This itinerary begins with stretches of fine sand in Le Barcarès and continues south down to Le Racou, the start of the Vermillion Coast. The Mediterranean, with its different shades of blue, shimmers in the sunshine. From Collioure – jewel of the Vermillion Coast – to Cerbère, the Rocky Coast there are always moments of intense emotion provoked by the natural magic of this area.
Le Barcarès - Séjours de sports, nature et découverte en Pyrénées-Orientales
Barcarès Port was known in the 19th century for building Catalan sailing boats. Nowadays it is a harbour with over 1400 berths, divided between the port, the marina and the lake. In 1967, the seaside resort achieved the unique feat of installing the liner Le Lydia on the beach – it soon became the symbol of the resort. Its stern is now the Arts Alley and an open air museum which is currently being restored. A very festive holiday resort, the town also winds around the salt water lake, some pine woods and 8 km of beaches of fine sand.
Sainte-Marie-la-mer - Station familiale et cadre naturel
A family seaside resort boasting a range of recreational and sporting activities, Saint Marie La Mer has 437 berths in its port close to the beaches.
LOOK AT the 10th century Pre-Romanesque lintel of the Romanesque church, Notre Dame De l’Assomption, in the old village, some two kilometres inland.
Torreilles - SITE DE VISITE CULTURELLE ET LITTORAL PRÉSERVÉ
Awarded with a Blue Flag, the preserved Torreilles coastline is long, natural and picturesque. All three parts of the beach are served by life guards throughout the summer. Further inland is the medieval village with its attractive historical heritage. A number of cultural events are held in the magnificent, 10th century Juhègues Chapel situated just outside the village.
Canet-en-Roussillon - Patrimoine historique et station balnéaire proche de Perpignan
After being the natural port of Ruscino in Ancient Times, then Perpignan in the Middle Ages, Canet En Roussillon became an important seigneury before ownership eventually passed to a viscount. The Franco-Spanish conflicts left the 11th century castle in ruins. In the 19th century, the town turned towards the modern activity of ‘sea bathing’ and by 1909 had become a seaside resort. Some 9km of beaches of fine sand were developed and an attractive looking promenade was built along the sea front, running up to the Place de la Méditerranée... the central square at the heart of the lively summer quarter. Evening markets take place in the summer, while a range of sporting activities and cultural events are staged throughout the year – especially at the Jean Piat Theatre – which are appreciated by the residents and the tourists alike.
LOOK AT the 14th century Gothic church dedicated to Saint-Jacques and the ice well (1688).
VISIT the Hospices Gallery and the Arboretum (11 hectares – 27 acres). The Aquarium is closed as it is undergoing a complete transformation.
1,300 berths – including a number of berths kept for catamarans – are available for visiting yachtsmen. It is well-equipped and perfectly located for many festivities and events as well as to explore the coast and the seabed.
In 1993 10 fishermen’s huts were renovated as part of the reconstructed fishermen’s village, a permanent exhibition adding much charm and authenticity to the lagoon. A track has been made to discover this site, which was granted the ‘Natura 2000’ award as it has facilitated the close observation of 250 species of wild and migratory birds.
Saint-Cyprien - 2e port de plaisance français et sites de visites culturels
In order to boost the popularity of this part of the Mediterranean coast, the government created the Mission Racine which permitted, for example, Saint Cyprien to become an attractive seaside resort from 1963. Four years later, the port and marina were completely redeveloped and are now the centre of summer activities and entertainment. A attractive promenade was built along the seafront, overlooking its 6km of fine sandy beaches – ideal for swimming, relaxing and sport. The Grand Stade des Capellans, a high level sports complex, was created in 1982 and equipped with an outdoor swimming pool and a spa for both amateur and professional athletes. Next door is the Jardin des Plantes – a botanical garden – open throughout the year and full of magnificent plants, trees and shrubs.
Centuries ago the old port was linked to the powerful city of Elne – formerly called Illiberis. In 1967 it was totally reinvented to welcome holidaying yachtsmen. It is protected by two jetties and has about 2,400 births, making it the largest yachting harbour in the Golfe du Lion, the second largest in France and the third largest in Europe. The marina, with its many pleasant shops and restaurants, is at the very heart of the entertainment area.
The economic life of the village has been dependant on port activity and local agriculture for a very long time. Today this lively seaside resort places culture at the heart of entertainment with its two museums – one dedicated to contemporary art and the other to modern art and the Desnoyer Collection.
LOOK AT the 18th century church and the Romanesque Chapel dedicated to Saint Étienne de La Vilarasa.
WALK in the Prade Park.
Argelès-sur-Mer - Séjours en Catalogne entre mer et montagne
A truly historical village, as can be seen from the remains of the 13th century ramparts. Argelès Sur Mer is famous for its imposing 34m high bell tower of the Notre Dame Dels Prats church. Built in the 14th century in a Southern Gothic style, then subsequently modified in the 17th century, it boasts over one hundred works of art. The seaside resort plays its part in protecting the environment such as the natural reserves of the Massane and the Mas Larrieu. There are some pleasant walks exploring the interesting local heritage... the 12th century Romanesque church, dedicated to Saint Laurent Du Mont, used as a refuge during the Retirada (Spanish Exodus); the Pujol castle, probably dating from the 11th century; the remains of the Taxo d’Avall castle with its Vicount’s chapel and finally the Saint Ferréol De La Pave hermitage, initially built in the 10th century.
VISIT the Casa de l’Albera museum and the Memorial of the Argeles sur Mer Camp (during the Retirada).
The promenade along the sea follows the 7 kms of sandy beaches. Created in 1854, the pleasant pine wood is like a breath of fresh air during the hot summer months. Southwards, after the port, is the village and beach of the Racou – marking the beginning of the Vermillion Coast, with its 2km of creeks and access to the coastal path. Renowned for its camp sites, Argelès Sur Mer is the seaside resort with the most awards in the Languedoc-Roussillon. With many shops, a casino and a range of festivities and events, it is very popular and lively.
Since 1990, the Argelès Sur Mer port has the capacity to shelter up to 860 pleasure craft while offering a unique view of the Albères mountains as a backdrop.
À deux pas
Dolmens – the oldest monuments in the region, the 13th century Massane Tower and the gardens of the 19th century Valmy Château.
Collioure - Tourisme culturel entre monuments historiques et Musée d’Art Moderne
At the centre of a number of maritime battles over the centuries, Collioure was an influential town that needed to defend itself; hence the building of the Château Royal Castle, the 14th century Miradou Fort, the 16th century Saint Elme Fort, the 18th century Round and Square Forts as well as the 19th century Taillefer Battery. The port was disputed by the Kings of Majorca, Aragon and France before being ultimately abandoned in the 15th century. In the 17th century Vauban fortified it and gave it is current military aspect. In the 20th century, great artists such as Matisse and Derain arrived in the town. Inspired by Collioure’s unique colours and light, they created the Fauvism movement in the summer of 1905. The Museum of Modern Art, founded by Jean Peské at the beginning of the 1930s, contains a magnificent collection of modern and contemporary art and is open to the public throughout the year.
LOOK AT the 14th century windmill, the 13th century Dominicans’ Cellar, the 14th century Dominicans’ Cloister and the Saint Vincent Chapel (1701).
Le Château Royal
The first fort was mentioned in contemporary writings as early as 673 AD. In order to protect the port, it was regularly modified – for example in 981 AD by the Counts of Roussillon. In the 13th century the Kings of Majorca turned it into their summer palace. In the 17th century, Vauban supervised further changes to the fort’s entrance and its glacis (steep protective surrounds). Always strongly linked with the ‘Town of Painters’, the fort was restored to its former glory in 1952 to facilitate the staging of local cultural events.
To build the castle’s glacis (steep protective surrounds), Vauban ordered the destruction of the Saint Marie church in 1672. Construction began on the new Southern-Gothic church in 1684 and an outer gallery was added in 1725. The location of the church, surrounded on 3 sides by the sea, and its recognisable belltower with a pink, rounded dome have made it one of the most iconic emblems of Collioure.
LOOK AT the 9 reredoses – especially the one of the master-alter, completely covered in gold leaf and signed by the Catalan artist, Joseph Sunyer.
Le Musée d'Art Moderne
Of Russian descent, the painter Jean Peské fell in love with Collioure, creating, in the early 1930s, the Collioure Museum in a municipal hall with 190 works bequeathed by his friends. The museum was then closed for several years, reopening in the 1980s in a villa that once belonged to Gaston Pams. Since then available funding has increased and the museum currently has over 1,400 works of modern and contemporary art as well featuring temporary exhibitions.
Port-Vendres - Séjours et tourisme dans un port empreint d’histoire et de modernité
For centuries, the town was organised around the port and its activities. However, as Collioure grew in influence, the town lost its importance. In the 17th century, Vauban recognised the town’s strategic potential as a military base and it regained its significance once again. At this time, the Fanal Redoubt, Béar Redoubt and the Presqu’Île Redoute (with the Clock-Tower) were built. A period of traditional and cultural development followed… The Obelisk (1780) dedicated to Louis XVI, the Notre Dame De La Bonne Nouvelle church (consecrated in 1888) and Aristide Maillol’s War Memorial were built. Today, Port Vendres can boast 12 km of coastline with many beaches and creeks. The impressive landscapes of the Vermillion Coast can now be enjoyed by all.
The port has 250 berths available for leisure craft. Each year, a number of cruise ships berth here in what is always a special event. It is the largest fishing port in the Roussillon with a lively, quayside fish market every morning. As a large commercial port it has strong connections with Africa and is currently developing its business with South America in order to provide fruit and vegetables for the International Saint Charles Market in Perpignan. The construction of a third quay is about to commence.
VISIT the Rennie Mackintosh exhibition at the Art Centre of the Dome and the Museum Sidi Ferruch at the Béar Redoubt.
PANORAMA - a fantastic view from Cap Béar.
Banyuls-sur-Mer - Berceau d’un artiste de renom et tourisme œnologique
Referred to in writings in 980 AD, Banyuls Sur Mer was already centred around viticulture and fishing. After the 1659 Treaty, the town made the most of its proximity to the Spanish frontier and earned the title of the ‘Contraband Republic’. The arrival of the railways in 1880 opened up Banyuls to the outside world, helping to develop tourism and establishing their natural sweet wine on an international scale.The town was the birthplace of the Master Aristide Maillol. It boasts a museum dedicated to his work and several of his statues can be found in the town … the War Memorial, La Jeune Fille Allongée (the young girl lying down) and Île de France Sans Bras (The armless Isle of France).
LOOK AT the Biodiversarium (aquarium and botanical garden), the 13th century Romanesque church of the Rectory, the church of the Immaculate Conception (1969).
VIEW to be enjoyed from the Notre Dame De La Salette chapel.
MUST-SEE VISIT – the Maillol Museum.
CERBÈRE - Visite à la rencontre d'une architecture historique et incontournable
The existence of a hamlet was first mentioned in writings in the 11th century described as a commune of Banyuls Sur Mer until 1888. It remained largely unchanged until 1878, when the railway station, designed by Gustave Eiffel, brought prosperity to the village and established its independence from Banyuls. The last station before the Spanish frontier, the passengers had to get off the train in Cerbère before getting on again once the wheel gauge had been changed. The flourishing local economy enabled the Belvédère du Rayon Vert to open in 1932 – a luxury hotel in the Art Deco style with its impressive architectural design. Today, the town is a pleasant seaside resort boasting the cliffs of the Cap Cerbère and the underwater pathway at Peyrefite.
VISIT the Saint Sauveur church, consecrated at the end of the 19th century and the Belvédère du Rayon Vert.