Camargue

The Camargue is the name of a French region that can be found in the south along the Mediterranean Sea coast. Often referred to as France’s Wild West, it is separated from the rest of the country by acres upon acres of wetlands, dunes, pastures, and salt flats. Brine lagoons are also in good supply in the Camargue, with the largest example being the Etang de Vaccares lagoon. Most of the region has been designated as a botanical and zoological preserve and is part of the Parc Regional de Camargue (Regional Park of Camargue). Thus, it can be a great place to get in touch with nature. Sightseeing opportunities abound, and there is plenty of wildlife to admire. Therein lies much of the allure for travelers. The Camargue is also home to beaches, not to mention a few small cities that travelers can visit, so tourism is understandably a major industry.

Cities

Cities
Cities

The Camargue is a land of vast open spaces where you will find French cowboys (gardians) and cowgirls (gardiannes). Breaking up the natural terrain in spots are a few small cities, the two largest of which are Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Various attractions are found in these cities, and they are good places to shop, dine, arrange tours or find accommodations. Visitors to the Camargue can also interest themselves in the festivals and other events that are held in the regional cities. An example of such an event is the annual pilgrimage to Saintes-de-la-Mer and the Gypsy Festival that coincides with it. This occurs in late May. While the communes of Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer don’t come close to rivaling big cities like Paris or Marseille in size or population, it is interesting to note that they are the two largest communes that can be found on the French mainland.

Camargue Wetlands & Birdlife

Camargue Wetlands & Birdlife
Camargue Wetlands & Birdlife

The Camargue unfolds south of Arles to the Mediterranean Sea and is nestled between the two arms of the Rhone River delta. This is the largest delta in Western Europe. Protecting it from the sea are sand bars and reed-covered marshes. The Camargue attracts hundreds of bird species, including the Greater Flamingo, and is thus a region that birdwatching enthusiasts will want to consider when planning France vacations. Birds aren’t the only kinds of animals that can be seen while sightseeing in the Camargue, however. Other animals that are found in the region include badgers, beavers, wild boar, pond turtles, tree frogs, water snakes, and sheep. The region is also famous for its horses and bulls, which traditionally live in semi-wild conditions. Travelers should note that flies and mosquitos can be big pests in the Camargue, especially during the hot summer season. It is recommended that warm weather visitors arm themselves with bug spray.

Camargue Horses & Camargue Bulls

Camargue Horses & Camargue Bulls
Camargue Horses & Camargue Bulls

The Camargue horse is an ancient breed that is indigenous to the region. While its exact origins are not fully understood, it is generally considered to be one of the world’s oldest breeds. Camargue horses have adapted well to their rather harsh environment over the centuries, and among other things, they are known for their grey-white color, their stamina, their hardiness, and their agility. A popular image of the Camargue is that of Camargue horses galloping through the water. They are the horses of choice for regional residents. As for the Camargue bulls, they too are native to the region and have developed a considerable amount of hardiness over the centuries. Black in color, they are often used for bullfighting in both France and Spain. In France, it should be noted, the bulls are not killed in bullfights.

Camargue Salt

Camargue Salt
Camargue Salt

Salt is just one more thing that the Camargue region is known for. It has been extracted for centuries and was a great source of wealth for the monks who resided in the Camargue during the Middle Ages. In the 1800s, industrial salt collection began in the Camargue, and it continues to this day. Chemical companies such as Pechiney and Solvay even founded a city in the region that revolves around the salt industry. This mining city is called Salin-de-Giraud. Camargue salt has a relatively strong flavor and is without question one of the region’s most prized commodities.

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