Saintes Maries de la mer
Destination not to be missed in Camargue, Saintes-Maries-la-Mer is a seaside town located on the Mediterranean Sea near Arles and the camping le Mas de Mourgues. High place of pilgrimage for the gypsy communities who come here to celebrate the black virgin Sara in May, it is a land of traditions where Camargue and gypsy cultures mix.
The long history of the Provencal city, which dates back to the Gallo-Roman period and the Middle Ages, gives it an important architectural heritage. Its fortified church Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer sheltered the relics of the Three Marys during the Saracen and Viking assaults.
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer can also be discovered through festivities and numerous folkloric appointments. Guardian of the culinary traditions of the Camargue, is the ideal place to taste local specialties such as tellines à l'aïoli or gardiane de taureau.
Things to do and visit in Les Saintes-Maries
Imposing and majestic in the heart of the Camargue village, the fortified church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a jewel not to be missed. Visible from afar, more than 10 km away, it was strategically built on the mouth of the Petit-Rhône. Its silhouette has been immortalized by Van Gogh, like other decorations of the village.
A few paved streets from the church, the old town hall and museum Baroncelli is another remarkable building of the Saintes-Maries, whose 19th century architecture contrasts with the typical Provencal houses of the village. Between the Etang de Launes and the Mediterranean, the thatched thatched guardian huts also bear witness to the local history.
Many activities are to be practiced in Les Saintes-Maries. Horseback riding is one of the most popular activities. Nature outings are also an opportunity to discover the richness of the wetlands and to meet pink flamingos.
On the sea side, the beaches are accessible on foot from the heart of the village. The choice is vast between these supervised and family beaches, the kite-surfing beaches, and the large stretches in the east on which to gallop on horseback. The Port Gardian is the starting point for popular nautical activities, such as towed vehicles. Saintes-Maries is also an ideal destination for kayaking, paddling and windsurfing.
Not far from the central beach, the bullring of Saintes-Maries continues the bullfighting tradition, organizing typical Camargue races, but also bullfights.
The period of pilgrimages is particularly animated in Saintes-Maries, but other events mark the year: after the processions of May 24th and 25th, a votive festival takes place in June, then the horse fair takes place in July. The festival of Abrivado is the occasion to attend demonstrations of guardians every year on November 11th. The Christmas celebrations are also celebrated in a particularly festive way, with torchlight parades and bullfighting games.
Finally, don't miss the big markets of Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer, on Mondays and Fridays throughout the year!