La Camargue

Photo by Hubert.

La Camargue is part of the Tentative list of France in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

La Camargue is a wetlands area between the two arms of the Rhône Delta in Provence. The core of the Camargue around the saltwater lagoon Étang de Vaccarès and the strip south of it towards the Mediterranean Sea is protected as a nature reserve. It is an important wintering area for migratory birds and the habitat for numerous endemic birds, the most famous species being the pink flamingo.

Map of La Camargue

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Germany - 26-Mar-24 -

La Camargue (T) by CugelVance

I visited the camargue region on thursday,the 21st of march. I took the bus a50 in Arles at 7.38am( bus stop "lamartine" near the railway station,the bus a50 also stops there) and arrived in Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer around 8.30am.First I went directly to the church "Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer which is a place of pilgrimage for France's gypsies/gitanes as saint sarah also known as  "sarah the black " is the patron saint for that ethnic group. 

The church was open at that time and quite interesting to pass 10-15 minutes there.The interior of the church is full of devotional items, pictures, objects left behind by pilgrims... the opposite of bare or baroque and not at all the typical Catholic church you would expect to find. Every year, on the 24th of may, the small town of Saint-Maries is full or better overcrowded with gitanes/gypsies from all over france and even from other european countries honouring Saint Sarah by carrying her statue down to the sea  to re-enact her arrival in France.

After that short visit there I went to a bike rental shop named "the bike saintois" which is just a stone's throw away from the church.They had just opened their doors when I arrived.Within 5 minutes I had my bike and was on the way out of town towards the so-called "digue a la mer".The bike shop employee had given me two maps, one showing the various bike routes through the Camargue and one focusing on Saint-Maries and the surrounding area.

Since it was still quite early in the morning and I had time till 18.00 to return the bike I decided to take the red route "Tour du Vacares",the longest route (about 72 km), but the one that allows you to go around the heart of the Camargue, the Etang de Vaccares. An Etang is a type of shallow inland lake that is typical of the Camargue. The Etang de Vaccares is the largest in the Camargue.

In hindsight I would have taken a different route as it was quite strenuous and I was in a race against time at the end.I should have rented an e-bike instead of a mountain bike.Anyway!

The first section of the route along the "digue a la mer" till the "phare de la gacholle,a lighthouse,was a pure pleasure for my sore eyes as you could see countless different birds,mainly flamingos in their natural habitat,pure magic. 

To the left and right of the bike path were shallow lakes full of birds and impressive landscapes. The weather was perfect for cycling, around 22+ and sunny with clouds.

The second section of the route from the lighhouse to the tiny hamlet of Villeneuve was also quite pleasant.However, there was no possibility to buy anything to drink or eat until Villeneuve. I was pretty hungry and had a strong craving for a cold beer after about 3.5 hours on the bike. Luckily there was an inn restaurant in Villeneuve that offered a plat du jour, a dish of the day. I stayed there longer than planned and enjoyed two cold beers and a decent meal, bull steak and side dishes.Around 14.30 I was once again on my way back to Saint-Maries. The third section between Villeneuve and Mejanes was less pleasant because you had to take an asphalted road on which there was little traffic, but the locals raced along the same road at high speeds, so you were always a little tense as soon as you heard a car behind you. It took me about an hour for this route.

The fourth and final section from Mejanes back to Saint-Maries was in some ways the most beautiful, the most strenuous and the one with the worst bike path. There was no car traffic there. You could see hundreds if not thousands of flamingos there. I had never seen so many flamingos before. So I was quite impressed and kept stopping every few hundred meters. Along this route I also saw dozens of Camargue horses.

Due to lack of time I didnt make it to the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau which closes its door at 17.00( longer opening times in the summer months).I gave my bike back at around 17.40. A bit tired and exhaused I strolled through Saint-Maries till 18.15 when I took the bus from the first bus stop in that seaside town near the  town beach.

As for Saint-Maries it is a clean and pleasant seaside town that is fully geared towards tourism.The town beaches are nothing special,and neither is the town itself something from another dimension. Those places are a dime a dozen around the mediterrean sea.A pure waste of time for any world heritage traveller to spend more than one hour there. 

As for the Camargue, I'm my opinion, the cultural component is absolutely irrelevant and insignificant.
The rare large haciendas that I saw there were nothing special in terms of architecture.
However, I am not a specialist in ornithology...there is no doubt that the Camargue is a wonderful nature reserve that quickly captivates you. Nevertheless, I personally don't see any ouv... but I'm not 100% sure... I lack too much background knowledge.

The route I chose was extremely interesting, but also strenuous with a normal mountain bike (20€ for the entire day).
My recommendation is to ride this route with an ebike or along the dam(digue)  from Saint-Maries to the lighthouse and then back and then again from Saint-Maries to the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau and from there back along the route "bac du sauvage". to Saint-Maries.The bus back to Arles costs 1€ and was very empty when I took the bus at 6:15 p.m. The last one leaves an hour later...more frequently in the summer months.

All in all it was an enchanting excursion  that I enjoyed with all my heart and would repeat at any time. A future world heritage site?? I doubt it



Austria - 06-Apr-14 -

La Camargue (T) by Hubert Scharnagl

La Camargue (Grande Camargue) is the landscape between the two arms of the Rhône delta, the Grand Rhône to the east and the Petite Rhône to the west or between the cities of Arles, Salin-de-Giraud and Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. However, the T-list entry describes the Carmargue only as a natural site, comprising 20.000 hectares of the nature park and biosphere reserve. This area consists mostly of very shallow lakes (French: étang), reed-covered marshlands, and a long sandbank on the seaside. The Camargue is the habitat and breeding area for several bird species, the best known is the flamingo, and many migratory birds overwinter in the Camargue. Therefore, large areas are not accessible to visitors.

We started from Arles with our rental car and drove on the Route de Filouse (D36B) along the eastern side of the Etang de Vaccarès, the largest of the Camargue lakes. The road passes close to the shore of the lake and flamingos can be seen even from the car, usually in groups of up to ten birds. You can stop at various vantage points and watch the birds, e.g. at the information centre La Capellère.

In Salin-de-Giraud we rented bicycles and we cycled on the Digue à la mer towards Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (about 30 km). In the first section along the Étang de Fangassier we saw a lot of flamingos and other birds, later the path leads close along the coastline. It is not allowed to walk on the dunes, but there are marked trails to the beach and the waterside. The scenery is absolutely flat and plain without any elevated point. The only landmark is the Phare de la Garolle, about halfway to Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (the photo is from the area close to the lighthouse). We really enjoyed our bike tour, the almost deserted landscape was a pleasant contrast to the tourist hotspots in Provence. But after a while it was a bit boring, in particular because bird watching is not one of my favourite activities. The views are more or less similar everywhere, the only variation is whether flamingos can be seen or not and how much of them.

South of Salin-de-Giraud are extensive salt pans. There is a viewing point two kilometres from the town overlooking the artificial salt evaporation ponds, where you can also buy overpriced Fleur de Sel. However most of the produced salt is for industrial purposes.

The western part of the Camargue is more popular with tourists. Along the road to Les Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer are several farms where they breed bulls or the famous Camargue horses. The town itself is a typical seaside resort, the shops and bars are similar to those in many other towns at the Mediterranean coast. The church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer is nice, you can climb onto the roof and have a panoramic view over the sea and the surrounding countryside.

I do not know if there are plans for a nomination of the Camargue in the next years. If so, I think it is reasonable to nominate it as a natural site and not as a mixed site or as a cultural landscape. Though I am no expert in ornithology and can not assess whether an inscription would be justified. But the cultural features - salt production, rice paddies, horse and cattle breeding - are not unique and outstanding and the commercial uses could probably lead to conflicts with the requirements of the WHC.


Malta - 10-Feb-13 -

When compared to other European natural WHS, I believe that Camargue has a great chance of being included in the list. However, as a truly WORLD heritage site I don't feel it offers a universal value. A great place to admire pink flamingoes, herons, stilts, terns, etc. in Europe.

Full Name
La Camargue
Natural landscape - Rivers, Wetlands and Lakes
2002 Added to Tentative List

Unesco Website: La Camargue

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La Camargue (T)
WHS 1997-2024