From above, the Provence coast looks like a series of sandy waves. The Mediterranean pushes against the dunes to the south, carving out sand bars and spits. Beyond, lagoons, reed marshes and waterways make up the biggest river delta in western Europe.
This is the Camargue: one of the highlights of our Marseille to Barcelona cycling tour
, which spends two days weaving between the lakes and levees of this nature reserve west of Marseille.
The Camargue is Provence, but not as most tourists know it. That mauve smudge on the horizon? They’re pink salt pans, not the ubiquitous lavender fields found further north. Here, cyclists can keep their eyes peeled for over 400 bird species while riding along gravel paths and boardwalks. That’s when traveling in a small group comes into its own – the more eyes the better for spotting flocks of flamingos, signs of boars and beavers, bats darting overhead, and the famous herds of Camargue bulls, plus the semi-wild Camargue horses that farmers use to round them up.
Cycling tours spend two days here, but it takes much less time to realise that – despite thousands of years’ worth of human endeavours to tame the water with paddies, dykes, and pans – the tides are still in charge in the Camargue.