The Camargue Rhône Delta Region, South of France

The wetlands of the Rhone River delta in the south of France are protected by the Carmargue regional natural park. The area is home to many bird species the Camarguais horse and the black bull. It's also known for the guardians and the Gypsy festival...

The Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue was officially established as a regional park and nature reserve in 1970. The park covers an area of over 80,000 hectares including wetlands, pastures, woodlands, dunes and salt flats. It is Western Europe's largest river delta, where the Rhône meets the Mediterranean Sea.

Climate

The Camargue is known for its harsh climate and is windy on an average of 300 days per year. The primary winds are the Mistral, a cold dry north-westerly wind which travels down the Rhône Valley, and the south-easterly sea breeze that brings rain.

Salt Marshes and Agricultural Plains

One third of the park is a national reserve that is governed by strict regulations to protect the rare flora and fauna species and to maintain the fragile indigenous ecosystem. The remaining two-thirds of land is used for farming, salt mining and hunting.

The salins (salt marshes) are located in the southeast corner of the Camargue, near Salin-de-Giraud and the Grand Rhône, where salt has been produced since Roman times.

Rice is the main crop in grown and is harvested annually in October.

Flora and Fauna

The Camargue is inhabited by a rich diversity of wildlife, although it is well known for three animal species in particular. The Taureaux Camarguais, a black breed of bull, the Cheval Camarguais, a breed of white horse smaller than than the average horse, and some 50,000 pink flamingoes that populate the wetlands during the warmer months.

The flora of the Camargue is specially adapted to cope with the harsh saline conditions.

A recommended time to visit is during September and May, the migration period of some of the Camargue's 400 bird species.

Tourist Information and Activities

A wide variety of activities are available including bird-watching, hiking, canoeing, horse riding and kite surfing.

Several festivals take place in the Camargue over the course of a year, including:

May:

  • Festival de la Camargue & du Delta du Rhône - Festival celebrating the Camargue region with exhibitions, children's activities, conferences, entertainment and village celebrations.
  • Pèlerinage des Gitans - The traditional colourful festivities celebrating the spiritual pilgrimage of the gypsy community.

July:

  • Festival du Cheval - Horse festival held in Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer in hommage to the Cheval Camarguais.

November:

  • Festival d'Abrivado - Traditional Taureaux Camarguais bull festival, where the villagers try to free the bulls guarded by the white horses (Cheval Camarguais).

Information centers

  • Centre d'Information de la Réserve Nationale de Camargue
    Information about the Camargue including history, management plan, scientific data, visitors centre, tours and hiking trails
    At
    : La Capelière, 13200 Arles
    Tel: 04 90 97 00 97
    Fax: 04 90 97 01 44
    email
  • Arles Tourist Office
    At
    : Office de Tourisme, Bd des Lices, 13200 Arles
    Tel: 04 90 18 41 20
    Fax: 04 90 18 41 29
    email
  • Musée de la Camargue (The Camargue Museum), Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue
    A geological and historical presentation of the Camargue, beginning with the formation of the Rhône delta 7,000 years ago, and continuing through the Antiquity and the Middle Ages
    At
    : Rd 570, Mas du Pont de Rousty, 13200 Arles
    Tel: 04 90 97 10 82
    email