between sky and sea
areas of France
on the Mediterranean coast
Alpes Côte d'Azur and Languedoc
places: Nimes, Arles,
airports to the Camargue: Nîmes, Marseille
via A 26
> Lyon > A7, then via Arles or Nimes
are as distictive as the Camargue; and
dramatic mountain areas, few are as interesting and offer such a range
of ourdoor activities. Bird-watching, horse riding, pony-trekking for
all (no experience needed), equestrian events, hiking, cycling,
riverboat trips, some
wonderful and remote Mediterranean beaches, and a world-famous gypsy
pilgrimage each year in May; the Camargue has all this, and more.
Camargue Natural Park
Camargue Natural Park
area, which includes a large UNESCO designated biosphere reserve, can
be visited at any time of the year, but the best times are in the
Spring and the Autumn
when the park's wetlands are a major staging
point for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. It is
at this time of the year that the Camargue attracts bird-watchers from
all over Europe. But visitors come to the area throughout the year to
admire its wildlife, and in particular the thousands of pink flamingos.
These can be admired on many of the park's shallow expanses of water,
but most easily in the Camargue ornithological park, a bird park just
north of Saintes Marie de la Mer. The centre, with its kilometres of
trails, is home to many varieties of waterfowl, including flamingos,
egrets and herons; it also has a bird hospital.
horses and riding
While the flamingos are the Camargue's most emblematic birds, the area
is more historically famous for its white horses. The Camargue's horses
are a special breed, reputedly one of the oldest breeds of horses in
the world, and they have lived in the very particular environment of
the Camargues saline wetlands for thousands of years.
some live in semi-wild conditions, most are now used either by the
Camargue's traditional cowboys, for herding and rounding up the area's
distinctive black bulls, or else for pony trekking.
There are plenty of opportunities for horse riding in the
Camargue, with riding stables beside many roads, particularly around
Les Saintes Marie de la Mer. Most of these stables cater largely for
tourists, and will take anyone out on a trek across the fields or the
salt marshes – no experience needed. Rates are cheap - 15
an hour in some stables in 2013, 20 € for an hour and a half.
Often it's just a question of turn up and go - or book, and come back
for the next available ride. Many stables also run half-day treks and
day treks, but it is best to check out with the local tourist office in
advance, and book ahead; this is particularly recommended for
experienced riders who are looking for more than just a wander round
the Camargue at walking pace.
See and do : Other
activities and places
cycling and beaches -
The Camargue offers great hiking and cycling opportunities for those
who like flat terrain and no hills. There are tracks and trails across
the Rhone delta. To the east of Saintes Marie, there are miles of
largely deserted sandy beaches, only accessible along tracks or on
foot, on horseback or bike. Some places are accessible by car, but not
and bull runs:
Camargue bullfights - courses camarguaises - are not like Spanish
bullfights are a competition of agility between men dressed in white,
and black bulls; the aim is for the bullfighters to steal the trophies,
such as ribbons and tassles and rosettes, that are placed between the
bull's horns. In the Camargue tradition of bullfighting, there are no
matadors, and the bulls are not killed. However Spanish-style
bullfighting is also popular around the Camargue area, with major
classic bullfighting events in the Arenas at Nimes and Arles.
and rice : Apart from its bulls and its horses, the
Camargue is also famous for its salt and its rice. Rice has
been produced in the Camargue since the Middle Ages, and today there
are some 200 rice producers and over 20,000 hectares of rice paddies in
this small area, representing about 5% of rice production in Europe;
furthermore, production in on the increase. Camargue's unique "red
rice" is a popular local souvenir.
For an unusual trip, take the D36 road south from
Arles, on the west bank of the Rhone. the journey will take you through
rice paddies and marshes, down to the salt pans and salt mountains
south of the village of Salin de Giraud. South of Salin de Giraud,
after the salt mountains, after the wetlands, the road - now D36D -
just peters out on an often-but-not-always lonely bit of beach, where
it can go no further.
Mortes - On the western edge of the Camargue area lies
the remarkable walled
city of Aigues Mortes. In mediaeval times, this was the Mediterranean
port from which the Crusaders set out, and it was on the coast. Since
then, the Rhone delta has silted up, and Aigues Mortes is five miles
inland, rising up out of the marshes.
Aigues-Mortes is one of the finest walled
cities in France, and it is possible to walk round the old
city walls, which are largely intact. The ramparts are floodlit at
river trips Just
outside Saintes Marie, there are cruises on the Petit Rhône
river, on board the Tiki, made up to look like a Mississippi paddle
quite the Mississippi.... but a riverboat trip on the Rhone Delta is a
fun outing for the family
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