The Camargue Regional Natural Park is located between the two arms of the Rhone, on the Mediterranean coast. It has a rich territory : wheat fields, pink flamingos, marshes, etc…

The territory

Camargue and its 85,000 hectares are protected by the Camargue Regional Natural Park. This unique territory in Europe is made of vast and exceptionally rich plains, salt marshes and salicornia moors where white Camargue horses and herds of Camargue bulls rest. Pink flamingos have made the reed marshes and ponds their home. The highest point is located 4,50 meters above sea level.

The history of the park

Over time, the action of the Mediterranean and the Rhone combined with the inhabitants’ has helped shaping a multitude of environments of unparalleled richness.

In 1859, a dike was built to control the upwelling of salt water from the Mediterranean Sea. 10 years later, the Rhone was dammed to reduce the flooding of arable land caused by the river. In the north of the Park, the wild landscapes were gradually replaced by cereal fields, asparagus crops, vineyards, but also, and above all, by rice fields.

Head south to explore the primitive Camargue nature where “sansouïres”, ponds and marshes are everywhere. These wild spaces are gradually being nibbled away by crops. Yet they are essential to preserve the biodiversity and balance of this site. The maintenance of natural pastures is also essential for the breeding of the Camargue bulls and white horses.

In 1927, the territory was classified as a National Camargue Reserve by a national nature protection society. The Regional Park was created in 1970 and has been managed by a foundation ever since. Its goal is to preserve the local fauna and flora while supporting traditional activities. It was not until 1975 that the area from the north of the Vaccarès pond to the sea was classified as a Natural Reserve.

The heritage

Camargue is home to an incredible fauna and flora. It is located on an important migratory corridor and the varied habitats it offers make it an ideal resting place for more than 300 species of birds.

The bull-breeding culture is a great part of the heritage of this territory. Throughout the year, ancestral customs are honoured during various events and bullfighting shows.

The Camargue Regional Natural Park towns have a unique and rich historical heritage.

 

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Tourist sites and emblematic monuments

The Camargue Regional Natural Park includes three towns: Arles, Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône and the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

The city of Arles is world-famous for its numerous Roman and Romanesque monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Roman Amphitheatre of Arles is one of the most beautiful and best preserved. It still hosts shows such as bull parties, reconstitution of Roman games, etc. This is why it is often called “Les Arènes” (the arena). The church of Saint-Trophime and its cloister skilfully combine Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Aubusson’s tapestries and many ancient sculptures are exhibited there.

Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône is famous for its tower. It has had many roles over the years: watchtower, refuge for the inhabitants, lighthouse. In 1973 it welcomed the Tourist Office and then an ornithological collection and temporary exhibitions. While strolling through the town of Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, the visitor will see the guardian’s hut, a traditional house of the “people of the marsh”. It welcomes bull herdsmen and has a reed roof.

Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a seaside resort that gets busier in summer. Its magnificent beaches are appreciated by tourists who come here to relax or practice water sports. All through the year Camargue cultural and traditional events take place. The bell tower of the church of the Saints overlooks the station and watches over visitors.

The activities

An ornithological park has been set up for visitors to observe the different bird species in Camargue. It is lined with observation towers, explanatory panels as well as thematic paths. Guided tours are organized so that visitors can learn more about the local fauna and flora.

Visitors can discover the 16 itineraries in the Camargue Regional Natural Park on foot, and go through vineyards, salt marshes and “sansouïres”. Visitors can go mountain biking and on horseback riding through the several paths.

Practical informations

A visit to the Camargue Museum is a great way to begin discovering this exceptional territory. The exhibition highlights the special relationship between man and the Camargue’s fauna and flora with the help of illustrations and objects.

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