What to see in France

Holidays in Argelès-sur-Mer... And Mountain

Mer et montagnes à Argelès-sur-Mer en région Midi-Pyrénées
Mer et montagnes à Argelès-sur-Mer en région Midi-Pyrénées

Argelès-sur-Mer is a French town in the Pyrénées Orientales named after the clay (argile in French) land it is built on. It is the biggest sea resort on the French Catalan coast. It's also one of the most sun-soaked regions in France and just a few miles from Perpignan. It's popular for its many campsites and among sea and mountain lovers as it lies at the foot of the Albères range. It encapsulates the joys of nature, the beach and architecture. Last but not least, Argelès is more than just a sea resort as it is home to countless listed sites.

The village and port

A walk in Argelès to soak up the village's history will enhance your holiday even more. The fortress linked to the kings of Aragon and Majorca, a village that became French in the 17th century, its maze of lanes and colourful buildings plus its festivals and traditional market. The 18th century Massane Tower is the symbol of the town. Argelès-sur-Mer is also home to fifty-odd campsites ranging from 1-5* so you can really soak up this wonderful Catalan town.


The town's harbour is a must-see. You'll be won over by the lovely traditional fishing boats and the scenery from its spot at the foot of the Pyrenees surrounded by vineyards.

© Thinkstock

The beach

If you decide to spend your holiday here then a trip to the beach will be one of your favourite things to do… plus it's sure to be good weather. Here there are 7km of beach overlooked by the Albères mountains and peppered with little coves such as Porteils and Ouille as well as a 12ha seafront pine forest where you can go on a 3km walk in the shade of the trees.


South of the area you'll find Racou beach and its hamlet forming a cove. This is a classic spot on the local coast and one of the region's best beaches that you'll love visiting with the family and walking along the rocks where a family feel reigns. Houses appeared here in the 30s and it's lovely to walk on the narrow sandy lanes in the shade leading you to the Mediterranean.


Approved by Pavillon bleu, Argelès was one of the first towns to have a powerful water treatment plant so as to uphold a perfect standard of bathing water. Regular monitoring is conducted from early May to late September. So you can be sure that you and your children are swimming in clean water here.

Sunset on the beach in Argelès
Sunset on the beach in Argelès© Thinkstock

Argelès heritage

To explore one of the most beautiful settings in the Pyrénées-Orientales, visit Valmy Park lapped by the Mediterranean where you can have a picnic under the trees in a well-kept forest, the kids can have fun in a small play area and you can go on a footpath introducing you to the history of the site. It's free to visit Valmy Park and open daily from 10am to 7pm in peak season.


If you like old buildings then visit the romanesque Saint-Laurent-du-Mont Church. It was built in the 12th century, is among the "architectural gems" of Argelès mountain and sheltered Spaniards escaping the war in 1939.


At an altitude of 800m and in the Albères mountains too, you need stamina to get up to Massane Tower, the symbol of Argelès, but you'll be rewarded by stunning views of the entire Roussillon plain and seaside. No pain no gain. If you stop at the bottom of the tower then a view of the Vermeille coast will whet your appetite!


Argelès heritage also includes the belltower on Notre-Dame-dels-Prats listed as a monument historique, Château de Pujol, the Ermitage in St-Féréol-de-la-Pave and Dolmens: ossuaries and mass graves dating back to the first metal age.

Massane Tower
Massane Tower© Thinkstock

The Albères

The mountain range on the west side of the Pyrenees overlooks Argelès Beach and peaks at over 1000m. The Albères are integral to Argelès-sur-Mer sea resort. It's also a residential area where lots of people still lived fifty years ago. It's a joy walking along the paths on this mountain where you'll experience a different landscape, peace and quiet and, of course, fresh air. The woodland covers almost half of the Albères. As you go uphill, you'll first encounter olive trees, holm oaks and cork oaks before you get further up and it turns into a forest of ash, birch, hazel and chestnut trees. Once you reach a beech wood, listed as a nature reserve for 45 years, you'll see that you've already climbed 600 metres! Last but not least, above the beech forest you'll find pastures where little semi-wild cattle come to graze in summer.

Nature outings and sports

Leisure parks around Argelès that combine botanical outings with fun are the perfect places to put the cherry on your holiday cake! Here you'll find the perfect combination of children's fun and parents' enjoyment whilst you learn new things.


Fantassia Park is in Théza, 16km north of Argelès You can go on a 2-hour fun-filled walk here on the theme of tales and legends. Step into a world of unicorns, a land in miniature or a dragon's lair in amongst local lush plantlife.


The Jardin d’Ariane is 25km north of Argelès and it's a huge pop-up maze designed in a 20,000m2 corn field making it the biggest maze in the South of France. There's also pedal go-karting on special tracks, giant games and a herb garden in natural surroundings. The park also hosts "night-time thrills" from 9pm to midnight in July and August, don't forget your torch!


Trouillas and Argelès are home to the 1000 Flowers Labyrinth, a park where you learn about plants and flowers as you play in themed mazes that are all pesticide-free. Have fun and get lost in the haunted maze or the bamboo one… Many of them are designed for little ones. A fun-filled and educational adventure in the great outdoors for the whole family to enjoy.


Nature and animals

Saint-André Educational Farm gives you the chance to have a family day out among 300 animals, some of which are endangered, in a leafy 3ha site. Children can bottle-feed lambs and go on pony rides. A fun-filled educational site to visit. The town provides a twice-weekly shuttle bus to the farm.


Visit Elne, 8km from Argelès and explore Le Tropique du Papillon butterfly reserve. Soak up the natural habitat of butterflies from Asia and Latin America. Have fun with your children as you learn about their magical hidden world. In total liberty, you'll have the joy of seeing them up close. There are some campsites in Elne if you want to explore the setting more.


10km west of Argelès, you'll find La Vallée des Tortues where you can spend a day as a keeper and experience life with different species such as the Aldabra giant tortoise and the alligator snapping turtle. It is home to other creatures such as snakes, meerkats and cingulata. Marmosets have recently joined the centre!

Argelès by bike

Bike rides are a must on holiday and Argelès has it covered with a proper "bike path" so you can cycle in town to get around or take a mountain bike up the Albères mountains if you're feeling sporty or simply explore the different landscapes and types of terrain. The town brings you the Véloroute so you can ride with ease on low-traffic little roads with little pollution. La Vélittorale runs from the Réserve du Mas Larrieu to the coves.


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