It’s often said that the French Provence region contains some of the best of the whole country. The region is a summary of France, so to say. Except for the lousy weather from the north. During the last weeks, we had been traveling through the foot of the Alps mountains, hiking through woods, and bathing in freezing rivers. Moving towards the west of the region, the endless pine forests and rock formations started making space for rolling hills and bright purple lavender fields.
In the midst of those fields, our next naturist destination was waiting for us: naturist camping Le Petit Arlane, on the edge of the Verdon Regional Park. Honestly, when we arrived on the bumpy gravel road and parked our car in front of the small reception building, we wondered why exactly we had picked this place. At first impression, the camping seemed not much more than a dime a dozen. Less than 24 hours later, we would find ourselves looking at our itinerary, searching for a way to extend our stay.
How to get to Le Petit Arlane
Being located in the very heart of the Provence region, Le Petit Arlane is best visited with your own transportation. Coming from the north or west of France, you want to make your way towards Aix-en-Provence, from where you can take the A51 to Manosque. From Manosque, it’s only a half an hour scenic ride to the campsite.
Coming from the east, the fastest way is definitely by taking the A8 highway towards Aix-en-Provence and then head up on the D560 and D554 in Saint-Maximin. If you have a lot of time, we would definitely recommend to drive into the Verdon Regional Park and make your way from there. The road will seem endless, but you’ll be rewarded with the most impressive views.
The nearest airport to Le Petit Arlane is in Marseille, from where you can rent a car and drive the last part. Marseille also has a TGV (high-speed train) station if you prefer to travel overland. In both cases, it’s recommended to rent a car in Marseille for the last part of your journey, this will also give you the chance to explore the wonderful region.
Where to stay at Le Petit Arlane
One of the things that had been disturbing us during this trip through the Provence, was that the small country roads were often full of fast speeding trucks which made enough noise to keep you awake even if you’re staying at a campground a couple of hundreds of meters further. One of the things that immediately surprised us at Le Petit Arlane, was that this heavy noise was completely gone. We weren’t that far from the main road though. And it had been pretty busy. What we didn’t realize was that Le Petit Arlane lays in its own little valley and that the road was higher than ourselves. Because sound travels up, we could enjoy complete silence.
The campsite can roughly be divided into two parts: Lake and forest. This is the first choice you’ll have to make if you’re planning to stay at Le Petit Arlane. Do you want a lake view or rather be surrounded by trees? We managed to get hold of the last available pitch near one of the lakes and we can highly recommend you to ask for a similar one. The setting is just incredibly serene and we’ve spent most of our days just lazing in front of our tent, watching the many birds get in and out of the water. Because of the many trees surrounding the lakes, we got shade throughout most of the hot days, only getting some beams on our faces when the sun was about to set.
If you’re not traveling with your own accommodation, you get the chance to stay at one of the 14 mobile homes. These are nicely located on a hillside, providing views over the campsite. Another option would be staying in one of the furnished cottages which are part of the historic building. Because they’re made in stone, they’re cool even in summer and they come with a private terrace and garden.
What to do at Le Petit Arlane
The place where many guests get together during the day is the large swimming pool. If you’ve traveled in France before, you probably know that the law dictates that pools have a surrounding fence. Many times before, this has given us the feeling of being inside a cage. At Le Petit Arlane, they’ve solved this problem by including the bar and restaurant inside the pool area. This creates a much larger space and the glass wall with views over the lake just adds even more openness.
The large domain, the lakes, and the surrounding forest are very attractive to those who prefer a nude hike or just a nice stroll in nature. For the more active visitors, there’s a tennis and volleyball court and plenty of spots to play the national sport petanque.
Our afternoon nap did once get disturbed by distant growls, followed by the sound of screaming children. When we tried to picture any wild, man-eating animals that could live in these forests, we saw a Quasimodo-like figure emerging from the woods. Followed by a group of kids. The afternoon activity apparently had started and we have to admit that they’d tricked us for a moment. We have to say that the animator did his job with lots of imagination and devotion.
In the evenings, most people return to the pool area for dinner. The combination of great food (and really great pizzas) and affordable prices made the tables fill up quickly. A local cover band added atmosphere to the evenings and was the perfect ending of another great relaxing nude day.
Around Le Petit Arlane
Especially if you’re visiting Le Petit Arlane in July, you will be amazed by the bright purple shine of the endless lavender fields. They are the attraction of the region and it’s easy to see why. Not only are the views spectacular and will the smell follow you home, but the local towns are also full of lavender shops. We all know the soap and the air-refresher, but here you’ll learn about a thousand other practices. Lavender oil, lavender ice cream, and lavender honey are just some examples.
The nearby town Valensole is a great place to stack up on lavender products or just to enjoy a drink or a snack on one of the terraces in town. More local products, like excellent cheeses and olives in many different flavors, can be found at the local market. At the end of July, they even organize a lavender fair.
The other top attraction in the region is the Verdon Regional Park. Europe’s largest canyon doesn’t only provide lots of hiking and cycling options but is also a magnet for adventure seekers. For climbing, canoeing, hang gliding, and rafting, this is where you want to be.
History-lovers on the other hand will be amazed by the prehistoric sites in Quinson and Riez and the geological treasures in Digne and Les Mées. The many castles and churches will demonstrate some of the best architectural beauty in the region.
Staff of Le Petit Arlane
Patricia and her family bought Le Petit Arlane about 20 years ago. Since then, they’ve been providing this naturist oasis to the naked traveler. Le Petit Arlane is the kind of place where you don’t feel like a number or even a customer. Here, you are a guest in the true sense of the word.
You’ll find Patricia literally everywhere. We often wondered if maybe she had a couple of lookalike sisters. She’ll be there when you pick up your baguette in the morning, she’ll wave at you from her golf cart, she’ll help you at the reception and get you a drink at the bar. We soon figured out that the only way how she can do all this is because she has a strong team behind her. A cool mix of young and less young staff who take care of everything Patricia’s hands can’t carry.
Guests at Le Petit Arlane
We can keep rambling about all the fun things at Le Petit Arlane and how much we liked being there, but you don’t have to believe just us. The numbers speak for themselves. We visited the campsite in the heat of the COVID-pandemic, while many campsites were running on half of their usual capacity. Yet, more than 80% of the places at Le Petit Arlane were occupied. More than 40% of the visitors just keep coming back year after year. That means something.
While we were there, the majority of the guests were Belgians, Dutch, Swiss, and Germans. We’ve been told that normally also quite some British find their way to this part of the Provence, but due to travel restrictions, they didn’t make it this year.
Reservations & Contact
We managed to just walk in at Le Petit Arlane and still get a great camping pitch at the lakeside, but that was a lot of luck. If you want to make sure of your spot or get one of the rental accommodations, it’s much better to reserve upfront.
This can be done via:
It’s possible to communicate in French, English, German, and Dutch.
More photos can be found in our Le Petit Arlane Facebook Photo Album
Le Petit Arlane is not the kind of campsite that you fall in love with at first sight. It’s the oyster that you have to crack before you get to the pearl. But the place did seduce us. The peace and tranquility overwhelmed us, nature brought us joy and most of all, Le Petit Arlane is a place where we felt home.
Disclaimer: We have been invited as guests of Le Petit Arlane, but of course all opinions are our own. We are super confident you will love this place as much as we did!
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