Pyrénées-Orientales

Pyrénées Orientales as indicated by their name are the Eastern part of the Pyrenees range, and are nestled between the Pyrenees mountains range and the Mediterranean sea. When rolling down into the sea the mountains create a dramatic landscape known as Côte Vermeille (Vermilion coast), named after the red colour of its rocky steep hills at sunset, which creates a contrast with the deep blue of the sea.

 

Given its tormented relief the rocky coast is a renowned snorkling and scubba diving paradise. It is protected by the only Submarine Natural Reserve in France. A funny landmarked submarine path leads from Banyuls to Cerbère.
 

Another part of the coast in Pyrénées-Orientales is flat with therefore very long sandy beaches, far from being overcrowded and offering nice views on the Pyrenees and the emblematic Mount Canigou. Toreilles-plage is renowned for its almost empty sandy beach and its relaxed beach restaurants. The beach between Canet-plage and Saint-Cyprien plage is bordered by a huge lagoon, itself giving onto a golf course. The rocky coast begins in Racou-plage, just after leaving Argelès-sur-mer.

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A magnificent coastline with Riviera looks


Collioure is the jewel of the 4 resorts of Côte Vermeille with its ancient listed monuments, its small colourful fishermen houses and its tiny harbour. The harbour was founded by Phocean merchants. As soon as 981 the Counts of Roussillon and the Kingdom of Mallorca started fortifying the place which became the summer residence to the kings of Mallorca from 1276 to 1344 and was fortified again by Vauban  once the region fell into French domination. So to make a long story short you will find a bit of History and the charm attached to a rich heritage, which is not often the case for a seaside resort. Collioure has known a revival at the beginning of the XXth century when it sheltered many painters of the Fauvisme stream such as Matisse, Derain, Dufy, among others. Even though comparable to the once tiny fishermen harbour of St Tropez, Collioure is relatively undiscovered compared to its Riviera counterpart, and it’s all for the better. From Collioure to the Spanish border, a mere 20 km away, you will find 3 other formerly fishermen harbours, Port Vendres, Banyuls and Cerbère. A beautifully preserved natural site recently re-developed in Paulilles offers a succession of natural and unspoilt coves. North of Collioure is Argelès sur mer, a resorts dating back to the 60’s and making the transition between the scenic rocky coastline and the flat and sandy coast.
 

A wild and unspoilt hinterland

The "PO" as we say in French boasts not only a dramatic coastline but also an interesting hinterland. It offers plenty of treasures, because it is even more undiscovered than the coast. Yet there are wonderful, wild, rough landscapes maybe at the image of the tormented history of the Cathars and the many castles and fortresses they have left behind. Pyrenees Orientales are like Alpes de Haute Provence among the French regions with the more scenic roads on Michelin maps. The Pyrenees foothills named Le Massif des Albères offer many outdoors activities such as walking, hiking, climbing, horse riding in the magnificent scenery of Mediterranean Pyrenees. There are no less than one National Park (Parc Naturel Regional des Pyrénées Catalanes), 3,500 km of landmarked path, 23 listed sites. For instance 'Le Sentier Cathare' (The Cathar Path) leads from the Mediterranean Sea to Foix in  the Ariège along 250 km linking 9 Cathar fortresses in a beautifull scenery. All of these treasures bathed by a hot and sunny Mediterranean climate.
In short this region is a rough gem, only for the happy few who dare walking off the beaten tracks.