Les Landes

It is the long, very long (more than 100 kilometres) of Atlantic coast that is the main attraction in the Landes department of Aquitaine, with the fine sandy beaches along the Cote d'Argent perfect for families, surfing, and any other sea-based activity and also the chance to explore the extensive pine forests of the Landes.

Many of the resorts along this section of coast are quite recent in development and share similar characteristics. A typical 'Landaise' coast resort has the Atlantic Ocean to the front (the waves can be quite high) with a long sandy beach and various beach activities. Next to the sea there is a usually a modern resort type village offering all facilities and activities, and accommodation in holiday apartments or on camping and caravan sites. Several of the popular resorts also have access to lakes and lake beaches just behind the town, which is useful for when the famous surfing waves become a bit much or if your children are small! The large forests of the Landes behind the coast allow various leisure activities such as cycling and horse-riding.

The resorts include Biscarrosse and Mimizan towards the northern end (to the south of Arcachon) and Capbreton and Hossegor towards the southern end of the coast (a little north of Biarritz). Others between the two, hence further from important towns, include Contis, Lit-et-Mixe, Viille-Saint-Girons, Moliets-et-Maa, Messanges, Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains and Seignosse.

The forests of the region one of the largest forests in Europe stand on land that was reclaimed from the marshes 150 years ago when the extensive Landaise forests were planted as part of a Napoleonic plan to reclaim the swamps that once covered the area.

The region also includes the Gascony Moors Natural Regional Park, which controls the protection of the natural environment. You can learn more about this at the ecomuseum at Sabres.

To the south of the Landes forests the Adour region is more hilly, and less forested, with small scale agriculture, woodlands, and numerous villages tucked away in the valleys. The town of Dax contains some Roman ruins, and several of the villages have interesting Roman style churches. Dax is also one of the most important spa towns in France. There are other spa towns in the Landes, including Eugénie-les-Bains.

To the east of the Landes department around Mont-de-Marsan the countryside changes again, as the forests start to give way to vineyards - the grapes are used to produce the world renowned liqueur Armagnac. The towns of Saint-Justin and Labastide d'Armagnac to the far east of the Landes have interesting centres to explore, with Labastide d'Armagnac having a typical bastide town centre of arcades, medieval houses and a fortified church.