During the getaway of three days to Arles we dedicate a day to make a excursion to one of the most beautiful natural sites in southern Europe: the natural reserve of the Camargue. Below you can read what to do, what to see and how to go to the Camargue from Harness by public transport.
Already when we went to Nîmes we were left wanting to go to the Camargue. Therefore, when we saw that since Harness the population of Salin-de-Giraud, we went there direct. The day before we were informing in the Arles tourist office how to go to Camargue in bus and what itineraries we could do there. In the tourist office they sell a booklet (€ 8.5) with the different routes that can be done in the area, whether on foot or by bicycle, and it indicates the orientation time they take to travel.
Not having much time, we decided rent a bike in Salin-de-Giraud Center to make a couple of trails. In winter, the winter bus schedule is already in operation, so the frequency is minimal. To that was added that it was the Rice fair that day, so the bus left an hour later and returned to Arles an hour earlier. And that left us less time to enjoy the area and the landscape.
He bus number 10 connect Harness with Salin-de-Giraud in about an hour and it costs € 1 (the driver is paid). We got off at the Salin-de-Giraud center stop to pick up the bicycles we had reserved (€ 15). We explained to the owner the trails we wanted to travel that day and advised us to use MTB. Across the square from Gardians is the bakery Lorana, where I bought some snacks to eat during the route.
The regional reserve of the Camargue It is situated in the Gulf of León and the natural park was created in 1970 with the mission of reconciling human growth with the conservation of the environment. It has an area of 100,000 hectares distributed among three populations: Harness, Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Port-Saint-Louise-du-Rhône.
The park places great emphasis on its conservation and many areas are not accessible by car, so it is ideal to explore it walking, to horse or in bike although the wind does not make it an easy task. The famous mistral wind, the same that they say drove Van Gogh crazy, made us the fist during our visit to the Camargue. Why not say it: an electric bicycle would have facilitated our visit, so take note. 🙂
There are 14 trails to discover the Camargue, and the great thing about the libretto they sell at the Arles tourist office is that it gives you the guidance time it takes to travel them, either by bike or on foot. Valuing the time we had, we opted to travel the trail number 9: pink and saline flamingos. This 29 km journey takes about 4 hours to cycle and 6 walking.
The itinerary starts at Salin-de-Giraud, population famous in its day for the exploitation of salinas and that I experience a great boom in the late nineteenth century. In that period, many workers moved there to work in the exploitation of salt and houses were built to house the families that settled there. Those buildings are still maintained and considered historic. Families from Spain, Italy and Greece emigrated to Salin-de-Giraud, and from that time an Orthodox church is still preserved.
We pedal for the road D36 in the direction of Arles. You ride on the road, but there was little traffic. Two kilometers later, we found a turnoff on the left in the direction of the reserve of the Camargue. There we enter the D36c road.
To get to More Cameroun we decided to continue in the direction of More Saint-Bertrand. Along this stretch of road we saw fields where free bulls and majestic white horses are raised on some farms. Bulls are an important Provencal tradition and in the natural park of the Camargue they are raised in freedom helped by Gardians, riders riding horses. If you are interested in learning more about this tradition, the ride camarguesa and the race «À la corcarde» you can do it in The Jacques Bon Pack in Le sambuc.
We leave the paved road behind and enter a slightly tortuous sandy path. And little by little we began to see the white earth of the salinas. We reach the observation point of flamingos. There were some benches on a small wooden platform where we took the opportunity to eat the sandwich while enjoying the landscape. In the distance we can see some pink dots that were groups of flamingos, which a few weeks later would leave the marsh to migrate to warmer lands.
We continue pedaling along the road until we reach a barrier that was closed. There was a sign that indicated that it is forbidden to drive by car, but it is suitable for cyclists and walkers. That area is what we liked the most about the itinerary. Here we go into a small part the marine dock (Digue à la mer), a structure to prevent flooding that was built at the end of the 19th century along the coastline of the Rhone Delta.
It was fantastic to travel this stretch by bike. The dry woods that delimited the dike, the whitish salt, the water, and the foam that the wind dragged towards the road formed a set magical. In addition, in this section the wind was blowing in our direction, and that made pedaling very easy. It was a strange sensation that made us laugh unintentionally: even if you lifted the feet of the pedals, the wind pushed you from behind and you glided effortlessly along the road. Here we focus solely on enjoying the landscape.