From Camargue to Saintes Maries de la Mer – nature, terroir and tradition

Art of living - Family - Wine and gastronomy

Promising an unforgettable day out, head off to explore Camargue, in particular the towns of Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The region is famed for its unspoilt countryside that is sure to stimulate all your senses. Anyone with a penchant for fine wine will enjoy the organic varieties produced at Mas de la Valériole while foodies can try the famed Camargue rice. And nature lovers can watch white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos that have put this magnificent region on the map in their natural habitat by visiting Manade Mailhan and the ornithological park or by taking a walk along the sea wall.

Organic produce at Mas de Valériole

Domaine Saint Vincent - Mas Valériole Gageron 13200 Arles

Begin your tour of Camargue in Arles at Mas de la Valériole, a farm run by the Michel family. The three brothers practise organic farming methods to grow crops of health vines (Merlot, Chardonnay, Marselan, etc.) but also sunflowers and rice. White, red and rosé wines can be sampled on site, all bearing the IGP Vin de Pays des Bouches-du-Rhône – Terre de Camargue hallmark.

The traditions of Camargue at the Manade Mailhan

Manade Mailhan Mas du Grand Gageron 13200 Arles

Continue your Camargue adventure by heading to Mas des Bernacles where you'll find the Manade Mailhan. In the heart of Camargue Regional Nature Park, this 'manade' (a local word for 'breeder') rears horses and black bulls, including Rami, which has twice earned the 'Biou d’Or' (Golden Bull) title. If you have the time, book ahead for a fascinating guided tour with the owner Jacques Mailhan.

Gourmet Camargue at Le Flamant Rose

Flamant Rose Rd 37 13123 Arles

If your schedule allows, call into Le Flamant Rose in Alvaron for lunch. The eatery has become a local institution since it opened 40 years ago. Endorsed by our Tables 13 guide, this typically Camargue restaurant offers generous and affordable Provençal cuisine. Chef Frédéric Lacave's menu includes seafood, local produce and AOP bull meat with a fixed-priced 'regional menu'.

  • Tables 13

Visit to the Maison du Riz

Maison du riz Mas de la vigne 13123 Arles

Spend the afternoon learning more about one of Camargue's flagship crops at the rice education centre. The visit includes a tour of the rice farm with your guides Françoise and Jacques Rozière, who enthusiastically share the passion for their craft with you. The on-site shop stocks products such as organic rice and craft beer, ideal souvenirs of your trip to take back home. For a total change of scenery, you can even stay overnight at a gîte in the middle of the paddy fields!

  • Pass MyProvence

Nature walk at Pont du Gau Ornithological Park

Parc ornithologique du Pont de Gau Quartier Pont de Gau Rn 570 13460 Saintes Maries de la Mer

Next stop along your tour is the Ornithological Park in Pont de Gau where you can observe typical Camargue birds, in particular the iconic pink flamingo, at close range. There you'll also have an opportunity to snap different species, from the common to the rare, from a discreet hiding place so you'll feel like you're on a bird safari! Top tip: a biotope adapted to each species lets you watch each bird in an environment close to its natural habitat.

Visit to the church in Saintes-Maries

Eglise des Stes Maries de la mer et sa terrasse Place De l'Eglise 13460 Saintes Maries de la Mer

Now make your way to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. En route, look out for the thatched huts typical of the Camargue region. Surrounded by open sky and blue sea, where the Rhône grazes the Mediterranean, the capital of Camargue is a place known for its hospitality, history and pilgrimages. Legend has it that Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary of Clopas (the 'Saint Marys'), persecuted Christians fleeing Palestine, were cast adrift on the shore after the crucifixion of Jesus. Notre Dame de la Mer church with its Romanesque bell tower and St Sara Crypt is open to visitors. You can also take the wall walk which ascends to a height of more than 15 metres and is visited by thousands of tourists all year round.

Stroll along the sea wall

Digue à la mer

To round up the day, enjoy a bracing walk on the sea wall taking in the splendid views of Camargue's coastline. Punctuated by two lighthouses, La Gacholle and Faraman, the 20-km construction dating from the 19th century is only open to pedestrians and cyclists. After a few hours of walking, the Rhône Delta will come into view. Go at sunset to take amazing souvenir photos.

A gourmet night at Mas des Colverts

M. Roger MERLIN

For anyone wishing to stay the night in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, we recommend the guest rooms at Mas des Colverts, an old farmhouse on a spit of land amidst lagoons that are home to birds and ducks in a protected nature reserve. They organise cooking classes led by Roger Merlin, a culinary advisor, graduate of the Paris Hotel School and founded of the Camargue cuisine conservatory.

Can't-miss experiences

  • Try kitesurfing along Camargue's vast sandy beaches
  • Experiencing the spiritual fervour displayed at the gypsy pilgrimage in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
  • Spending a night in a cowboy hut- Bullfighting in Arles every Wednesday and Friday in summer

We love

  • Spending a day amongst the horses, bulls and birds of Camargue
  • Exploring the local sustainably-farmed crops

The best time to visit

  • In summer when there are lots of different horse and bull events
  • In winter to visit the sumptuous Christmas market and its santons (figurines) from Saint Barbara Feast Day (4 December) onwards
  • Also in winter to observe the courtship displays of the pink flamingos in Pont de Gau
  • Theme

    Art of living, Family, Wine and gastronomy

  • Duration

    1 day

  • Transport means

    Personal vehicle

  • Visited cities

    Arles, Saintes Maries de la Mer

  • Ideal for

    All year round

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