Pilgrimage place and seaside resort, the city of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in Bouches-du-Rhône,is popular with tourists since the 19th century. According to the legend, three saints arrived in Camargue after the death of Christ and built an oratory as a token of gratitude for arriving safe and sound.Since the 19th century, pilgrims come from all over Europe to pray and tourists love to admire the beautiful view awaiting them from the church terrace on the pond of the Vaccares and the sea.This fortress-church is impossible to miss; built in the 9th century, it is a masterpiece of roman art and stands proudly on the Mediterranean.
Church of Saintes Maries de la Mer
Street show with horses in Saintes Maries de la Mer
Here is the port of Saintes Maries de la Mer
There are lots of wild beaches in the east of Saintes Maries de la Mer
The city is located in Camargue National Reserve, on the banks of the Vaccares pond, and offers many assets. Between sea and marsh, there is plenty to see and do, from gipsy dancing shows to bullfights and the exploration of Camargue. Saintes Marie de la Mer also has beautiful beaches; Amphora beach is very pleasant and clean, perfect for families and athletes. Arena beach attracts fun board, windsurf and kite surf enthusiasts, the region being famous for its perfect winds!
The Eastern beaches of Saintes Maries de la Mer are the wildest. The more you move away from the car park (extra fee in summer), the more we feel alone in the world. You can walk for hours in the middle of ponds, dunes and pink flamingos to discover the perfect beach to put your towel down.
Pink flamingos in Camargue ponds
In the west, that is to say from the port to the mouth of the Petit Rhône, there are two beaches including Crin Blanc and Clos du Rhone beach. As you walk around the city, you are sure to come across a herd or small arenas where race bulls are training. There is one in Pin Fourcat for example, from where you can take a free ferry, which goes to the Saintes through the canal.
Horses from the Camargue region
There are lots of things to do in Camargue! Horse rides are a must! Take one of the two ferries sailing on the Rhône to go to the natural park, visit the Vigueirat marshes and explore the exceptional wild life of the area. Around the Gacholle lighthouse you can combine sea bird watching and sunbathing on beaches well protected by the dunes. There are also plenty of ponds and lagoons on the Palissade domain, the only natural area in Camargue, which you can visit on horseback. There are also totally wild beaches in Camargue.
View from the village of Baux de Provence
Go through Arles as well, it is less than forty kilometres away from Saintes Maries. The city is big and also enjoys an ancient heritage. Between the beautiful mansions and ironwork worked hiding in alleys and heritage-listed monuments (there are 112!) you will find it hard to know where to begin. Choose to admire the cloister of Saint Trophime, the palace of the archbishop which hosts beautiful exhibitions as well as crypto porticos, unknown underground galleries dating from 30 BC that you can reach from the town hall. And if you have time, visit Baux-de-Provence, one hour away from Saintes Maries, and ranked among the most beautiful villages of France. Overlooked by a castle, perched on a mountain, Baux offers beautiful views of the region and authentic architecture charming all visitors!