In western France, on the Atlantic Coast, is the Vendée. Between Nantes and La Rochelle, the department stands out thanks to its accessibility, landscape diversity, dynamism and many leisure activities. The Vendée is a major international tourist destination for good reason. Here are 10 reasons why you should explore this little corner of paradise.
1. Côte de Lumière: 140 km of sandy, sunny beaches
It is no accident that it is called the Côte de Lumière. Indeed, the Vendée coast, which stretches for more than 250 km, enjoys above-average sunshine for the entire Atlantic coast. With more than 2,300 hours of sunshine a year, the Vendée’s climate is comparable to that of the Southwest. 140 km of beaches will delight lovers of wild shores with fine sandy beaches.
It is a pleasure to enjoy its long and wide sands in one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The quality of the bathing water is rewarded with a label, and also the slope of the beach is low. This ensures that the whole family has a safe holiday! Water sports enthusiasts will also find what they are looking for: Vendée surfers and kitesurfers as well as sailing, windsurfing or paddle boarding, canoeing etc.
2. Two Beautiful Islands
Attention, a change of scenery is guaranteed! Head towards Île-d’Yeu, the pearl of the Atlantic, 17km from the beaches. Concentrating on just 23 km of land, the island of Yeu is accessible only by boat and is the furthest from France’s Atlantic coast. Nicknamed the Greece of the Vendée, the island is home to a wide variety of landscapes. You can go from village to village on foot, by bike or on foot. mehari.
Enjoy the view of beautiful white houses with colorful shutters as you walk the narrow streets. In front of the dunes, the water of its long beaches is turquoise on summer days. Its cliffs surround beautiful coves, a view conducive to lazing around with a good book or swimming in the ocean. Fishing also has an active presence on the island, with the famous Port de la Meule.
In Noirmoutier, known as Île aux Mimosas, get ready for unique views. It is worth visiting the authentic natural salt marshes that produce salt known all over the world! more than a hundred saunaers reproduce ancestral processes to extract white gold. Amongst maritime pine forests and green chains, you will see the famous white beach cabins in one of the must-see spots for learning sailing. In the heart of the island you will find charming villages and the center of its maritime heritage: Hotel Jacobsen.
3. Exceptional Beach Facilities
Among the 18 seaside resorts on the Vendée coast, the northernmost is Saint Jean de Monts. Between nature and urbanism, Saint Jean de Monts is the ideal place for a family vacation. With your feet in the water, try fishing, have fun with your kids in one of the many animation areas, or practice skating together on the pier.
Learn more about the history of France’s first sardine port at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie. Wander around the old town to discover its sea-facing streets and villas. Appreciate the beauty of Les Sables d’Olonne, the maritime capital, year-round! Discover its long beach, port activities and local heritage. Then head south to “Little California” La Tranche-sur-Mer. Known for its dune-covered beaches and hiking trails, this area is a great place to spend an active vacation with friends or family.
4. Le Puy du Fou: Voted Best Park in the World
It’s impossible to come to the Vendée without stopping at Le Puy du Fou. Take a trip back in time, it has been voted the world’s best amusement park several times! With shows traversing the history of France and the Vendée, you will discover countless adventures spanning the centuries and marvel at its splendor. Ancient villages dot visitors’ itinerary to captivate with a festive and fun atmosphere.
The Cinéscénie, the world’s largest night show, is announced from June to September. 3D video projections and special effects await you. To expand the experience, 5 hotels are proposed within the park and each according to its own theme: Villa Gallo-Romaine, Citadelle, Clovis Islands, Camp du Drap d’Or or the new hotel Le Grand Siècle. A new show called “Le Mime et l’Etoile” will be launched in 2023: be the first to watch it!
5. Bocage: Full of Culture and Heritage
A mecca of Vendée heritage and culture in the center of the region, the Bocage will delight history buffs. Many museums from prehistory to the present, historical villages, medieval castles and remarkable gardens are worth seeing.
In the Vendée, several villages are labeled “Petites Cités de Caractère”, a distinction given to towns with outstanding architectural and landscape heritage. Among them are the old weaver village Mallièvre, Clemenceau’s cradle and artists village Mouchamps, Pouzauges and its old castle, and Mortagne sur Sèvre are picturesque places to explore in Bocage. To learn more about the wars in the Vendée, enter the doors of an innovative new museum: Historial de la Vendée. Another unmissable place is the Logis de la Chabotterie, whose animations and shows can be visited throughout the year.
6. Marais Poitevin and Its Traditions
Located south of the Vendée, Marais Poitevin is a regional natural park famous for its unique landscapes along the Sèvre Niortaise, commonly known as the Venetian Verte. The second largest wetland in France after the Camargue, this timeless setting allows you to connect with nature without being distracted.
Travel along more than 8,000 km of canals lined with tadpole ash trees in a traditional boat driven by boatman-guides. Canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding can also be done on the canal, usually in the morning, to enjoy the fantastic light. For those who prefer to stay on land rather than in the water, there is plenty to do to explore the coast on horseback, on foot or by bike.
It is highly recommended to stop at one of its villages during your hike. You will be seduced by the charm of Romanesque architecture, especially the monasteries of Maillezais and Nieul-sur-l’Autise, two treasures of Romanesque art.
7. Unusual: Passage du Gois
A must-see during your stay in the Vendée, the mysterious Passage du Gois attracts all curiosities. It is a legendary 4.5km long road that comes and goes with the tides under the sea. It joins the city of Barbatre, connecting the continent from the city of Beauvoir-sur-Mer to the island of Noirmoutier. You can drive there for about 1 hour and 30 minutes at low tide.
Before the creation of the Noirmoutier bridge, the Gois was the only way to connect the island to the mainland at low tide. For the more daring, a race against the sea is held at the parade each year: Les Foulées du Gois! Cross the road as you wish, by car, on foot or by bike, but be sure to read all information on both ends before doing so. Nine lanterns along the gorge serve as a haven for the daredevils who are surprised by the rising waters!
8. Famous Vendée cuisine
Who said French food is the best? The Vendee is even better! with the rich terror and a generous ocean, there are countless local specialties to savor! The Vendée burrito is definitely one of the best known. Its taste is the result of a few high-quality ingredients (flour, butter, sugar and eggs) and lots of love.
Hand-knitted and gilded toppings have been the pride of the Vendeans since the Middle Ages. Sweet and fragrant, we like to consume it with brandy or orange flower water for breakfast or snacks. “Vendée Atlantique” oysters are also appreciated for their authentic taste and savory aroma. The unique knowledge and skills of Vendée producers are obvious and often rewarded. Sardines from Saint Gilles Croix de Vie and mussels from Bouchot are among the country’s most delicious fish and seafood. This previously, “garlic bread” served hot with an aperitif. Not just butter and garlic, but goat cheese, chorizo and sun-dried tomatoes…
Bonnotte de Noirmoutier is another specialty. These small, hand-picked, salted potatoes have a recognizable flavor as they grow in sandy soil enriched with seaweed, a seaweed blend. Finally, ham-mogettes It is a dish not to be missed! It is a raw ham that has been hand rubbed with dry salt, sprinkled with brandy and sprinkled with iconic white beans and spices and flavorings.mogette), we also like to spread it on bread rubbed with garlic and butter (salted, of course, fleur de sel from the region).
9. Explore the Vendée by bike
With 1800 km of cycle paths, the Vendée is the perfect area for cycling! As a responsible travel mod, it’s a great and low-cost way to travel between towns and villages. Whether cycling on the trails or cycling part of the European cycle route Vélodyssée – cyclists will find facilities labeled Accueil Vélo less than 5 km from the cycle route.
Among them, nearly a hundred accommodation options (camp sites, hotels, gites, and hostels), 30 tourist offices, 15 bike rental organizations and repair shops, and finally 20 tourist destinations. All guarantee a warm, high-quality service tailored to your needs. For those who love French villages, Vélo Francette travels to the Vendée to guide you through the picturesque countryside along the rivers. Saddle up to enjoy the charm of sweet France!
10. Boat Trip and Main Events
Among the biggest events held in the Vendée, the Vendée Globe is probably the most unusual. Known as the ‘Everest of the Seas’, the Vendée Globe is an admiration race. This sailing race – solo, worldwide, nonstop and unassisted – takes place every 4 years. This human adventure is dedicated to the greatest French and foreign sailors.
The captains from Les Sables d’Olonne race for three months on their single-hulled vessel and have to cross three big noses before they make it to the Atlantic and complete: Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and Horn (Chile). A world tour at the starting point after a journey of just over 21,000 nautical miles across the world’s oceans. The Vendée Globe Village is located in Les Sables d’Olonne three weeks before the start and gives the public the opportunity to taste some local specialties, follow the race preparations and learn more about the marine world.
Find out more: vendee-tourisme.com
Principal photo credit: Experience the Vendée’s stunning coastline © A. Lamoureux
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