Les Saintes Maries de la Mer
Les Saintes-Maries’s story began with the Romans and continued with the Vikings and centuries later with Van Gogh, Hemingway, and Picasso who made the town a literary and artistic haven. Today its narrow, winding streets and lively restaurants buzz in the summertime, and its grand Romanesque church is a major attraction. Visit as a part of a half-day or full-day tour that ventures into the wild and unusual landscapes of the Camargue. Longer tours include visits to the Ornithological Park of Pont-de-Gau and medieval village Aigues-Mortes.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Les Saintes Maries de la Mer is an ideal spot for history buffs and beach lovers.
- Beaches are of white fine sand, cleaned everyday, with plenty of room to spread out.
- Families with small children will appreciate the calm, shallow waters.
- Eateries line the narrow town streets, with many excellent options.
- Bring back a packet of delicious salt from Camargue.
How to Get There
Les Saintes Maries de la Mer is about 24 miles (38 kilometers) north of Arles. Drive or take the A4 bus, which takes about 30 minutes. From Avignon, it’s about 50 miles (80 kilometers). Free parking can be found by the beach. Public transportation is not available.
When to Get There
In May, gypsies make their annual pilgrimage to the city to honor Sarah, patron saint of the Roma people, with a parade through the streets. In June, Feu de St Jean is celebrated withxa0 bulls and horses running through the streets, with throngs saddling up to jump over a big pire. Lavender and sunflower fields bloom from mid-June through August, and during this time, farmers markets and cultural festivals are plentiful.
Camargue Nature Reserve
Western Europe’s largest river delta, the Camargue spreads out over 540 square miles (140,000 hectares) containing wetlands, pastures, sand dunes, and salt marshes populated by an extraordinary variety of special animals. Here, some 400 bird species find a home including pink flamingos feeding off the lagoons. Endemic white horses run wild and cowboys raise black bulls to face matadors in rings.
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- Eglise Notre-Dame des Sablons
- Church of St. Trophime (Eglise St-Trophime)
- Montmajour Abbey (Abbaye de Montmajour)
- Les Baux-de-Provence
- Pont du Gard
- Rhône River
- Les Halles Market
- Little Palace Museum (Musée du Petit Palais)
- Avignon Cathedral (Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms)
- Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)
- Rocher des Doms
- St. Benezet Bridge (Pont d'Avignon)