the cliffs.
This mythic spring is fed by an immense underground network of waters which form a deep pool at the base of the steep cliffs and it then becomes the Sorgue river. It’s the biggest spring in France and the fifth largest in the world, with an annual flow of 630 million cubic meters (166 billion gallons).
Both Seneca and Petrarch celebrated the wellspring in their writings. The Phoenicians and later the Romans used the Sorgue as a trade route. And, perhaps not surprisingly, this natural wonder was an ancient pilgrimage site.
According to TheLuberon.com, “In the 50s, Jacques Yves Cousteau came with a submersible to explore the depths but did not find the bottom. Since then a probe has made it to a sandy bed at a depth of 308 metres (1010 ft) but the spring itself comes from somewhere even deeper.”