Camargue is a natural region between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône, south of the city of Arles in France. This is the largest river delta in Western Europe, with many natural wonders, amazing wildlife, and vibrant traditions.
I did publish a while ago an article on that gorgeous place but after a few additional trips there, I wanted to do an updated post to highlight gorgeous places for travel photography and local traditions discovery when visiting that part of the world. Of course, this is by far not exhaustive and it is not ordered in any specific ranking. There are many village festivals and open days in Manade ranches across the year so before going, visit the Coeur de Camargue tourism website and you’ll find (8 months-ish out of 12) a lot of amazing events to enjoy and photograph like the “Abreviade” below the last time I was there.
1-Visit the carbonière tower
The Carbonnière Tower rises majestically in the middle of the swamps near Aigues-Mortes medieval city.
It was built during the thirteenth century, at the same time as the Aigues-Mortes ramparts and this is a great place around sunrise and sunset when the light creates its magic.
The view (from the top of the tower and the bottom) and permanently changing light makes that place special and one of my favorite spots in Camargue.
Beyond the tower itself, the swamps around are home( year around) of thousands of flamingos 🤩
If you’re a bird or nature lover, that place is for you …
2- Visit the Saltworks of Aigues-Mortes
Who said that a factory / industrial zone can’t be a paradise for wildlife and photographers? Yes, I know, some remaining of my previous industrial life maybe 😂
The pink color is caused by an algae variety called “Dunaliella salina”, making the panoramic view on Aigues-Mortes medieval city walls absolutely stunning with the permanently changing pond colors.
The salt production goes back to Roman time and the area is today still in service but is as well a wonderful travel photography spot. The “Salins du Midi” is open to the public and organizes tours on a sightseeing train, but I would advise you to prioritize biking or walking if you want to discover the area and do some photography …
Beyond the amazing color and landscape, there are as well many birds, obviously, flamingos that are the stars of the area but let’s not forget the little and cute Mallard ducks as well …
3- Meet the guardians
Here you can discover immense horse and breeding ranches called “Manades”. Camargue will not be the wonder it is without the “Mamadiers” or guardians” that are the people taking care of those places. Those are families and people that breed and take care of the animals that live all year round in semi-freedom.
The passion for their animals, for their way of life, and their relationship to nature, is clearly common traits that are very visible when meeting those guardians.
So yes, France can claim proudly that they have amazing cowboys 😎
And as importantly, many and as amazing cowgirls as well …
4- Spend some time in a Manade
Many “Manade” ranches will organize open days to showcase their traditions and work (so again, check the tourist website). I was lucky to assist to the Manade Martini open event where the owners very generously welcome tourists to their ranch
You’ll discover their tradition and the cowboys will demonstrate their work with the impressive bulls.
Beyond this, those generous people (it’s free entrance) will proudly showcase how their employees and families live and enjoy the traditions. clearly, the young generation is fully engaged 😀
5- Meet the Camargue horses
The Camargue white horses are one of the oldest breeds in the world. If you’re a passionate photographer or nature lover, a sunrise in a pond with Camargue horses is clearly an unforgettable experience 🤩.
The water reflections are creating endless photography opportunities
While in the heart of the Petite Camargue, you may have the privilege to be part of an organized discovery, where enthusiast guardians will run on a beach with their horses …
Seeing those beautiful animals under the golden sunrise light in the Mediterranean Sea is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Or course, while you might get lucky just going around to find horses in action, organizing either a visit to a Manade or a special setup for photography is highly recommended. Some local photographers organize photo tours or most Manade ranches would organize. open days to share their passion (check on the tourist office website for dates
A barefoot shooting session with horses galloping in the warm Mediterranean Sea during golden hours is as well really cool … And again, guardians treat their horses like their own kids so horses have fun as well …
Stallions playing together at the “who is the boss” game is as well an amazing experience not to miss if you can.
Be reinsured that it all ends up in a peaceful and friendly way, under the watch of hundreds of flamingos enjoying pond recovered quietness.
Talking about Flamingos, sunset is another opportunity to get spoiled with horses, guardians, and those amazing birds together (almost posing but not for long 😰)…
After beach barefoot, photography it is now a garden plastic boot shooting time in the middle of the swamps 😂…
The sunset light gives amazing travel photography opportunities (and some opportunities for the camera and the photographer to become a bit wetter than needed)
The guardians get wet as well to showcase their wonderful animals in action…
OK, I probably went over the top in the number of horses images in that post so time for a rest for readers and horses 😊.
6- Meet the bulls as well …
Like for the horses, access to the Manades with the guardians can give you access to some magic moments with the bulls
Bred for their meat and the show, these bulls are not domesticated. Their purpose is to perform in the games in the arenas (much less in a deadly way those days which is obviously) or run in the streets during festivals
Looking at the guardian cowboys selecting and separating them is a show on its own 😎.
There are a lot of cowgirls as well there !!
7- Go to the “Pont de Gau” Park
The “Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau” is a fantastic 60-hectare ornithological re\serve that offers the ideal conditions to observe and photograph many bird species and hundreds of flamingos in their natural habitat.
Many trails in the park allow nature lovers and photographers to observe very closely those wonderful birds.
The birds there are totally ignoring visitors, photographers and take care of their own business 😊.
The ponds reflections are a paradise for photographers!
Especially during golden hours, the light is beautiful and permanently changing …
If you have the opportunity to stay up to sunset, this is where mother nature beauty get’s magical!
That wonderful place offers endless photography opportunities …
And, again, like in Aigues-Mortes, this is not all about Flamingos only (Yes, I like ducks 😳) …
There are as well in the park countless aigrettes, herons, and many other species that migrate in and out depending on seasons So clearly a place not to miss in Camargue!
8- Discover Aigues-Mortes Medieval city
That unreal citadel in the middle of marshes and lagoons feels like in the laguna Colorada in the Andean altiplano, with a medieval city on top of it …
Aigues-Mortes is a wonderful base camp for a stay in Camargue, with many rentals, hotels, great restaurants in and around the charming old town, and its marina (that is joined to the sea by the Grau du Roi, and to Sète by the Canal du Rhône).
Of course, do not miss the iconic Constance tower and the (Quadrilateral) city walls, for an amazing mix of crusades / Templar Knights elements and modern marina…
9- Participate in an Abrivado
In Camargue, the “Bouvine” celebrates bulls and horses in arenas but also in the street. While I’m clearly not willing to shoot bulls in Arenas, the “Abrivado” (Abriva means to speed up in Provençal language) consists in bringing the bulls from their pastures to the city and is a very famous and popular tradition.
The local kids/teenagers love trying to derail horses and bulls. Note the young guy on the bottom right of the image below, not the smartest move in my view 😱…
…and this is when horses got derailed into a poor photographer (me, just after the image below) 🤨. So, I was as smart as the guy above, positioned in the turn on the “wrong” side of the barrier😢 …
Anyway, all the local Manades families do those spectacular entrances in town for the great pleasure of the locals and the tourists!
At least, being potentially in the wrong place (safety-wise) allows for cool pictures …
10- Watch Grau-du-Roi jousting
The Grau-du-Roi and its harbor may not be the nicest ancient village in Camargue but its fishing port, lighthouse, and canal have some charm, especially if you can be there during the jousting event
The jousting has a medieval origin and consists of two boats propelled by eight to ten rowers propelling towards each other until the final impact, with the aim to make the opponent fall into the water…
The “jouteurs” are positioned on a platform located nearly three meters from the water, at the end of each boat making this fun to shoot and watch 😊.
The young generation and kids start early to be involved in this (in a soft way on a smaller boat), as a great way to perpetuate traditions and engage the next generation.
11- Visit Saintes-Maries de la Mer
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a famous Camargue small town, dominated by its church and almost completely surrounded by water.
The fortified church in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is really beautiful and you can ascend to the ramparts and the roof for a great view over the town and the Camargue
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a major pilgrimage town for gypsies, who gather (each May) to commemorate Sara. I haven’t had the opportunity (yet) to shot that very famous event but I liked that pink gypsy caravan …
12- Discover the Roman city wonders of Arles
No trip to Camargue can be complete without spending a couple of days in the famous city of Arles …
That city has an endless quantity of jewels so here is a short summary and sample of what you can expect there (beyond great food and fun)
The Famous XII century cloister Saint-Trophime (on Place de la République) is really worth a visit, for it’s beautiful arches and patio
Many opportunities for photography here…
The view of the roof top is amazing as well…
The Cryptoporticos form the basement, the invisible part of the Forum, the central public square of the Roman city.
They were to support the Forum, one of the first urban achievements of the new Roman colony founded in 46 BC. J.C…
Today, with the great enlightenment, that place is a game field for photographers (and a fresh pause from the outside heat in summer 😀)
For a change to more modern landmarks in Arles, Luma is a cross-disciplinary cultural platform located at the Parc des Ateliers that is worth a visit
The old town
Of course, just going around the old town’s narrow streets and plazas is on its own a great way to spend time. Don’t miss the Van Gogh coffee for a drink!
The amphitheater of course …
This two-tiered Roman Amphitheatre is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, for good reasons.
The view from the top above the old town is gorgeous (despite hugly steel structures inside 🥲)
As always, I’m advocating that morning twilight is the best time to get that wonder for yourself, with no tourists and great light …
A great time to explore the old town and the narrow streets
There are many other great spots to explore in Arles (like The Alyscamps necropolis or the Arles Roman Theatre etc ) so don’t hesitate to spend time in the narrow streets of that beautiful city!
Five kilometers north of Arles center, is the Montmajour abbey. This is clearly a spot not to miss if you are in that region
From that fortified Benedictine monastery built between the 10th and 18th centuries, you’ll embrace the view of the Camargue plain and Arles
13- Les Baux-de-Provence and more …
A few kilometers away, you are in Provence and not anymore in Camargue but the stunning village of Baux-de -Provence is an exceptional environment, in the heart of the Alpilles, nestled on a rocky plateau.
All the charms of the Provençal villages are concentrated in the Baux-de-Provence: small streets, charming little squares, shaded terraces and so much more
The town itself is considered as one of the most beautiful villages in France, with its many listed monuments and an extraordinary historical and architectural heritage.
Have a look in particular into the Chapelle des penitents Blancs…
The Château des Baux above the village is located on the top of a rocky peak. That fortified place was of major strategic importance throughout history and is worth a visit for the castle itself and the view of the surrounding (quite a warm hike in summer however 🥲)
When you are in Baux-de-Provence, and if you’re looking for a cool (read as well fresh in summer 😃) cultural experience, visit the Carrières de Lumière …
The “careers of enlightenment” are an original and fantastic way to approach art through sensory immersion …
The exploitation of stone quarries at Val d’Enfer dates back to the 2nd century BC and that re-purpose into an interactive art gallery is stunning
Visible by their footprints, blocks two meters by a meter were extracted until the beginning of the 20th century there. Really a cool place 😍.
OK, I need to stop but I much admit that I like shooting that place a lot 😀
So I hope that this post will engage you to go and discover some of the wonders of the Camargue and Provence areas !!!