The Rhône river, at the ending of its travel through Southern France, creates the widest delta in western Europe. The central part of this delta is the Nature Park of the Camargue. The region is mostly covered by marshes and wetlands, where birds find a haven and food during migrations. Humanity lived in the area for millennia, attracted by the fertility of the land. It’s a beautiful place where to drive, surrounded by nature, among sunflower fields and herds of cattle and horses roaming in a semi-feral state.
Delicious tip: the region is notoriously a paradise for mosquitos. In the end, this is one of the biggest swamps you can ever find. Bring some mosquito repellants with you, especially if you are planning to visit the region during Spring or Summer!
How to reach it
The best way to travel around Camargue is by car. The nearest airport is Marseille, where we rented a car. From there, it’s about an hour of driving to enter into the area, and an hour and a half to reach the capital of the region, Arles.
Camargue is one of the most beautiful regions in France, and these are our delicious spots!
1.) Riding the white horses in Camargue
The first and the main reason for traveling to Camargue is the possibility to ride its famous white horses. This indigenous race of animals is characterized by a white hair coat, an abundant mane and a long hair (a weapon against mosquitoes!). In a word, it’s the nearest animal to a unicorn you’ll ever find on earth! This particular race is gentle and docile, and it’s suitable for novices and young kids. Whether you are an experienced horseman or a beginner, this is a must-do once in Camargue!
Our recommendation is “Promenade à cheval Chez Elise“, a farm next to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France. They organize walking every day, and you can easily book online!
2.) Chasing sunflowers fields 🌻
The most famous person who lived in this region is by far Vincent Van Gogh. The first artwork painted by the artist as soon as he arrived in Arles was the first of its famous series of sunflowers. Why so? Because sunflowers are one of the major cultivation in this region, where they can ideally grow in the sun of southern France. It’s amazing to drive surrounded by these flowers in both directions, and it’s not difficult to understand why Van Gogh was so impressed by their vivid colors.
3.) Eat local Provencal fruits and vegetables
Eating in a restaurant in France it’s easy, probably too easy. Especially at midday, it’s just a matter of asking for the “plat du jour” (dish of the day) and enjoy some delicious, inexpensive food. That’s even truer in Provence. Every fruit and vegetable here are more tasteful, more flavored; it’s just better. Stop on the road at one of several fruit stalls and buy some fruit. Cherries, peaches, strawberries, Provencal fruit is just as good as it gets!
4.) Visit Van Gogh’s hospital
Gauguin left Arles in 1888, nine weeks after moving in the famous Yellow House with Van Gogh. The separation caused a new wave of depression for Vincent. The news his beloved brother was going to get married worsened even further his mental state. Van Gogh cut his ear and committed himself in the Monastery of Saint-Paul de Mausole, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This stop is not for art lovers only. We do suggest a visit to the old asylum, in particular on a summer day, for enjoying the landscape, among cicadas sounds and scents of medicinal plants.
5.) Explore the ancient wonders of Arles
Arles, the capital of the Camargue, was conquered by Romans in 123 BC. Shortly after capturing the city, they started the construction of a series of civic buildings. The amphitheater is the most prominent among them, and the major touristic attraction in the city.
It’s incredible to think that this construction, built almost two thousand years ago, is still operative. Romans were using it for chariot races and gladiatorial games, while today the arena is used for bullfighting, concerts, and plays.
Another important venue for leisure time, built by Romans and still in use today, is the theater. The acoustic of this place is incredible, and thinking that the population who built the site did not have any way to measure the result before the opera was complete is fascinating.
Last but not least, the cloister of Saint-Trophime. This amazing space, next to its homonymous church, it’s unique in its genre. Its construction lasted hundreds of years. The most ancient two galleries are in Romanesque style, while the remaining two are in gothic style. The juxtaposition between the two styles creates a unique atmosphere, making it one of the most beautiful spots in Arles.
6.) Van Gogh path in Arles
Arles keeps its ancient structure of small roads. Most of them are pedestrian, and it’s just beautiful to walk around the city, imagining ancient times, when the city was a central hub for goods and people going from the Mediterranean sea to France. One of the best ways to explore the city center is by following the Van Gogh path, a walking showing the places where the artist painted some of its most famous paintings.
Of course, the current views are different from the ones Vincent could see, but the path touches the most famous landmarks of the city. We recommend in particular the ex Hotel de Dieu, now the Mediatheque, with its colorful garden and central fountain!
Delicious tip: we suggest you start the trip at 9 AM from the Alyscamps, as soon as they open. This necropolis is a suggestive place (especially the church at the end of the alley), and it’s best visited with nobody around!
7.) Check the current cuisine at Le Chardon
Our last delicious spot in Camargue is a restaurant in Arles. Le Chardon is more than a restaurant. It’s a new concept. The idea is to have a fixed venue, but with a rotating kitchen. The brigade works there on a fixed contract, from one to five months, meaning the restaurant will renovate itself every time. The common denominator among every resident chef is to have small creative plates, based on local products. We loved the idea, and we are happy to recommend this place we loved so much. If you are coming here during the summer, make sure to reserve a table outside in the small alley!