Saint Martin de Crau

The last protected steppes of Europe

Covering a land area of 21,486 hectares, Saint Martin de Crau is the largest township of France.

It is situated at the gates of the Camargue, between the Alpilles mountain range and the plain of La Crau, the last protected steppes of Europe.

With the mildness of its climate and its natural environment, the urban area of Saint Martin can claim to be a city in the countryside. It has kept all the authenticity of a Provençal village and its attachment to Provençal culture while still opening itself up to contemporary artistic expression.

Saint Martin de Crau offers you exceptional Provençal scenery:

To the South, the Crau is dry with its unique landscape of Coussouls (extensive pasture lands), a desert of pebbles left by the Durance in its former delta. In 2001, more than 7000 hectares of the Coussouls of Crau were listed as a Nature Reserve. 

After obtaining an obligatory pass from the Maison de la Crau offices, visitors can follow the Coussouls drovers' road, the "Sentier d'interprétation de la Draille des Coussouls", a nearly 5km trail through protected land. 

In the centre, the Crau is wetter with its landscape of prairies, marshes and bocage at the gates of the Alpilles. Irrigated by the Craponne canal, built in the 16th century, the dry Crau metamorphosed into an oasis of greenery. In 1559, Adam de Craponne, engineer for King Henri II, completed a 62km long canal between the Durance and the Etang de Berre. His associates, the Ravel brothers, diverted the river branch at Arles a few years later. This method of irrigation particularly benefitted the hay of Crau, which today covers 12,000 hectares. In addition to growing an internationally renowned hay (that even has an Appellation d'Origine Controlée label!), these prairies provide in winter a rich pastureland for sheep. A major pastoral area, each summer nearly 150,000 sheep leave from here to go to the Alps. 

Thanks to the 10,000 hectares of its territory devoted to farming, the city has known further success: it is the premier town in France for the raising of Merino of Arles sheep and the largest producer in France of peaches and nectarines. It also has one of the highest number of greenhouses, in which tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, amongst other vegetables, are cultivated.

With 90% of its land protected in terms of its environment, Saint Martin de Crau is a major destination for green tourism and many hiking trails and cycling paths crisscross the area.

To discover in Saint-Martin-de-Crau:

The Ecomuseum of the Crau

Situated in a former hay storage barn in the town itself, the museum lets you discover all the characteristic of the Crau thanks to a permanent exhibition. The Ecomuseum also presents temporary exhibitions and organizes different excursions along the Draille des Coussouls trail.

The Retro Museum, the Avis family's private collection, lets you discover the trades and tools of the past. Located in the town centre, next the church, admission is free throughout the year.

The Arboretum "Le Jardin de Gaston" stretches over 4 hectares and is the perfect setting for botanical walks and just relaxing. Information: 04 90 47 98 40

Many festivities throughout the year set the rhythm for life in Saint-Martin de Crau:

  • Pastrage, end of January
  • Saint Valentine's Agricultural Fair, 2nd Wednesday in February
  • Saint Valentine's Antique fair, 2nd Sunday in February 
  • Feria de la Crau bullfights, end of April 
  • Spring Festival, 2nd weekend in May
  • The Bonfires of Saint John, June 23rd
  • Fête Votive, end of July
  • Feast of Saint Michael, end of September 
  • Taurine shows

In the surrounding area:

The advantageous geographic situation of Saint-Martin de Crau, between the Camargue and the Alpilles, lets you easily visit a region with a rich heritage:

- The Alpilles and Baux de Provence, Saint Rémy de Provence, Maussane, Le Paradou...

- The Camargue, Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

- Martigues and the Côte Bleue

- Salon de Provence

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