The Pyrénées-Orientales (department number 66) is located in the Languedoc Roussillon region. The department is located in southern France adjacent to the northern Spanish frontier and the Mediterranean Sea. The population was estimated at approximately 422,000 in 2005.
The capital of the department is the city of Perpignan. Other large towns in the department are Céret and Prades.
Why you should visit Pyrénées-Orientales for your next holiday in France
The Pyrénées-Orientales offers an eclectic mix of high plateaus on the west, splendid mountains, forests and beaches. Combine this varied landscape with its exceptional period of sunshine and you have the ingredients for a restful break.
The department has a lot to offer the holidaymaker in the way of impressive sites; The Catalan coast, the impressive Cerdagne and the famous Canigou peak to name a few.
The climate is typical of the Mediterranean with long hot summers, temperatures often reaching over 30 degrees C and short, mild winters. Rain falls in spring and autumn and there can sometimes be strong Mistral winds and summer storms. The inland hills are colder in winter and the Pyrenees have thick snow cover.
What to see in Pyrénées-Orientales
Perpignan, once the capital of the kingdom of Majorca, has managed to preserve its Spanish heritage, which is reflected in the architecture and ambience of the town. An enjoyable city to stay in with a lively street life and perfectly situated for exploring the eastern end of the Pyrénées.
A little further along the coast are Collioure and Céret. At the turn of the century they were simple villages and the unique light there attracted many painters including Matisse, Derain, Dufy, Picasso and Chagall. Picasso was particularly fond of Céret and it claims to be the birthplace of Cubism. Collioure was a source of inspiration and is represented in many Impressionist paintings.
This corner of the region, although called Roussillon, is, after centuries of struggle for possession between France and Spain, essentially and proudly Catalan, the language widely spoken and the red and yellow Catalan flag can be seen flying everywhere.
The heart of French Catalonia lies in the villages, forests and valleys of the Pyrénées. Warm early springs and long dry summers, rich pasturelands and the bountiful orchards of the Têt and Tech river valleys, provide France with the out of season fruits and vegetables so essential to the stomach of the nation.
The attractive town of Prades is located next to the Canigó and Têt River. The dramatic scenery surrounding the town is dotted with Cathar castle ruins and is a rambler’s delight. Prades red roof-tops and pretty stone buildings have a distinct Catalan feel to them and the main attraction in the town is the church of St-Pierre.
There is strong Catalan feelings in Prades and the town was the first in France to have a Catalan-language Primary school. The town is quite lively during the summer months with traditional Catalan music and dancing taking place in the square during the evenings. The town is also host to the Catalan summer school for two weeks every August. Every Tuesday there is an excellent market.
A few kilometres to the south of Prades is one of the loveliest abbeys in the country, St-Michel-de-Cuxà, which dates from around 1000. Although badly damaged during the revolution, it is still a beautiful site.
The seaside resort of Canet-Plage enjoys the blue warm waters of the Med and is a popular destination for tourists. The town has a buzzing atmosphere during the summer months with the winter months seeing a dramatic drop in visitors, although for a quieter break, this may be a better time to visit.
How to get there
Languedoc Roussillon has good air connections. The adjacent Midi Pyrenees region has Toulouse international airport which has flights from many parts of the UK and Europe and there are also airports at Carcassonne, Montpellier, Nimes, Perpignan and Girona. Budget airline Ryanair fly to some of these destinations.
The journey from Calais to the regions capital Montpellier is around 1100km and takes around 12.5 hours. The town is easily accessed from the A9 motorway, or the N116.
Those who prefer rail travel have can take Eurostar to Avignon, Motorail to Narbonne, or the TGV from Paris to Perpignan, Montpellier or Barcelona.