Aquitaine comprises the five departments of Dordogne, Lot et Garonne, and the coastal departments Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes and Gironde. Thanks to the Romans the region got its name due to the abundance of aqua/water discovered by Julius Caesar and his troops – thermal springs, lakes and rivers that cross the land from the Pyrénées mountains to the coast. Fantastic sandy beaches stretch for over 250 kilometres, and the pines planted in the dunes protect this beautiful coastline making camping on the coast in the region an absolute joy. In the Middle Ages Aquitaine was a kingdom and a duchy, in the 13th Century Eleanor of Aquitaine became Queen of France and later Queen of England and was the mother of Richard the Lion Heart.
The beautiful stretch of Atlantic coastline runs from Bordeaux to the Basque country. There are thriving ports, lovely harbours, wines and brandy that are the envy of the world. The French consider that Bordeaux is the greatest wine producing region in the World. The countryside is lush and fertile and there are literally thousands of chateaux – vineyards open to the public to taste and buy wine where it is grown and made.
There are areas of great natural beauty, the Bassin d’Arcachon (a sort of inland sea) provides a sanctuary for birds and the lagoon is much loved by holidaymakers and sailing enthusiasts and is also home to the largest oyster farms in France. Europe’s largest sand dune, the Dune de Pyla (or du Pilat), nearly 3 kilometres long, 500 metres wide and reaching a height of some 107 metres, the dune has been measured moving inland at rate of 5 metres a year. Further inland is the area of Landes – planted with huge forests of pine trees to improve the drainage of the area but which now provide a wonderful natural backdrop to the stunning landscape and the scent is unforgettable.
The stylish and luxurious coastal town of Biarritz is known for its excellent surfing and has always attracted tourists to its lovely shores including Queen Victoria. Close by the 4km stretch of Anglet with its 11 beaches ranks as one of Europe’s most superior surfing venues. Situated in the central Pyrenees is the lively town of Pau with its elegant Belle Epoque architecture and shady, flower-filled parks where you can picnic and watch the world go by.
Things to do in Aquitaine
Surf the waves at Anglet Beach or Soual-sur-Mer or one of the many other locations where the surfer dudes hang out.
Eat the freshest oysters possible at Arcachon Basin, where the oyster farms are the largest in France.
Visit the biggest sand dune in Europe.
Wine tasting in the vineyards of Bordeaux – there are more than 2000 vineyards open to the public in Aquitaine.
Play golf – there are 45 golf courses in the region with a year round mild climate.
Go deep sea fishing at Biaritz – there are tuna and shark off the waters here.