The Camargue is located in the South of France, is a large area formed by the delta of the Rhone River, and is mainly made up of salt flats. It stretches south of Arles for over 30 km, a land of swamps and ponds, wild landscapes and animals that live free among pristine dunes and lush vegetation.
The largest flamingo colony in Europe lives here, but you can also see gulls, herons, hawks, horses and bulls. The Camargue is also one of my favorite places in all of France, it is not far from Genoa so I have been able to explore it several times, especially during the Santies Maries de La Mer Gypsy Festival (I went 3 times and enjoyed myself as crazy)
A trip to the Camargue is a journey dedicated to nature, small villages and the feeling of freedom. In this article I will suggest what to see and do in the Camargue so that you can better organize your vacation.
SAINTES MARIES DE LA MER
Saintes Maries de la Mer is the quintessence of the Camargue with its white houses and orange roofs.
The small town develops close to huge sandy beaches, but the narrow streets, the white houses and the large lagoon behind it are the real attraction.
The Church of Saintes Maries de la Mer is the most important monument of the town and was built between the 10th and 11th centuries as a real fortress that served as a watchtower and as protection for the inhabitants from attacks by Saracen pirates .
The name of the church refers to Marie Salomè and Marie Jacobè who, according to tradition, landed here together with their servant Sara La Nera and other disciples of Jesus.
The statues of the three women are kept inside the Cathedral. Although Sara has a secondary role for the Church, this figure is important for the gypsy culture, so much so that she is considered its patron saint.
This is how every 24 May the gypsy community gathers on the streets and beaches of Saintes Maries de la Mer to celebrate it: it is Le Pèlerinage des Gitans, one of the most famous festivals in this part of France.
The black statue of Santa Sara is taken from the crypt of the Church and is carried in procession into the sea, while the crowd follows it with music, songs and the sound of violins. I assure you that it is one of the most beautiful experiences you can have!
During a visit to the town, I recommend that you go up to the roof of the Cathedral to enjoy the view from above (it costs a few euros). From here you have a 360 degree view of the city and you can even lie down on the roof to get some sun and a few minutes of relaxation.
The second stop I suggest is Aigues Mortes, a fortified city that owes its name to the marshes and salt marshes that characterize the area.
The town is characterized by mighty walls on which it is possible to walk to enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape. Do not miss a visit to the city walls and the Torre della Costanza, a large masonry keep whose walls are 6 meters thick and which offered protection to the city.
Aigues Mortes can be visited in half a day and afterwards you will have time to go to the nearby salt pan, the largest in the Mediterranean.
You can make the visit on foot or with the little train made available to tourists: during the tour you can admire the flamingos and the huge salt dunes.
REGIONAL PARK OF THE CAMARGUE
A trip to the Camargue is not complete if you don’t visit its Regional Park and immerse yourself in its wild nature to discover its most authentic soul.
The park develops between the two arms of the Rhone Delta, between prairies, lagoons and ponds that are home to flamingos, herons, bulls and horses in the wild.
The Camargue Park is the perfect place to explore by bike or on horseback: thanks to the wild and unspoiled nature, the experience will be unforgettable.
If you decide to go for a horse ride, know that there are many farms that offer activities suitable even for children or for those who have never been on horseback.
Depending on how much time you have and your level of comfort, you can choose a horseback riding tour that lasts from just a couple of hours to half a day or an inter3 – Camarguea Regional Park day.
One of the most romantic experiences is a walk on the water’s edge at sunset.
If you prefer cycling to horseback, you will have no problem getting a rental bike: in all the centers in the area you will find stations to rent bikes and move around the area. Among the most interesting routes are the Chemin de Cacharel and the Circuit Dromar.
To visit the Camargue Regional Park, my advice is to go to the Pont de Gau Visitor Center to gather information and organize yourself in the best possible way according to the various activities planned during your stay in the area.
SEE THE FLAMINGOS AT THE ORNITHOLOGICAL PARK OF PONT DE GAU
Pink flamingos have reproduced naturally in the Camargue for centuries, but since 1972 a specially created artificial island (Etang du Fangassier) has protected the reproduction of this species and every year between April and September it is possible to see up to 15,000 pairs of pink flamingos and their little ones.
If you don’t have time to visit the Etang du Fangassier and you are on the side of Saintes Maries de la Mer, you can go directly to the Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau which has an entrance ticket but offers the best and most structured way to see the flamingos.
This small park is a sort of Mecca for all birdwatchers: in addition to pink flamingos, the Camargue is home to countless species of birds thanks to its climate, especially during their winter migration to the south.
If you visit the park in the evening, you may have the opportunity to witness the feeding of flamingos.