The real Roussillon of the Languedoc Roussillon, the Pyrenees Orientales with its Catalan flavour, is probably best known for its seaside resorts ranging from long sandy beaches to the rockier coast where the Pyrenees descend into the sea. Elne is the oldest city of the Roussillon with its cloister and cathedral, whilst Rivesaltes is the home of muscat wines and Villeneuve de la Raho boasts an enormous lake. Perpignan has a Catalan flavour with its date palms and Arab quarter as well as the 14th century Palais des Corts, the Loge de Mer in the heart of the old town dating from the Middle Ages and the XIVth century Funeral Cloister of St Jean de Perpignan, the largest and oldest of its kind in France.
The area is rich in Romanesque architecuture, in particular the abbeys of St Michel de Cuxa, St Martin de Canigou, Serrabone and Arles-sur-Tech. Castelnou is a mediaeval artists’ village, whilst Bélesta has a prehistoric museum featuring the earliest crafts and pottery. In the Vallespir is Ceret, surrounded by cherry orchards and with a superb Modern Arts Museum, the mediaeval city of Arles-sur-tech and Amélie-les Bains, a thermal spa. The Gorges de la Fou are dramatic and Mount Canigou dominates the scene. To the west are the vineyards of the Fenouilledes of which Maury is the best known, the Gorges de Galamus and plateaux. At Quéribus and Peyrepertuse are Cathar castles and at Tautavel, a Prehistoric Museum and the famous vineyards of the Corbières.
Between Font Romeu and Prades lies Mont Louis, the loftiest fortified town built by Vauban. Prades, at the foot of Mount Canigou, halfway between the sea and the mountains with ski resorts, including Font Romeu, has a microclimate. Le Conflent is perfect for rambling, mountain biking, horse riding, and potholing. Pablo Casals, the famous cellist had his ‘maison secondaire’ there and a museum and summer festival music festival commemorate him. Further attractions include Saint Peter’s church and the oldest house in the department, the XIVth Century Maison Jourda. Villefranche Le Conflent is an amazing mediaeval fortified town whilst the thermal town of Vernet Les Bains has an amazing collection of minerals and fossils in its Geological Museum.
The Cerdagne and Capcir with its high mountains and ski resorts also lends itself to canoeing and kayaking, hiking, fishing, and horse riding. At St Thomas les Bains are hot springs whilst Les Angles has an animal park and Odeillo is the location of a huge solar power station. The charming old fishing port of Banyuls sur Mer in the foothills of the Pyrenees and surrounded by vineyards, has narrow streets and superb beaches. There is a Museum, an Aquarium and a Marine Reserve covering 650 hectares – an ideal spot for diving and snorkelling. The pretty port of Collioure with its Royal Castle attracted Matisse, Picasso and many other artists and including Sainte-Marie-de-la-Mer, Saint-Cyprien and Port-Barcares, is a popular resort. Argeles-sur-Mer has 7 kms of sandy beaches and a marina whilst Canet has an aquarium, a boat and a toy museum. The region is deservedly sought after for the wide variety of activities it affords.