Adventure Awaits in the South of France: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Discover Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer: Adventures and Charm in the Heart of the Camargue

Introduction to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer: An Undiscovered Paradise in the Camargue

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a charming village lying on the shores of the Mediterranean, which will surprise you with its extravagant and unusual setting, in the heart of the mysterious Camargue. Here, among wild and wild landscapes, you will discover a corner of France you may not have known before, where tranquility merges with nature in its purest state.

This unique destination invites you to explore its emblematic fauna: the majestic white horses, the imposing black bulls and the elegant pink flamingos that inhabit its vast marshes. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer offers not only this impressive biodiversity, but also first-class hospitality. The hotels, carefully integrated into the natural environment, and the exquisite local gastronomy, ensure a complete and memorable experience.

If you read on, you will discover all that this town has to offer: from activities and historical sites to cultural events and festivities. Prepare to fall in love with Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a hidden treasure in the magical Camargue region.

ℹ️ Population in 2020: 2145 inhabitants. Source INSEE


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The Weather in Saintes Maries de la Mer

Discover Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer: Adventures and Charm in the Heart of the Camargue
The little streets in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, located in the heart of the Camargue region in the south of France, enjoys a Mediterranean climate that makes it an ideal year-round destination. Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures usually hovering between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius, perfect for enjoying the beaches and outdoor activities.

Winters are mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 5 degrees Celsius, making it possible to stroll leisurely through its charming streets and explore the surrounding nature without suffering from the bitter cold. Spring and autumn offer pleasant temperatures and fewer tourists, ideal for a relaxed and uncrowded family vacation.

In addition, the region enjoys abundant sunshine throughout the year, so don’t forget to bring sunscreen and a hat. With its mild and sunny climate, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a fantastic destination to enjoy nature, culture and history in any season of the year.

SAINTES-MARIES-DE-LA-MER WEATHER

How to get to Saintes Maries de la Mer

Your Gateway to France

Starting your holidays in France is a hassle-free process. Most travelers choose to fly, thanks to the many air connections available. France boasts numerous international airports that facilitate arrival from anywhere in the world.

🛫 Do you want a hassle-free arrival in France?
Discover the best flight deals for an unforgettable travel experience.
👉 BOOK YOUR FLIGHT HERE

Airports near Saintes Maries de la Mer

  • Montpellier 54 km
  • Nîmes 44 km
  • Marseille 102 km

Travelling to France by Train: Comfort, Speed and Sustainability

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Opting for the train as a means of transport is not only an environmentally responsible choice, but also an unrivalled opportunity to immerse yourself in the European landscapes while travelling quickly and comfortably. Thanks to SNCF’s extensive rail network, you can connect directly to iconic destinations such as Montpellier or Nîmes, directly from Spain, ensuring a hassle-free arrival to the region’s gems.

🚅 Ready to see France from a moving window and let yourself be carried away by the magic of its landscapes?
Discover the best routes and exclusive promotions that SNCF Connect has for you.
👉 BOOK YOUR TRAIN HERE

Nearest TGV stations to Saintes Maries de la Mer

  • Montpellier 55 km
  • Nîmes 58 km
  • Marseille 127 km

The Magic of Driving in France

Once in France, traveling by car has become the preferred option for many. Not only for the convenience it provides, but also for the freedom it gives to marvel at picturesque landscapes and make impromptu stops.

I usually use Rentalcars to compare and book rental cars worldwide. I highly recommend them, especially for their outstanding cancellation policy, which allows you to cancel most bookings up to 48 hours in advance at no charge.
It’s the largest car rental agency comparator I’ve come across!

🚙 If you don’t have your own vehicle, no worries.
Rent the ideal car for your adventure, which you can pick up at the airport or train station
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Additionally, while traveling along the charming French roads, what better company than a good playlist? You can find the special playlist I’ve prepared for you at the end of this page.

Tips for driving in France?
✴️ READ MY EXPERT CHECKLIST FOR A SAFE AND ENJOYABLE DRIVE

Driving to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Traveling by car to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is an amazing experience that immerses you in the unique and wild landscapes of the Camargue region. From any of the nearby cities such as Montpellier, Nîmes, Marseille or Avignon, the journey is much more than a simple transfer; it is a real adventure through one of the most picturesque areas of France.

This trip gives us views that we rarely have the opportunity to enjoy. The landscapes of the Camargue are unexpected and exotic, revealing a corner of France that many do not know exists. The mix of marshy terrain, white horses grazing freely and the imposing black bulls create a scenery that surprises and enchants in equal parts. It is a journey that invites us to explore and discover a lesser known but equally fascinating facet of the French south.

Note that in the months of May, October and December, thousands of people congregate in the village on the occasion of the pilgrimages that take place every year. More information in the section on What to do in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

The ferry Bac du Sauvage

Discover Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer: Adventures and Charm in the Heart of the Camargue
The ferry Bac du Sauvage

If you come from the Montpellier, Aigues-Mortes or Le Grau-du-Roi side, you have the opportunity to cross a lush, wild environment and, on the way, even cross the Petit Rhône River on a free cable ferry linking the two banks which is located 6.5 km from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
You can of course also cross it in the opposite direction.

ℹ️ Crossing time: 2 minutes. Fee: Free of charge. Open 365 days a year.

Achieve maximum immersion

in French culture

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The best accommodations in Saintes Maries de la Mer. My Selection

Hotel L’Estelle en Camargue ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Located in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the heart of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, L’Estelle en Camargue is an idyllic retreat within a 3-hectare domain. This hotel-restaurant offers a total communion with the wild nature of the Camargue, integrating perfectly into the environment. With twenty spacious rooms reflecting the light of Provence, hosts Philipp Genner and Sven Fuhrmann ensure a memorable stay. The rooms, all on the first floor, have private patios opening onto a serene pond or terraces surrounded by a Mediterranean garden.

Chef Sven Fuhrmann delights guests with a menu rich in Provençal and international flavors and aromas, served in a bright room with panoramic views of the pool and surrounding nature. In addition, L’Estelle en Camargue offers a spectacular infinity pool and a Jacuzzi overlooking the private pond, ideal for relaxation. For the more active, the hotel has a tennis court and a petanque court. Located just 2 kilometers from the beaches, guests can enjoy walks on foot, horseback, bicycle or 4×4 vehicle, exploring the vast landscapes and rich wildlife of the Camargue.

  • Rooms and Suites with Terrace or Garden
  • Heated Swimming Pool
  • Panoramic Jacussi
  • Gastronomic Restaurant
  • Sunset Lounge y Piano Bar

Room rates from 449€ 👉 CHECK RATES AND AVAILABILITY HERE

Rent a house nearby: The Perfect Option for Families

If you are looking for an intimate and personalised experience, especially if you are travelling with family or a large group, renting a whole house can be the perfect solution. Not only does it give you the comfort of feeling at home, but it also offers you the opportunity to live like a local, cook your own meals and have communal spaces to share unforgettable moments.

Abritel is the leading platform in France for vacation home rentals and is my trusted platform for vacation home bookings.
Whether I am looking for a rustic villa with a pool, a modern house in the city center or a traditional country house, I always find in Abritel an option that perfectly fits what I need. I invite you to discover it for yourself and experience something unique from the comfort of a home chosen especially for you.

👉 CLICK HERE TO STAY IN THIS TYPICAL GARDIAN’S HOME

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Who are “Les Gardiens”?
Gardienne de Camargue
Gardienne de Camargue

“Les Gardiens” are the cowboys of the Camargue region in the south of France. Traditionally, they are responsible for the care and management of the bulls and horses that live in the extensive marshlands and pastures of the Camargue. This area is known for its unique natural environment and for being home to a distinctive breed of white horses, the Camargue Horses, and black bulls used in traditional local bullfights.

Gardiens are emblematic figures of Camargue culture, often seen dressed in specific costumes including wide-brimmed hats, tight-fitting shirts and pants, and leather boots. They are expert horsemen and play a crucial role in preserving the traditions and lifestyle of the Camargue. In addition to their role in livestock farming, they participate in local events and festivals, where they perform equestrian shows that demonstrate their skills and the tradition of the region.

More family accommodations near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

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Things to do in Saintes Maries de la Mer

Family activities not to be missed. My Selection

Around all the villages you will always find a huge amount of places to enjoy with the little ones and everything is really prepared for a great time.
Near this charming village, you’ll discover a plethora of exciting activities to enjoy with them. From exploring fascinating castles and quaint villages to immersing yourself in fun-filled theme and water parks, there are endless options to entertain the whole family.
Here is a list of activities to enjoy with the family and places nearby, which I selected for you.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Unforgettable panoramic views: Visit and climb Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer Church

One of the must-see spots on your visit to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the historic church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer. This imposing structure, with roots dating back to the 9th century, is both a place of worship and a monument steeped in history and legend. The church is dedicated to the Holy Marys, central figures in local tradition, and is a pilgrimage site that attracts visitors from all over the world, especially during the gypsy festivities in May and October.

But the experience is not only inside the temple. What I highly recommend is to climb to the roof of the church. From there, you will be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views that capture the essence of the Camargue. You will be able to contemplate the picturesque village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, with its reddish roofs and winding streets, and in the distance, the majestic Mediterranean Sea. To the other side, the marshy landscapes and vast Camargue terrain stretch as far as the eye can see, offering a natural spectacle that blends perfectly with the serenity of the surroundings. This panoramic view is a unique opportunity to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the Camargue landscape. *** Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ***

ℹ️ It is closed at noon. It is easily ascended. Price of access to the roof 4€.

Take a Guided Tour of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer with Clara

Discover Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Adventures and Charm in the Heart of the Camargue
Guided Tour of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Get to know this adorable little village with Clara, a passionate local guide from the Camargue. Immerse yourself in the history and nature of this amazing corner of France with this guided tour that will take you to the heart of this fascinating region.
Accompanied by Clara, you will discover the wonders of the village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a place that has inspired figures such as Van Gogh and Frédéric Mistral.

During the tour, you will learn stories, anecdotes and secrets that only a local can know, enriching your experience and connection to the place. Stroll through the town’s charming narrow streets, learn about its rich history and culture, and marvel at the region’s unique flora and fauna. From pink flamingos to iconic white horses and black bulls, the Camargue will surprise you at every turn. This tour will also allow you to meet the locals and better understand their traditions and way of life, making this visit an authentic and unforgettable experience.

  • Duration 3 hs. Approx.
  • Groups of up to 10 people

✴️ Cancel up to 24 hours before the excursion.

ℹ️ Book now and pay later

Powered by GetYourGuide

Private 4×4 Safari in the Camargue: A Wild Adventure

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I propose you to live an unforgettable adventure in the heart of the Camargue. This two-hour private tour allows you to explore the wonders of the Rhone Delta in the comfort and excitement of an open 4×4 vehicle. Accompanied by a passionate and knowledgeable guide, you will immerse yourself in the wild and unique landscapes of the Camargue Regional Natural Park.

During the tour, you will have the opportunity to see the rich fauna and flora of the area up close. You will be able to spot the emblematic white horses and black bulls roaming freely, as well as an impressive variety of birds, including pink flamingos. In addition, the tour includes stops at rice paddies and other points of interest where you can take magnificent photos of these natural landscapes. This safari offers you an intimate and detailed insight into the biodiversity and traditions of the Camargue, making this experience an educational and exciting adventure for the whole family.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to discover the Camargue like never before!

ℹ️ Duration approx. 2 hours. Book now and pay later.

✴️ Cancel up to 24 hours before the excursion.

👉 From 399 € per group. CLICK HERE NOW TO BOOK YOUR SAFARI

Discover the Camargue on Petit Train

Discover Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer: Adventures and Charm in the Heart of the Camargue
THE LITTLE CAMARGUE TRAIN in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

A charming way to explore the Camargue is aboard the Petit Train Camarguais. This little train takes you on a 13 km ride through the Camargue Regional Natural Park, bordering ponds and marshes. During the ride, a local guide will tell you passionately about the history and traditions of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and its surroundings. With photo stops, you will be able to admire the rich fauna and flora up close, including the emblematic bulls, horses and pink flamingos.

The Petit Train is ideal for both individuals and groups, and its starting point is conveniently located next to the tourist office. This tour is not only a perfect opportunity to learn about the biodiversity and unique landscapes of the Camargue, but also to enjoy a relaxed and educational experience.
A ride on the Petit Train Camarguais is a must for the whole family!

ℹ️ Duration of the tour 50m. Departure: right next to the Tourist Office.
👉 Price 10 € per person.

Live the tradition and get excited: White Horses, Bulls and Fun

In Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, summer is alive with a series of festivities celebrating the traditions and culture of the Camargue. Among the highlights are the abrivados and cowboy games, events that combine emotion, tradition and community.

The abrivados are an ancient Camargue tradition where the gardians, the local cowboys, lead the bulls from the fields to the town square. This exciting procession on horseback is an impressive display of equestrian skill and teamwork. It is a vibrant spectacle that attracts locals and tourists alike, offering an authentic glimpse of life in the Camargue.

On the other hand, the vaquillonas games are playful competitions in which the young people of the town show their skill and bravery trying to catch the vaquillonas, or young bulls, in a festive atmosphere. These games are held in the bullring and are an opportunity for the whole family to enjoy an afternoon full of fun and tradition. These festivities not only keep local customs alive, but also strengthen the sense of community and offer visitors an authentic and exciting experience.

ℹ️ Check the agenda of the Tourist Office or the Mairie for the dates when these festivities take place.

Fervor and Tradition: Pilgrimages in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Pilgrimages in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is known for its significant pilgrimages, which attract thousands of the faithful and travelers each year. These events pay homage to the town’s patron saints, Sainte Marie Jacobe and Sainte Marie Salomé, who, according to tradition, came to the region in the 1st century to evangelize, accompanied by Sainte Sara. The relics of the Saints, discovered in 1448, are kept in the Upper Chapel of the village church and are brought down to the choir during pilgrimages.

  • The May pilgrimage is one of the most important. On May 24, the day begins with a solemn mass in the church, followed by the Descente des Châsses ceremony and a procession to the sea, where Sainte Sara, patron saint of gypsies and travelers, is honored. On May 25, the feast of Sainte Marie Jacobe is celebrated with a large mass and the procession of the Barque des Saintes Maries, carried to the sea by the guards and pilgrims, culminating with the ceremony of the Remontée des Châsses. *** Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ***
  • In October, around the 22nd, the feast of Marie Salome is celebrated. On Saturday afternoon, the Descente des Châsses takes place, followed by a living evocation of the arrival of the Saints on the beach and a prayer vigil at the sanctuary. On Sunday, a solemn mass precedes an impressive procession to the sea, where the Barque des Saintes is carried by the bearers of the confraternity, accompanied by the guards on horseback and the pilgrims.
  • In December, the Translation des Reliques pilgrimage closes the year with a solemn torchlight procession and religious ceremonies, including the unveiling of the relics of Marie Jacobé and Marie Salomé.

These pilgrimages not only celebrate faith, but also the rich history and traditions of the Camargue.

Gastronomy in Saintes Maries de la Mer

Street of restaurants in Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is not only a natural paradise, but also a gastronomic destination that delights the senses. The local cuisine, steeped in the traditions of the Camargue and the Mediterranean, offers a variety of flavors and aromas that reflect the cultural and natural richness of the region.

The restaurants and bistros of the village specialize in dishes that stand out for their freshness and authenticity. Among the specialties, you can’t miss the “gardianne de taureau”, a typical Camargue bull stew, slowly cooked in red wine and accompanied by rice from the region. Also not to be missed are the fresh seafood dishes, such as oysters and mussels, which come directly from the sea to your table. The Mediterranean influence is present in the recipes, with ingredients such as garlic, olive oil and aromatic herbs that bring a unique flavor to each dish.

In addition to traditional cuisine, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer offers culinary experiences that fuse the classic with contemporary touches. Local chefs, such as Sven Fuhrmann of L’Estelle in Camargue, are constantly innovating, creating menus that surprise and delight the most discerning palates. From elegant dinners overlooking nature to relaxed lunches on sunny terraces, the village’s gastronomic offer caters to all tastes and occasions. Don’t forget to accompany your meals with local wines, especially rosés, which perfectly complement the flavors of the region. In Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, every meal is a celebration of Camargue culture and nature.

Note it down. Time to taste.

  • La Gardianne de Taureau
  • Rosé Wines
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Charming villages near Saintes Maries de la Mer

One of the great attractions of travelling to France is the proximity of its many charms.

In each region, there is not only one treasure to discover, but a multitude of them. And all in close proximity to each other.
So, once you’ve explored the particular charm of a village, there is always more waiting for you nearby.

When traveling to France, it’s always good to remember that part of the adventure is veering a little off the main route and discovering those small villages and communities that give the country its very special character.

So, don’t hesitate to add a few extra destinations to your itinerary.

Le Grau du Roi: Fishing Charm and Golden Beaches
Le Grau du Roi: Fishing Charm and Golden Beaches

Located in the Occitanie region, Le Grau du Roi is a picturesque fishing port that has been transformed into a sought-after tourist destination. With meandering canals, extensive beaches and a vibrant atmosphere, this coastal enclave captivates visitors with its blend of tradition and natural beauty.

La Grande Motte: Modernity and Beach in the Mediterranean

La Grande Motte se distingue par son architecture moderne et ses plages de sable doré. Avec ses bâtiments en forme de pyramide, elle offre une combinaison unique de soleil, de mer et de style, ce qui en fait une destination populaire pour ceux qui recherchent la détente et une touche contemporaine sur la côte méditerranéenne.

Nîmes

A city with a fascinating history and a rich Roman heritage, it is a destination that captivates visitors with its charm and authenticity. Known for its impressive Roman amphitheatre, the famous Arenas de Nîmes, the city is a living testimony to the glorious past that has endured over the centuries.

Roman vestiges in Nîmes, such as the Maison Carrée and the Roman temple of La Fontaine, evoke the grandeur of the Roman Empire and offer visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the ancient history of the region. In addition to its Roman heritage, Nîmes also boasts magnificent buildings from medieval times, such as the Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor.

In addition to its rich history, Nîmes is a vibrant city with a lively cultural life and a wealth of events and festivals throughout the year. Its streets are full of charm, and its squares and cafes offer a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

Nîmes is also famous for its tradition of bullfighting, which is held in the Arenas during the Nîmes Fair. This charming and history-filled city offers visitors an authentic experience of the South of France, where history and modernity come together in a unique and captivating place.

The history of Saintes Maries de la Mer

A brief introduction

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a charming town located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in the south of France. This picturesque village, known for its rich history and vibrant culture, is the heart of the Camargue, a vast region of wetlands and unique landscapes.

Legendary Origins

The history of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is deeply intertwined with legends and traditions. According to Christian tradition, the town is named after the Holy Marys (Marie Jacobé, Marie Salomé and possibly Mary Magdalene) who, according to legend, arrived on these shores fleeing persecution in the Holy Land. It is said that they arrived in a boat without oars or sails, accompanied by their servant Sara the Kali, who is venerated as a saint by the gypsy community.

A Pilgrimage Center

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer has become an important pilgrimage center. Every year in May, the village welcomes thousands of gypsies who come to pay homage to Sara la Kali during the festivities in her honor. This cultural and religious event attracts visitors from all over the world and is a manifestation of the deep spirituality and tradition of the place.

Historical Evolution

Over the centuries, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer has seen the influence of various cultures, from the Romans to the Saracens. Its strategic location at the mouth of the Rhone has been key to its development as a major port in the region. The fortified church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, built in the 9th century, is a testament to its rich historical and architectural heritage.


Diego en France

Dear reader,
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and, above all, that it has been useful for planning your getaway or family holiday in France.
I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and experiences related to the content you’ve just read. Comments are an opportunity for us all to share ideas and learn from each other.
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Let’s start a conversation here below and make the post richer!
Thank you for being part of this community and I look forward to seeing your comments soon!
Warm regards

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