Massif des Alpilles - Saint-Martin de CrauMassif des Alpilles - Saint-Martin de Crau
©Massif des Alpilles - Saint-Martin de Crau|Emmanuelle KUHN -

The Crau Plain

Between desert plains and green meadows.

Located south of the Alpilles, between the Etang de Berre and the Camargue, the Crau Plain is renowned for its remarkable landscapes, which are home to endemic flora and fauna. It is also known for its agricultural production and exceptional quality hay.

The Crau: desert steppe or green meadow?

The Crau Plain covers an area of about 57,000 hectares, and offers visitors a wide variety of landscapes.

In the south, rocky landscapes are covered by dry vegetation. Numerous birds can be observed there: kestrels, herons, egrets, ducklings, gangas catas…

In the center, the canal of Craponne irrigates the Crau Plain. The landscapes are green, with meadows and hedges as far as the eye can see.

Many legends

The desert steppes of La Crau, called Coussouls, are strewn with round pebbles that have given rise to many legends.

During a journey to Spain, Hercules was attacked by an army. With no arrows to defend himself, he prayed to Zeus, who rained down stones to destroy his enemies.

Frédéric Mistral proposes, in Mireio, another legend. Giants once lived on these lands. To defy God, they piled up rocks to get closer to the sky. But God noticed this attempt, and destroyed everything. The round pebbles are the ruins of this tower.

Do you want to believe in these legends? Don’t read the next sentences! Are you looking for a scientific explanation ? These pebbles were deposited by the Durance, a river that used to flow through the plain.

Among local products and pastoral traditions

The vast plains have been home to a variety of agricultural activities for several thousand years.

In winter and spring, the shepherds roam La Crau with their flocks of sheep. When there is no grass, they head for the pastures of the Alps. This journey to the mountains is called the transhumance. Festivities are organized in many villages of Provence to celebrate this event, such as the Spring Festival of Saint-Martin-de-Crau which takes place every year in May.

The hay of La Crau is renowned throughout the world for its qualities. It is used to feed cattle, poultry and horses. It is exported to the Arabian Peninsula, where it is given to the most prestigious race horses.

Numerous farms are located in the Crau plain: bull breeding, olive groves, fruit and vegetable production…

Trails and popular tourist sites

Outdoor activities allow you to discover the fauna and flora of the Crau Plain.

The departmental park of the Etang des Aulnes, south of Saint-Martin-de-Crau, is home to many species of birds, small mammals and insects. Observation trails have been set up. The site is also home to an artist’s residence, and events are regularly held there.

Hikers can take many trails in the Coussouls de Crau Nature Reserve. The itineraries are not very steep and are accessible to all.

Several cycling tours allow you to discover the Crau plain by bike. You can see in half a day or a day some of the most beautiful landscapes and tourist treasures of the Bouches-du-Rhône, between Camargue, Crau and Alpilles.

We advise you to bring water, a hat and sunglasses in summer. A windproof jacket is recommended in winter if the mistral wind blows. Access to trails and paths may be limited in the summer season if weather conditions cause a fire hazard. You can consult the access map updated daily on