Discovering the Pyrénées-Orientales in southern France
Dreaming of a vacation on the Mediterranean? It’s time to discover the Pyrénées-Orientales during an idyllic holiday with your feet in the water at our Argelès-sur-Mer campsite or inland in the heart of verdant nature. This department promises a wealth of discoveries, thanks to its landscapes, culinary specialities and cultural proximity to the Catalan region. Here’s an introduction to the Pyrénées-Orientales and a top 3 list of must-do’s when you visit this corner of France!
Presentation of Pyrénées-Orientales
The Pyrénées-Orientales, located in the south of France, is the southernmost département in the Occitanie region.
Cradled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees mountain range, they offer a unique combination of coastal landscapes, verdant valleys and snow-capped peaks.
With a population of around 480,000, this département benefits from a rich history influenced by French and Catalan cultures, which is reflected in its heritage, gastronomy and traditions.
Cities such as Perpignan, its prefecture, and villages such as Collioure and Céret are brimming with architectural treasures. The Pyrenees-Orientales’ mild temperatures, diverse landscape, seaside resorts and rich culture make it a particularly popular destination in France for tourists from all over the world.
Enjoy nature on vacation in the Pyrénées-Orientales
A vacation in the Pyrénées-Orientales means enjoying a natural setting during a week’s camping or hotel accommodation.
From beaches to lakes, you’ll love swimming with your children in these stretches of water in the south of France.
Must-see beaches in the Pyrénées-Orientales
The south of France means beaches! It’s a must to set aside at least one beach afternoon to enjoy the fine sand and translucent sea at the perfect temperature. During your stay in the Pyrénées-Orientales, don’t miss the following beaches:
- Collioure beach : situated at the foot of its famous castle, this pebbly, sandy beach is framed by the historic charm of Collioure. It’s popular for its warm ambience and panoramic view of the Notre-Dame-des-Anges church.
- Plage d’Argelès-sur-Mer: this vast sandy beach is one of the most popular in the Pyrénées-Orientales department. Bordered by a pine forest, it is ideal for families and offers a variety of water sports activities.
- Plage de Canet-en-Roussillon: renowned for its sandy expanse and clear waters. With its supervised swimming areas and lively seafront, the beach at Canet-en-Roussillon is a popular destination for visitors to the département.
- Plage de Saint-Cyprien: located close to the marina, Saint-Cyprien beach offers both relaxation in the sun and a variety of water activities, making it the ideal spot for water sports enthusiasts discovering the Pyrénées-Orientales.
Swimming lakes in the Pyrénées-Orientales
Are you more the kind of person who likes to swim in fresh water in the middle of nature, or simply stroll around a natural expanse in a lush green setting? The Pyrénées-Orientales department is also full of lakes and ponds where you can spend an unforgettable afternoon with family and friends:
- Étang de Leucate: located in the north of the Pyrénées-Orientales, this brackish lake is surrounded by breathtaking scenery and is a popular spot for windsurfing and kite-surfing.
- Étang de Canet-Saint-Nazaire : a nature reserve near Canet-en-Roussillon, this pond is a haven for birdlife, particularly pink flamingos. It’s ideal for birdwatching.
- Lac de Matemale: situated in the hills near Les Angles, this lake in the Pyrénées-Orientales offers a variety of summer and winter activities, from swimming to hiking and mountain biking.
Towns to discover during your stay in the Pyrénées-Orientales
In addition to a privileged natural environment, the Pyrénées-Orientales offers a wide range of towns where you can spend an exceptional day.
Discover the towns not to be missed on your trip to this beautiful French department!
Nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Languedoc lakes, Sainte-Marie-la-Mer is an authentic destination that retains the soul of a fishing village. With its fine sandy beaches, it is particularly popular with families on vacation in the Pyrénées-Orientales department.
Canet-en-Roussillon is a dynamic seaside resort, renowned for its long stretches of fine sand.
Beyond its beaches, Canet-en-Roussillon boasts a lively marina, a lagoon area rich in flora and fauna and an old village steeped in history, offering a variety of activities for visitors not to be missed during your week in the Pyrénées-Orientales.
The second-largest marina on the Mediterranean, Saint-Cyprien combines nautical and cultural activities. Extensive sandy beaches, a marina and a golf course make the Pyrénées-Orientales a popular vacation destination. The city also stands out for its green spaces and its commitment to sustainable development.
A historic town, Elne is famous for its Romanesque cathedral and cloister, two jewels of Catalan Romanesque art. The former capital of Roussillon, this town offers visitors a journey back in time, through its cobbled streets and buildings steeped in history.
The jewel of the Côte Vermeille, Collioure is an invitation to contemplation during your stay in the Pyrénées-Orientales.
With its royal castle, Notre-Dame-des-Anges church with its emblematic bell tower and colorful alleyways, the town has inspired artists such as Matisse and Derain.
Situated on the Spanish border, Cerbère is the last French town before crossing into Spain.
It’s particularly well known for the Belvédère du Rayon Vert, an iconic Art Deco hotel in the shape of an ocean liner.
Cerbère’s wild calanques and peaceful atmosphere make it an ideal stopover for travellers wishing to discover the Pyrénées-Orientales.
A former commune linked to Collioure, Port-Vendres is a port town that combines fishing, trade and yachting activities.
Rich in history, it offers a harmonious blend of built heritage, such as the Obelisk and Fort Béar, and maritime landscapes.
Make the most of your nights in the Pyrénées-Orientales to discover this emblematic port.
Not far from Canet-en-Roussillon, Saint-Nazaire is a picturesque village overlooking the Roussillon plain. It offers exceptional panoramic views, and its calm, far from the hustle and bustle of the seaside resorts scattered around the Pyrénées-Orientales.
Torreilles, with its authentic Catalan character, is renowned for its wild beach, untouched by mass tourism.
Its old village, with its narrow streets and flower-decked facades, reflects the Catalan soul and the gentle southern way of life.
The capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales region, Perpignan is a blend of French and Catalan cultures.
Its Palace of the Kings of Majorca, dominating the town, bears witness to its rich past.
With its festivals, markets and architectural heritage, Perpignan is the beating heart of Roussillon, a city where the Mediterranean meets the Pyrenees.
Must-do activities in the Pyrénées-Orientales
Are you still looking for something to do in the Pyrénées-Orientales during your stay in the south of France?
Here are 4 must-do activities for your vacation near Catalonia.
Hiking in the Pyrénées-Orientales
The Pyrénées-Orientales is a real paradise for hikers, with its many hills and panoramic views.
Whether it’s the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Nature Park or the trails that wind along the Côte Vermeille, the options are varied and suitable for all levels.
The famous Canigou trail also offers a memorable ascent during your hikes in this sunny département.
Water sports activities in the Pyrénées-Orientales
The Pyrénées-Orientales offers a wide range of water sports activities thanks to its access to the Mediterranean Sea and several mountain lakes and rivers.
Here you can enjoy sailing, scuba diving, kayaking, paddling, fishing and swimming.
From this list of activities, find the one that suits you best and make the most of your time in the exceptional French department of the Pyrénées-Orientales.
Typical Pyrénées-Orientales wines to taste
During your trip to the Pyrénées-Orientales department, wine tasting is a must! Sweet or dry wine, it’s up to you to find your preference among these little wonders from the south of France.
- Banyuls: natural sweet wine made mainly from Grenache noir grapes. It is known for its notes of red fruits, spices and cocoa.
- Collioure: Although they share the same zone as Banyuls, Collioure wines are generally dry. They can be red, white or rosé, and have an aromatic complexity marked by the Côte Vermeille’s schist terroir.
- Maury: Another of the department’s natural sweet wines, Maury is made mainly from Grenache and is known for its aromas of black fruits, chocolate and spices.
Culinary specialties of the Pyrénées-Orientales region
Who said vacations were all about walking and exploring the region’s many tourist attractions? Not us! During your stay in the Pyrénées-Orientales, treat your taste buds to the region’s culinary specialties, strongly influenced by Catalan cuisine.
- Boles de picolat: meatballs simmered in a rich tomato, black olive and anchovy sauce. Traditionally served with white beans, they embody the fusion of French and Catalan influences.
- Cargolade: snails grilled over embers, usually drizzled with a generous amount of aioli. It’s a festive dish typical of the region.
- Touron: a confection made from almonds, honey and egg white, this is the Catalan nougat par excellence, often eaten at festive occasions.
For your next holiday in the south of France, opt for the Pyrénées-Orientales département, part of the former Languedoc-Roussillon (now Occitanie) region and one of France’s most beautiful vacation destinations. You’ll love all its seaside resorts and other towns, including Saint-Cyprien, Perpignan, Canet-en-Roussillon, Argelès-sur-Mer, Céret and Collioure.