The magnificent vistas of the Cote Vermeille have inspired some of the world’s most famous artists—indeed, they sparked an entire style of painting. It’s easy to see why.
As you stand at one of several overlooks, the Mediterranean crashes several stories below. Craggy mountains pierce the sea. Steeply sloping vineyards speckle the landscape and crowd the coastline. Spain’s rugged shore can be spotted just to the south.
Cote Vermeille's Central Location
The “vermilion coast” is the ideal springboard for exploring two regions, the Pyrénées and the Mediterranean. It is mere minutes from Spain’s Costa Brava and a short drive to both Perpignan and Barcelona.
This French stretch of coastline boasts an enchanting border village, castle ruins, endless outdoor adventures, delectable cuisine, fabulous wines and, of course, some of Europe’s most breathtaking scenery.
Undiscovered Riches of the Cote Vermeille
Unlike the tourist-ridden French Riviera to the east, the enchanting villages of the Cote Vermeille remain delightfully undiscovered.
Although the beaches can get jammed during the peak of summer, it is rare to encounter an American in this tiny wedge of France. In some places, if you squint hard you can almost imagine it is six decades ago—or six centuries ago.
The Cote Vermeille slices a winding and picturesque path from Argelès-sur-Mer, a popular coastal resort city on the northern end, to Cerbère, a quaint seaside village lined with buildings painted cotton-candy shades of yellow, pink and aquamarine.
The stretch spans a mere 15 miles and typically takes less than half an hour to drive.
Neither France nor Spain, This is Catalonia
At times, the Cote Vermeille feels more like Spain than France. Spanish hours are the norm, with late lunches and dinners. In fact, in a sense you are no longer in France, and you aren’t really in Spain either.
This is the heart of Catalonia, a cultural enclave that has swapped hands between the two countries over the years. But whatever may befall the land they occupy, the Catalan people remain fiercely independent and take enormous pride in their culture and lifestyle.
Diverse Sightseeing, Adventures and Tastes
Despite its compact size, the area is amazingly diverse. Pretty Coullioure, a haven for art lovers, was the birthplace of Fauvism, which sprang to life with Henri Matisse’s wild, brightly colored paintings of the village.
Argelès is a wonderful stop for families, featuring a sandy beachfront packed with upscale seaside campgrounds and sun-drenched cafés.
This is serious wine country, too, the home turf of rich red Collioure wine and Banyuls vin doux. Banyuls, first made by the crusading Knights Templar in the Middle Ages, gained popularity when it was used as a sacramental wine in churches throughout France.
You’ll find a wealth of historic attractions in this small geographic area, ranging from prehistoric megaliths to ancient Greek relics to 19th-century architectural treasures.
Outdoor activities are plentiful, including hiking, cycling, scuba diving and sailing. A unique underwater preserve, the Réserve Naturelle Marine de Cerbère-Banyuls-sur-Mer, offers a haven to marine life and activities to its human observers.
This is a place to savor the slow and sweet life. Spend days relaxing on the beach. Take long walks along the shore. Indulge in a late multicourse dinner of incredible food.
Next page: Cote Vermeille itinerary, including Argeles-sur-Mer, Collioure, Port Vendres, Banyuls sur Mer and Cerbère.