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Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Provence, France

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the capital of the Camargue area. The town is located in the delta of the Rhone, about 1 km east of the mouth of the Petit Rhône branch, about 30 km from Aigues-Mortes and Le Grau-du-Roi, and about 35 km south of Arles. This town is famous for its beautiful beaches, white houses and the surrounding area related to the Camargue region, as well as the church and pilgrimage organized every year by the Gypsies in honor of its patron, Saint Sarah.

Parkings in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

There is a quite large, free parking by the lake Étang des Launes (P1; GPS: 43.452784, 4.424674). Its major advantage is that after parking the car you can walk only a few intersections and you're in the town's center or at the port. Similar place could be also a parking lot at the Avenue Gilbert Leroy (P2; GPS: 43.451710, 4.432644). However, that large parking lot can quickly become too small - just arrive late or on a weekend, and then it turns out that all the places are already occupied. But do not worry - the town has a really very huge parking (P3; GPS: 43.454342, 4.433391), however located 800 m from the center, on the eastern borders, but it's advantage is that it's almost always available, and free.

The port, the beaches and the trip to the mouth of the Rhone

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer has a port and nice, huge, sandy beaches (Plage des Arènes, Plage du Crin Blanc, Farniente Plage). There are also regular trips to the mouth of the Rhone, organized from the port (A; GPS: 43.450139, 4.425205). During the trip you can see the natural points of interest related to the Camargue. The trip lasts less than two hours; you start from the port, and then you go to the Petit Rhône branch. Along the way, you can see famous white horses and bulls of the Camargue, as well as the ubiquitous herons, flamingos and marsh harriers.

The Arena

The amphitheatre in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (B; GPS: 43.449824, 4.426965) is, among others, the traditional place of carrying out the bullfights in Camargue style ("La Course camarguais"). The bulls in Camargue style of fight are not injured. Instead of this, the objective is to remove the ribbons attached to the bull’s horns. This is just a good fun for the bulls :). Nice is also the fact that some of these events are free (at least as it was in 2014). After the race, bulls return to their meadows, physically intact. This type of bullfighting is very common in Provence and Languedoc areas.

The Église de Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer

There is a lovely old Spanish style church (C; GPS: 43.451659, 4.427614) from 11th century. You can then think you are in for example Mexico or Spain, but not the southern France. You can also have very breathtaking views from the top without too much work (about 50 narrow steps). The church inside is a little surprise - it's rather dark with lots of candles.

Pont de Gau Ornithological Park

The Pont de Gau Ornithological Park is located about 4 kmtrs north of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. This magnificent park uses almost 9 hectares of wetlands, surrounded by a large nature reserve. You can watch the animals and find really unique biosphere. There are many birds like herons, flamingoes, egrets, swans, birds of prey, teals, sparrows and other interesting creatures. More on this in our article dedicated to Camargue.

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