In a region not traditionally associated with tourism, Gard, along with other departments from the old province of Languedoc, is actively encouraging visitors to this wonderfully diverse land influenced by bordering Provence and the Camargue and also the mysterious mountain hinterland of the Cevennes.
Gard’s stretch of the famous Mediterranean sunshine coast may be tiny but its possibilities for sightseeing are considerable. Watch trawlers unloading their catch at Grau-du-Roi, then continue to Port Camargue - reputedly Europe’s largest marina.
There’s plenty of room for sunbathing on the region’s longest sandy beach at dune-fringed l’Espiguette with space for a dedicated naturist section.
Trek around the ‘Little’ Camargue enjoying hazy views across salt pans to the massive ramparts of Aigues-Mortes - built as a thirteenth century departure port for Crusaders but now land-locked. Take a photo safari into nearby Regional Natural Park of the Camargue, spotting black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos.
No holiday in Gard would be complete without seeing the famous Pont du Gard rising 48m above the River Gard. A masterpiece of first century Roman engineering, the aqueduct was built to bring fresh water 50km to Nimes.
Nimes itself is home to 2 of the most perfectly preserved Roman monuments; the Maison Carre temple and Les Arenes amphitheatre which seats over 20,000 and is currently used for the city’s celebrated ferias (bullfights) linked to folk and wine festivals in May and September. A revitalised Nimes also exhibits great modern buildings such as the Museum of Contemporary Art designed by British architect Norman Foster, alongside shady squares, lively cafes and houses of cloth manufacturers who made the classic denim (de Nimes) exported to nineteenth century America.
Gard’s vineyards produce several Cotes du Rhone wines to savour such as rose Costieres-du-Gard.
Forests cling to the rugged scenery and deep river gorges of the Cevennes rising around Mount Aigoual (1567m), the highest peak in Gard. This once fiercely Protestant stronghold has remained remote and inaccessible until recently. Today the Cevennes National Park protects its wildlife and heritage. Visitors can explore marked routes for walkers, cyclists, canoeists and horse riders.
Follow part of the ‘Stevenson Trail’, chronicled by the nineteenth century Scot in his ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes’. Journey’s end, St Jean-du-Gard, also has a folk and silk museum. Find inexpensive skiing in neighbouring Lozere. Prat Peyrot even offers snow walks on donkeys