Walking among sunflowers in Camargue
Travel

7 Wonders of Camargue: From White Horses to Sunflowers

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.

Camargue landscape from a wonderful point of view 🦄!

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.

View of the amphitheatre from the roads of Arles

Camargue is one of the most beautiful regions in France, and these are our delicious spots!

1.) Riding the white horses in Camargue

First horse riding test, passed! Camargue
First horse riding test, passed!
passages in the deep swamps in Camargue
passages in the deep swamps in Camargue
Riding among crops and marshes , Camargue
Riding among crops and marshes

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 🌻

We can understand why Van Gogh fell in love with sunflowers while living in Arles 🌻 Camargue
We can understand why Van Gogh fell in love with sunflowers while living in Arles 🌻

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.

The amazing sunflowers fields around Arles 💛🌻 Camargue
The amazing sunflowers fields around Arles 💛🌻

3.) Eat local Provencal fruits and vegetables

Eating delicious Provencal cherries 🍒 Camargue
Eating delicious Provencal cherries 🍒

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.

Recreation of Van Gogh’s room, where he lived for two years, Camargue
Recreation of Van Gogh’s room, where he lived for two years
Walking around the garden outside the asylum, Camargue
Walking around the garden outside the asylum
The cloister, testifying the original mansion of the place as a convent, Camargue
The cloister, testifying the original mansion of the place as a convent

5.) Explore the ancient wonders of Arles

The Arles Amphitheater, used since 2000 years ago, Camargue
The Arles Amphitheater, used since 2000 years ago

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.

The interior of amphitheater with the arena, still in use for corridas, Camargue
The interior of amphitheater with the arena, still in use for corridas
View of Arles from the tower of the amphitheater, Camargue
View of Arles from the tower of the amphitheater

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.

The antique theater of Arles, built by Romans in the 1st century, Camargue
The antique theater of Arles, built by Romans in the 1st century
The antique theater is still in use nowadays. Its acoustic is incredible, Camargue
The antique theater is still in use nowadays. Its acoustic is incredible

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.

The entrance to the church of St. Trophime, Camargue
The entrance to the church of St. Trophime
The cloister of St. Trophime, with its dual style, Camargue
The cloister of St. Trophime, with its dual style

6.) Van Gogh path in Arles

Café Terrace, source of inspiration for the homonymous painting from Van Gogh 💛 Camargue
Café Terrace, source of inspiration for the homonymous painting from Van Gogh

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.

The Alyscamps promenade, the inspiration from Van Gogh’s work, Camargue
The Alyscamps promenade, the inspiration from Van Gogh’s work
Les Alyscamps, Van Gogh, 1888, © Wikimedia Commons
Les Alyscamps, Van Gogh, 1888, © Wikimedia Commons

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!

The ex-hotel de dieu, another source of inspiration for Van Gogh, Camargue
The ex-hotel de dieu, another source of inspiration for Van Gogh

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

Outside of Le Chardon, where young Arlesoises spend their evenings, Camargue
Outside of Le Chardon, where young Arlesoises spend their evenings
Sea food, green strawberries and a variation of miso soup at Le Chardon, Camargue
Sea food, green strawberries and a variation of miso soup 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!

We loved staying in Camargue, and we hope you will like it as much as we did! Take a look to our tour in Provence, explore Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Avignon!